Writer Sudeep Chakravarti talks to Medha Dutta about his recent book and discusses his forthcoming non-fiction work set in medieval Bengal. Excerpts from the interview.
Tell us about your book.
This book is rooted in my love for Goa. I have been there for 14 years now. I think Goa is no longer a paradise. Parts of it are paradise, but parts of it are pure hell. This book talks about the lament, the hope, the love I feel for Goa. I thought it was a story that needed to be told.
Are your characters drawn from real life?
Certainly. I have shaped some characters on the people I have seen. I have written about situations that I have seen; places that I have seen. But in any novel, even if it’s inspired by a place, a situation, or a person, there has to be more. There has to be story you are telling, a narrative.
You have written both fiction and non-fiction. What gives you more independence?
Fiction, of course. Because fiction by definition is free from encumbrances. But, the non-fiction I have written is also edgy. So, while non-fiction can seem constraining; in my case, I have not found it limiting. In fact, it has been quite liberating, and I’m proud of it.
While writing, do your journalistic instincts creep in?
Yes, and in a most journalistic way—the research part. I’m not an employed journalist anymore. But in my heart, mind, body, and soul, I’ll always be a journalist. In a way, my non-fiction work is an extension of my journalistic work. In my fiction, I end up taking a similar approach. A lot of fiction is imagination. But for me, a lot of fiction is recording, observing. So, first I wear the journalist’s hat and then the writer’s hat.
Is the current book scene promising?
Indeed. In terms of pure volume, opportunity, things have never been better. Where it has changed, is that maybe in the 80s and 90s, there were some writers who got big advances. I think we are over that. Also, thanks to e-books, it is no longer possible for your books to be technically out of print.
Are literary fests helping the cause?
I think they are. From a writer’s perspective, literary fests or gatherings are a wonderful thing. And more the merrier. It brings writers and readers together. Some, of course, could be better structured.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on a non-fiction work set in medieval Bengal. After all, why should only William Dalrymple live off our history? I’m also working on another non-fiction one on the Northeast. I also have an idea for a novel. I’m also in talks about a collection of travel writing. I’m also trying to work on a play. In fact, I’m also writing poetry, but I’m not yet ready to share it with the world.