Talk Writer Chandrahas Choudhury speaks of how the world of novelists and journalists meet at a place in which each can draw from the other
Can the worlds of novels and journalism meet? Novelist Chandrahas Choudhury believes they do, and we have reason to believe him for he speaks from the perspective of a novelist and a poetry and fiction editor at Caravan Magazine.
In a talk delivered at the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Bangalore, Chandrahas spoke on “Why journalism and novels walk hand in hand in India — and how to draw on the power of both.”
“Journalism, by definition, is a search for facts and a novel, by definition, is an imagined story. You can easily tell me these are two completely different worlds. On the other hand, one might say both journalists and novelists are interested in similar things: to study the world and provide the most beautiful account of it as possible,” said Chandrahas, the author of Arzee the Dwarf .
The forms of a novel and a news report may be different; a journalist has to go out and report whereas a novelist has the licence to sit at home and imagine a whole new world. Chandrahas added that even the standards of journalism and novels are different. “As a journalist the standard is what you report should be true, as a novelist the standard is what you write should be meaningful.” Despite these disparities, Chandrahas contends that there is a place where the two can come together. “Both journalists and novelists are interested in the world around them. They are not just interested in describing it, but in explaining it.”
To Chandrahas, “whenever novelists read good journalism they feel ambitious for their own novels and whenever journalists read good novels they feel ambitious for their own journalism.Each side finds in the other side something important. As a novelist, I cannot get by without reading Sudeep Chakravarti’s Red Sun: Travels in Naxalite Country or Sonia Faleiro’s Beautiful Thing .”
The pressure of deadlines and writing reports within a word limit are among the many challenges journalists face. At such times, the casuality is always language. Chandrahas touched upon this aspect too. “Sometimes journalism suffers because the language isn’t good enough. Improving language means achieving the sharpest representation of what you have found out. Some of the things that journalist takes away from reading novels are representing facts in an exciting way and narrating an event from many points of view.”
Chandrahas spoke about the dangers of paid news, describing it as “shameful and intellectually shabby”, adding that there is a difference between reporting and writing to publicise a particular company or person. He however came back to speak about novels, and insisted that they have to be read by every student of journalism.