Literature conveys more meaning than painting, music: Tharoor

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor at Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) being held at Diggi Palace in Jaipur, on Jan 21, 2017. Photo: IANS

Jaipur: A work of literature has something “special” to offer and conveys more meaning than other art forms such as a painting or a piece of music, according to renowned writer and politician Shashi Tharoor.

Tharoor, who has authored 15 best selling books of fiction and non-fiction, said there was no department of life, public or private, which was not effectively influenced by literature.

“Good literature is the attempt to capture the human condition in a way that can be shared with other people and understand it. I believe every policy, every public political issue is either reflected in people depicted in literature or is influenced by reader’s awareness,” he told PTI in an interview.

The Congress MP, who is attending the Jaipur Literature Festival here, feels that a painting cannot convey as much as a book.

“It is difficult to imagine that a piece of music alone can convey as much as a passionate or polemical work of literature. I think a work of literature has something special to offer, more details to offer than any other single piece of art form,” he said.

The 60-year-old author, who is holding strong, both to his words and his charm, said an ideal writing situation was when nothing mattered more than the writing itself.

“The ideal writing situation is when you are so completely immersed in what you are writing that other things like your dressing, your shaving, your eating become totally irrelevant.

When I wrote ‘An Era of Darkness’, it was very much like that,” Tharoor said.

Admired for his great learning, Tharoor said he was an “indiscriminate” reader and reads at least a dozen books a year.

“I’m an indiscriminate reader but not a copious one. I still manage to read at least a dozen books a year, but that is nothing compared to what I would have have been able to.

“Before my children were born, my wife and I were very easily reading four to five books a month,” he said.

Responding to his scathing criticism of writer R K Narayan whom he has described in his book titled “Bookless in Baghdad” as an “impoverished” author whose writing was ‘pedestrian’ and compared his prose with a “bullock cart”, a vehicle which moves only in one gear, Tharoor said his language was “unnecessarily harsh” .

“My language was unnecessarily harsh. When I wrote that (essay) I was trying to be a little provocative. He had been hailed as a great writer, whereas his greatness lay in being a pioneering writer. But the actual quality of his writing did not match up to that exalted stature,” Tharoor said.

“People should see Narayan’s contribution as a whole. I think, stylistically and linguistically he is a very limited writer, but his humanity, his empathy with his characters, his broader evocations of life are special, you cannot take that away from him,” he said.

About his castigation of Nirad C Chaudhuri in many of his books, Tharoor said the Bengali writer had offended him by praising Britishers.

“I felt offended that someone could praise the Britishers. Some of what he did was offensive and insulting to Indians,” he said.

Tharoor, who in his boyhood days set himself a challenge of finishing 365 books in a year and accomplished it before Christmas, said it was a “silly challenge” and a “bit of a crazy” which he would never recommend to anyone, not even to his children.

“The bad thing about it was you were no longer reading to savour the pleasure of the book. Finishing the book became more important,” he said.

Commenting on the contemporary literary trend in India, Tharoor agreed that while the readership had gone up, there was more demand for steamy potboilers and bestsellers rather than growing appetite for serious literature.

“It is true of every country. In Britain and America also it is not only about high literature. There are also bestsellers, potboilers, detective novels, thrillers, rom-coms, chick-lits all of that stuff. So, I think we are also reaching the same kind of pattern which is not unusual or wrong,” he said.


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