Books

In a writer’s loop

Comfort can also be drawn from other books by the same author.

Happiness often lies in the comfort of the known — in listening to the same song or reading the same book again and again till words and images are etched in our heads. The disease of the loop can be as infuriating as it is calming. At the moment it’s a Bob Dylan tune for me and a couple of Warshan Shire poems: “later that night/i held an atlas in my lap/ ran my fingers across the whole world/ and whispered/ where does it hurt?/ it answered/ everywhere/ everywhere/ everywhere.” (What they did yesterday afternoon.)

And: “you can’t make homes out of human beings,/ someone should have already told you that.” (For women who are ‘difficult’ to love.)

Comfort can also be drawn from other books by the same author. So much so that we don't just familiarise ourselves with the writer’s style or language but live in the delusion of having befriended them because, as we flip through the pages, we discover their own likes and dislikes, favourite words and phrases. I know of Haruki Murakami’s love for cats and jazz and Markus Zusak’s tendency to make all his characters read; I associate dreams with Milan Kundera, and magic and butterbeer with J.K. Rowling.

This year I discovered a writer in his death and entered a new loop. It was in March when I bought for a friend Intizar Husain’s The Sea Lies Ahead, but kept it for myself after leafing through some pages. Two months later, I read Basti. Both books, set during the time of Partition, don’t deal with issues like immigration, separation, and nostalgia in the raw manner that books in this genre generally do. Husain adopts a melancholic style, injects a lot of mythology, and writes in masterful prose. As the year ends, I am revisiting The Sea...

Reading Husain is like entering a social gathering. You meet new people but you are most comfortable with the person with whom you went. So I take breaks to read a bit about the poet Ghulam Hamadani Mushafi, about Dara Singh, learn that Delhi was once called Bais Khwaja ki Chaukhat (Threshold of 22 Sufi Masters) because they have all been referenced in The Sea... But I always return to Husain’s prose, to the muhajirs, to the known. What better than to love the old even while discovering the new as yet another year begins?

radhika.s@thehindu.co.in

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 1:39:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/In-a-writer%E2%80%99s-loop/article16939024.ece

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