Saturday, March 26, 2005

a letter to RD

Dear Rana,

<> This is a long delayed reaction to reading ‘Tokyo Cancelled’. Which I read while writing the Quixote-Nasruddin paper attached. <>

I remember being profoundly startled by recognition when reading the fifth story, the story of Robert De Niro’s secret son and Isabella Rosselini’s secret daughter, and the store on Madison Avenue. For the core of the story was a Kannada(?)folktale that AK Ramanujan had beautifully rendered into English prose – the story of the Flower(ing) Girl. The story of the flower girl being reincarnated into the world of Taxi Driver, land Mafias and the rapid growth and change of a modern hyper city…

It had powerful affect. As did a lot else of the book, with its foundlings and changelings and mythic elements; folktales for the twenty first century and its urban experience. What is really telling is that these ‘folktales’, as I would like to call them, come out of what is considered to be the forte of the novel form, an evocation of particularity, of time and place. What you do that really rocks is to make these folktales, with their mythic, ‘universal’ affect; out of very particular times and places and scenarios.

In the Quixote paper, what I was trying to do could be seen as similar – what I suggest, is perhaps in many ways ‘subversive’ to that most canonical of novels; because it indicates an origin in folklore to the character of Don Quixote, and to many ways of thinking challenges the ‘authorship’ of Cervantes

I think, Tokyo Cancelled is important because though your name is in big bold type on top of the cover, the book does challenge notions of the ‘author’. (Though I know I am sounding a bit like Mr. Liang on this one!) And also it indicates the possibility, in our times, and perhaps , the need - to narrate the stories of cities, and those who dwell in them, differently…

I found myself writing a novel once, set in Delhi 2007, when the Iraq war broke out. I could no longer see the point of writing about the future when it was already happening on the TV screen. I could not bring myself to write anymore. I gave up on fiction as a form of any relevance to the world we live in. But your book makes me reconsider. For fiction has its transformative and redemptive and magical powers; all of which are needed in this time we live in. Maybe it’s just the novel, as a form, which isn’t adequate anymore…

Hoping to continue this conversation,



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