Authors

Striking a balance

Author Cynthia Ozick tells us on how she transcends between fiction and non fiction

“Fame is pursued and recognition is accrued. There are beautiful writers who are consistent, year after year, writing quietly and then recognition, through the merit of their work, accrues. That there comes a time when recognition without effort becomes fame,” says Cynthia Ozick, who does not believe an author should pursue fame; an author should be visible only through her writing. She says there is a clash between the pursuit of fame and the fine quality of writing that draws fame to it, in slow but steady measure. A collection of essays by Ozick have been released recently under the title, Critics, Monsters, Fanatics and Other Literary Essays.

Ozick is an American author, who is famous of her book which began as an essay titled The Shawl. She says: “I made that story up. It is the story of Roza, the name of the protagonist who hides her baby in the shawl. The baby clings to her breast, but there is no milk left to suck. The hungry baby is quietly hidden inside the shawl during the march and then bundled in the shawl and hidden inside the barracks. Roza’s cold and hungry teenage daughter steals the shawl and uncovers the baby.

A guard sees the baby and throws her on the electric fence…should Roza run to get her baby? The guards will then shoot her. If she does not, the baby will die. Either way there is death. So I am not able to read the story because of the bad feeling…because I know that there are many survivors amongst us who have gone through such a similar situations…It is important for us to know the difference between fiction and non fiction,” says Ozick in the context of The Holocaust Denial and adds that though her work is one of fiction, it is based on facts.

“The beginning of the book, The Shawl came from something I read many years before I wrote it. It came from the book, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer. And there was just one line in this quite thick book which I read in paperback. The line was about a baby being thrown against an electrified fence in a death camp. The line stayed with me for years and it turned into The Shawl.

It goes on to talk of how Roza and her teenage daughter got back to life after the war…Roza wants to cling on to the child though she knows she is dead…the shawl becomes the physical remnant to imagine what the child would have grown up into…”

As Ozick draws out her innermost angst in the book she says,”There is something in the act of writing that engages the imagination, engages the inner moral force that we are all equipped with from birth. Here we are looking down at a piece of paper with funny marks on it and those marks translate miraculously into meaning. Reading is life.”

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Printable version | May 25, 2020 2:50:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/striking-a-balance/article27147301.ece

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