BENGALURU: N Prabhakaran is a major contemporary writer from Kerala who has to his credit more than 40 works of plays, novels, essays and short stories. He is also a two-time Sahitya Akademi Award winner. His latest book, Diary of a Malayali Madman, focuses on stories that are all set in Northern Kerala.
Excerpts from an interview:
What was your trigger for writing Diary Of A Malayali Madman?
What triggered the writing was an experience narrated by a friend, Rajesh, a jail warder in Thalassery Sub Jail. Once a monkey charmer was caught by the police for picking someone’s pocket. The monkey was tied to a mango tree inside the jail compound.
The jail officials on duty took to giving a portion of their dinner and drinks to the monkey. Soon he developed a strong bond with the officials. When the time came for the charmer to be released, the jail warders had to use their muscle power to make the monkey go with him. As Rajesh was reaching the final stage of the narration of this story, suddenly an idea flashed through my mind: I should write something making this monkey the central character. I began to write on that very night, and within a few days, Diary of a Malayali Madman in its present form was realised.
Have any of your books been inspired by vernacular books?
All my writings are influenced by everything I read, even newspaper reports. My writing is not an island and I don’t want it to be so.
Do you go back to your old writings? How does it feel to re-read what you had written years back?
I am not in the habit of evaluating what I have written years back. Usually I begin to write something quite unexpectedly and when I finish it, I leave it. Pondering over what I have written doesn’t usually take place, and of course readers are not obliged to verify what I feel about a work I wrote years back. They are free to make their own judgement.
Have you always seen yourself as a writer? What has been your inspiration as a writer?
I am not particularly interested in being labelled a writer. The only thing I can say about my writing without any doubt is that I experience a unique thrill which I don’t get from other types of work. I feel extreme happiness when I find someone understanding my writing in its true spirit. But that occurs only very rarely. Readers generally have some predetermined ideas. They are hasty in finding parallels to any new writing that they come across. They are not bold enough to be free to approach a literary work in a way that the work demands in its own capacity.
With the digitisation of books, have you moved to reading books on screen or do you prefer the old-fashioned books?
Recently, I too have shifted to reading books on a screen. But I still feel that reading becomes more authentic when I get a book in print. I think it is the result of decades of reading experience.
What is the process you undergo while writing?
Though I don’t follow a particular schedule, a major part of any of my work has been written during the night, often late night. I don’t attach much importance to writer’s block. It may come and go at its wish.
How difficult or easy is it to get published? Have you had to modify or change the content of any of your books for it to get published?
I have never had to modify or change the content of any of my works for it to get published.
Who’s your first reader? And who are your biggest critics?
I don’t have a first reader. When I finish writing a story or a poem or a novel I send it directly to the publisher. So far I haven’t seen anyone constantly vigilant to criticise my work. Of course some stories garner negative comments, but they haven’t come from a single source.
Do you think marketing has played an integral role in the success of your books?
No. Some of my books were widely appreciated and approved. But it was not the result of any marketing strategy.