Cultural reassertion is as vital as economic development - The New Indian Express

Cultural reassertion is as vital as economic development

Published: 04th October 2013 07:42 AM

Last Updated: 04th October 2013 07:54 AM

Union Minister Shashi Tharoor on Thursday said literature can bring down violence in today’s world as reading and writing broadens minds. Inaugurating the second edition of the Odisha Literary Festival organised by ‘The New Indian Express’ here, Tharoor said ignorance and prejudice remain the handmaidens of violence. ‘’It is true of terrorism as it is of modern civil conflicts, that men of war prey on the ignorance of the populace to instil fears and arouse hatreds’’, he observed. In Bosnia and Rwanda, murderous, even genocidal ideologies took root in the absence of truthful information and honest education. ‘’If only half the  effort had gone into teaching those people what unites them, and not what divides them, unspeakable crimes could have been prevented,’’ he felt.

Two contradictory forces shape the world of letters today. First is globalisation of human imagination, and the second is anxiety of audience. As in the 20th  century as globalisation became a fact not just in the imagination but in trade and commerce and migration of populations on a previously unimaginable scale, its effects on national literature became more pronounced.

Tharoor said the world of trade and commerce is new  to the process of globalisation and human imagination got there first.

Terrorist attacks like 9/11 in New York and 26/11 in Mumbai are forces of disruption which threaten to create divisions between the haves and have-nots, between North and South, Tharoor said, adding these two phenomena are clearly pulling us together as well as they drive us apart.

The fundamental conflict of our times is not the clash between two civilisations, but doctrines __ religious and ethnic fundamentalism on the one hand, secular consumerist capitalism on the other.

The Union Minister said as a writer he is attracted to what one might call the cultural construct of identity, of which religion is only a part, and to many, not even the most important part.

But how important is such a reassertion of identity in the face of the enormous challenges confronting a country like India, he said and asked can literature,  for example, matter in a land of poverty, suffering and underdevelopment. ‘’I believe it does __ indeed that cultural reassertion is as vital as economic development,’’ he said. For a body of fiction to constitute a literature, it must rise above its origins, its settings, even its language, to render accessible to a reader anywhere some insight into the human condition.

‘’Read my books and other Indian writers not because we are Indian, not necessarily because you are interested in India, but because they are worth reading in and themselves,’’ he said. ‘’Each time you pick up one of my books, ask not for whom I write: I write for you.’’

Welcoming Tharoor, Editorial Director of ‘The New Indian Express’ Prabhu Chawla said his books range from the famous ‘The Great Indian Novel’ to ‘India from Midnight’ to the ‘Millennium to Nehru: The Invention of India’ and most recently ‘Pax Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century.’ A widely published critic, commentator and columnist, Shashi has won numerous literary awards, including a Commonwealth Writers Prize. He is the author of 14 books, both fiction and non-fiction.

Stating that the basic feature of this festival remains unchanged __ which is to refocus attention on Indian literature __ Chawla said unlike other literary festivals which promote largely Indian writing in English or works of fiction and non-fiction by foreigners, this event focuses as much on regional, particularly Odia literature, poetry and culture, as on English and other Indian languages.


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