Writing is a lonely process and there’s no going away, Anita Nair tells AYESHA MATTHAN. Her latest book Goodnight and God Bless is on the shelves
In Anita Nair’s sun-drenched garden, where cobwebs and gnats wander droopy-eyed through the labyrinth of electrical wires, one would not be surprised the writer has just finished a decade of her literary career. Her eleventh book in her eleventh year of writing, also her “quickest book”, “Goodnight and God Bless — On life, literature and a few other things with footnotes, quotes and other such literary diversions” is published by Penguin Viking.
Dressed in a sunny yellow top with her brown streaked curly mop tumbling down her shoulders , Anita says: “It was written in the three months when I was immobile with a slip-disc last year. It was a time when I was looking more inwards than outwards.” She feels that it is not just literature but everything from the wind to parties, woven together with a collection of published literary essays. “I had total freedom to poke fun at myself, rip and delve.”
When it comes to being part of a lonely writers club in Bangalore, “It is just you, the computer and the worlds you are creating. Writing becomes a lonely process — there is no going away. There are a countless hours by yourself, which are compensated in the final book.”
It becomes less difficult when she meets other artistes who go through the same struggles. Interestingly, she doesn’t see herself living in established literary domains like Mumbai or Delhi. “The distance allows you to maintain a certain literary detachment that makes for unruffled, concentrated writing. I can’t write anywhere else other than in Bangalore.” Anita calls book festivals “media circuses”. “It can do a lot for young writers but for an older fraternity of established writers, it becomes unhealthy and unnecessary as you don’t even know the audience. It becomes a closed writers’ wrestling ring where everyone gets sized up.” On the other hand, book fairs are spaces for writers to interact and know their reading public. Anita enjoys creating characters that have a certain purpose and sense of worth in life. And when it comes to other art forms influencing her writing, Anita feels, “It could trigger a thought and make a certain connection when I listen to music during the process of writing.”
When it comes to activist writing, the writer feels that one has to have that mental makeup to be able to stand up and push your ideas. “It takes an evangelical vociferous belief to be convinced, to do something about an issue and deal with it. Most activist writers are lost in rhetoric but I enjoyed reading the feminist Marilyn French where the polemic is disguised as fiction.” Writing four books for children has been quite accidental for Anita. “I happened to have readymade material when the publisher asked me about ideas.” She however feels that writing for children is not vastly different but has to be more careful with the choice of words. “In the books about myths, I was retelling lesser-known myths that have not been explored — those which have an element of the fabulist and are less moralistic. Myths are confused with religion and I stayed away from those with religious tones.”
The looming question of readership for novels written by Indian writers in English has always been in the air. “Now, I get a lot of mails from readers in smaller towns like Nagpur.” For a writer whose works have been translated into both regional and international languages, she feels it is the question of a good inspired translator.
In response to her novel “Mistress” (2000) being short-listed for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction, she feels: “It is not your reality when you live far away in Bangalore...”
“I used to be a rabid traveller but now have become a reluctant one,” says the writer whose travelling now only takes her on literary tours of airport lounges, hotel lobbies and breakfasts. But when she travels on research, it allows her to look deeper into the subject and characters, and not be too caught up with home chores.
Though she feels there is a sense of ennui when she travels officially, it’s been a long time since Anita Nair became Akhilandeshwari in “Ladies Coupe” with a one-way ticket…