The bard like never before

Author speak Charles Nicholl

Author speak Charles Nicholl   | Photo Credit: Photo: G. Krishnaswamy

British author Charles Nicholl probes lesser-known facets of personalities

Charles Nicholl loves to discover the extraordinary in the most ordinary happenings. What most others dismiss as a footnote, he observes, could open a window to a whole new world.

The UK-based author was recently in Hyderabad, on invitation by the British Council, to address students of English literature at the English and Foreign Languages University.

His visit to India was also borne out of an invitation from the Jaipur Literary Festival.

He appears pleased addressing “an attentive, well informed and interested audience” at EFLU. He observes, “It’s remarkable to see how well Indian students know about Shakespeare, who lived thousands of miles away and several centuries ago.”

Shakespeare was the chosen subject for his latest book The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street. “My book is based on one document. I came across evidence that Shakespeare gave in a law suit in 1612, when he was in his late 40s. He was then living as a paying guest in a house on Silver Street, London. What I found interesting was a reference to the most popular Anglophonic writers by a maid servant as ‘one Mr. Shakespeare who lay in the house’,” Charles Nicholl refers with a chuckle.

“She addresses Shakespeare with respect but without much celebration. He is just another ordinary bloke for this illiterate lady. This episode from Shakespeare’s life offers new perspective of the author and some of his plays at that time.”

Charles Nicholl was a journalist before he turned full-time writer. One of his earlier works The Fruit Palace traces drug trade in Colombia. Researching in South America, Charles deviated from the purely journalistic perspective of analysing the business of drug trade to offering a sympathetic view of people who made a living from the drug trade. “That was 25 years ago. Now I’ve moved on and become a biographer of repute,” he laughs.

As a biographer, his strength lies in finding unusual facets to personalities. One of Nicholl’s next work talks about Francis Barber, a Jamaican who was brought to England as a slave and later on became an adopted son of Dr. Samuel Johnson.

At a time when the Indian publishing industry is welcoming budding writers, Charles Nicholl urges writers to “learn from the voices of the past and find your own. Write in your own style; write what you feel is interesting rather than penning down what you’ve been told to. It is a process of self belief.”


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