Speaking at a function connected with an international book fair being held in Kerala [India], renowned Malayalam novelist and former president of the Sahitya Academy, M Mukundan, reiterated what Shakespeare said about four centuries ago. “Literary writers should be a little eccentric,” said Mukundan. Shakespeare had equated poets with lunatics.
The writer must be a lunatic, said Mukundan. He [the writer] must suffer from restlessness. Mukundan added that today’s writers don’t have serious problems that can make them restless. The most acute problem of today’s world is not poverty. Perhaps the most acute problem today is not getting parking space for one’s car. Even the unemployed youth of today ride bikes costing Rs80,000, said Mukundan.
Mukundan is right. Very few people can write good fiction without going through the pangs of existence. But the pangs of existence need not be the pangs of poverty, starvation, or unemployment as Mukundan seems to make it out, at least according to the report that appeared in the Malayala Manorama dated Nov 12. No sane person can advocate evils like poverty for the sake of good literature.
I agree with Mukundan that writers must be a little eccentric. Like Arundhati Roy. She does not suffer unemployment, poverty or starvation. Shakespeare didn’t either at least when he wrote his best plays. But I can always keep Shakespeare in a separate niche because he was a rare genius. And the rules for the ordinary mortals don’t apply to geniuses. It’s a pity that Arundhati Roy does not write novels now.
I hope what Mukundan meant is that writers must have a high degree of sensitivity. I’m quite sure that’s what he meant. The Manorama journalist must not have caught that. Bernard Shaw described journalism as the profession of the illiterate precisely because of this: most journalists end up as mere coffee shop gossipers. They have done much harm to Arundhati Roy too.
Is that why Ms Roy has switched to writing articles? Articles that are similar to machine guns?
Have machine guns become the only viable tools of sensitive intellectuals today?
Viable. I remember how Roy’s only novel plays with that word and equates with die-able.
Writers should be die-able. That’s the eccentricity of genuine literary writers. Ready to die for the cause they believe in.
And there are very few writers of that sort today. Mukundan is right after all.