Author Anjali Joseph, who shares her time between Mumbai and London (where she is based lately), is ecstatic about her latest work of fiction, Another Country, making its way to the long list for the Man Asian Literary Prize.
“I’m delighted that Another Country is on the long list, and in such distinguished company,” she said in a brief e-mail interview with The Hindu.
Ms. Joseph, who entered the world of literature with the critically-acclaimed Saraswati Park that depicted a middleclass Bombay in an unusual manner, says the city had “imprinted itself on me and most other cities I like in some way remind me of Bombay, however improbable the actual relationship [is]”.
Born to a Malayali father, who is from Maramon near Thiruvalla, and a mother who is half-Bengali-half-Gujarati, Ms. Joseph says she has been writing stories ever since she could write. “Perhaps I grew up in a family where reading — novels, plays, poetry, the newspaper, the backs of packets — had essentially the status of religious observance.”
Ms. Joseph juggled many professions, as varied as journalism, teaching, and chartered accountancy, before finally turning to writing as career after taking up a course in creative writing.
Another Country, she says, is a work in three parts set in Paris, London, and Bombay and follows the central character, Leela, through her twenties.
Unlike many Indian writers writing in English, she is familiar with the vast body of literature in regional Indian languages. “I have read some classic Bengali fiction in translation (Bankimchandra; Bibhutibhushan Banerjee [Bandopadhyay]; some Tagore short stories and novels; a couple of Sarat Chandra Chatterjee novels; or from more recent literature, Sunil Gangopadhyay's Pratidhwandi; some Premchand, Arun Kolatkar's lovely translations of Tukaram and Dilip Chitre's; some anthologies of translation, including the Picador Book of Modern Indian Literature edited by Amit Chaudhuri; C.S. Lakshmi's writing as translated by Lakshmi Holmstrom; some Nayyer Masud stories; Aatish Taseer's [Sadat Hassan] Manto translations; and a novel and stories by my friend the Marathi writer Ambika Sircar. But that is a small dip into the vast literatures of Indian languages.”
Ms. Joseph questions the notion of a pan-Indian sensibility, saying no good writer would want to wear such labels. “There are a billion-plus of us. Are we all expected to have the same sensibility? No interesting writer would try to convey a ‘national’ sensibility, whatever that may be,” she signs off.