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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Of Infinite Justice and Small Things...

Ok, I was so laid up and couldn't resist writing, this one came almost impulsively. It definitely runs the risk of not letting the visitors read my previous post which is definitely more relaxed piece. But, when am on a roll, who can stop me from blogging. And before tonight, don't be surprised if there are 3 more blogs! Read on, mate!
Arudathi Roy is not just the God of Small Things who aspires to alter the scales of the Algebra of Infinite Justice, she also is a bandwagoner! And she is no loner in this area.
Writers, especially novelists these days, have become much more media-savvy than others. Perhaps they need to be more so. People in show-biz or entertainment industry or music industry all are more visible as personalities with faces. Writers unfortunately are personalities with not too many photographs in the press. Of course, things are changing now. But pray tell me, how many of you remember the face of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Raja Rao? Raja who? I understand. And all I need to do is say Rushdie or Rowling and the faces come flashing on view. With the changing face of the publishing industry and its need to survive, public relations and advertisement gimmicks have improved. Things are at a stage where writers are given advance and news written large about it now-a-days. The Visual and Video Media is playing a large part in reckoning the fortunes of a writer and the publishing industry. Good, good. But it has its flip-side. Like what I am talking about Ms. Roy.
She has successfully managed to keep herself in news. Two books and a celebrity. Because her first book was the recipient of Booker? Not exactly. Booker has its role, though. There is a long list of writers who win awards or become best sellers and a couple of acceptance speeches carefully worded and delivered, some magazine or newspaper's feuilleton pages commission them to be columnists. Every country has its example. And that perhaps is how Ms. Roy is more popular than her one book wonder. When you are a savvy writer who knows you can't come up with classy works everytime, you bide your time, keep visibility by churning out weekly columns on eclectic subjects ranging from Dr. Sirleaf's ascendancy to become the first African woman head of state to the squareroots of algebra and Sanjeev Kapoor's cooking to Rang De Basanti, publish it timely as a collection of essays by a popular publisher who has the muscle to publicise... lo and behold! Another Bestseller. The aura does it all. Am not saying Ms. Roy's Algebra book spawns from Sanjeev to Sirleaf. I haven't even read it. But the pattern is familiar. From Umberto Eco to your columnist writer next door. They just sing anything for their supper. What difference it makes whether you sing covers or originals as long as you sing well!
So, Sahitya Akademi recognises her book. She de-recognises them. If she accepts the award it is a news... sustainable for a month. Now it is an event. Ms. Roy refrains from acceptance. Ms. Roy protests. What protests? The protest is going to get shit, because it is getting tiresome. Too many writers are playing Errant Knights to Protest Lady-in-Distress. It is disgusting. Ms. Roy doesn't seem to have any specific personal politics that is meaningful. Isn't it sick sometimes when people who are already public figures get into these activist trips? It doesn't make sense. Beyond a point it just comes through as pure gimmick. Is this what they call insecurity? Identity crisis?? What is the need? And the Akademi is not going to give it to someone. So, her name will be on the proud annals of .html pages of the Akademi Website with something apolegetic in parenthesis, as a sour reminder that they have been rebuffed. Akademi must not pander. Come to talk of it, The God of Small Things was not even great. The Brits have no sense of recognition. Someone uses their vocabulary breadth and syntax expanse very well and amusingly, without discomfiting them, they give them Bookers and Whitbreads! 'The world', I tell you, like the Bard said in Richard II (I think!), is one huge "Caterpillar of the Commonwealth."
And people like Arundathi Roy, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie realise this. The Publishing industry realises this, the governments that issue orders against them and those that protect them both realise this. I do totally agree their politics is serious. They are committed to their beliefs and hence protest. But there has to be something called temperance. But again, probably without these buildups, the prospect of future Nobel for Literature does probably not exist. Nobel is a noble prize that recognises people who strive for peace through various fields, one of which is Peace itself. And its history seems to be getting more and more strife-torn, buffetted with figures that Fight for Peace (what an oxymoron!), its pages riddled with attention seekers as well as quieter ones who let their work talk. Now don't tell me the Rushdies of the world are genuine voices with genuine problems with a genuine right to voice anything. This Blue Ribbon is the biggest shit invented to cover up any and every crap talk. There needs some line to be drawn regarding Democratic Freedom of Speech. It's not about what we talk, but how we talk. Remember Tagore, Gandhi, Martin Luther Jr, Bishop Tutu, Nelson Mandela. And how they expressed their protest.
I think Ms. Roys and Pamuks of this world are witty but not responsible in their talk and actions. Being fire-brand and rebel is passe! Let them remember it. To hide their rebellion behind ideological discourse is not justification enough to claim the crown of attention. It is 'sad' attitude. Ineptitude not to let their writing work talk. To bring in the branding got through one field to strengthen the cause of another is glamorising the other. Which is demeaning. Hope the so-called protestants with rebel genes in their blood realise that your work speaks than your speech works. Gone are the days of rhetoric. With the prevalence of television channels and rhetoric writers dime a dozen, enough and more secretaries can be hired to pen rhetorical or soul-stirring, mob-swaying speeches. And the joke of it all is that there is a mob out there who just come to listen to a good speech, in the absence of a good movie to go to. It doesn't necessarily mean they're going to support you or vote for you.
(Sorry about the harshness, folks. But it comes from the heart. Because it hurts to see someone rebuff someone who tries to recognise you for your goodness. I may not be a fan of Sahitya Akademi. But I guess, if someone recognises you, you must have the basic courtesy to accept it with a large-heartedness than use it as a platform to fart your protest in public... and the anger was directed at someone else! Ms. Roy sucks!)

19 comments:

Anand Ramamoorthy said...

Dear KK,
How very appropriate.
I really cannot say much about this topic ..though I would like to read a post by you on Sir Vidia also known as V.S.Naipaul. I read three books of his on India and tried one on general essays and ..well...that sums it up.
As for 'the God of Small Things' I haven't read it. I read most of her articles in newspapaers and they are very well written. I guess this refusing to accept awards is quite irritating.
What was the font? Use something that's big and easy on the readers ..please.

SARVAM SRIKRISHNAARPANAMASTHU!

Ludwig said...

> Ms. Roy doesn't seem to have any
> specific personal politics that is
> meaningful. Isn't it sick sometimes
> when people who are already public
> figures get into these activist trips?

KK, am somewhat of an AR fan myself (she's kinda cute, and does have a way with words, and seems somewhat gutsy), but I think her 'activism' isn't a recent thing. She seems to have held her political views long before she was a celebrity.

Anyway, your post certainly seems heartfelt :)

Krishna Kumar said...

Ludwig...

I know AR has held her activist politics even as a young turk. But what am driving at is... using the opportunity to drive home the anger at someone else - just because sahitya akademi has govt. grants etc... is like burning your reading room because it stands adjacent to your neighbor's house whose walls you share in a street house. It is really silly. I am an activist, I should know myself... having spurned some offers due to ideological reasons. But an honour! And some of her protests... well, she's got the gift of the gab, no doubt. But there seriously was no magical realism in God of!

word verification - dilst (heart street?)

Srini said...

Never mind Acharya KK,

I suppose one has to be harsh sometimes! And beyond a doubt what you say about Rushdie and Ms. Roy is absolutely true. About Pamuk, I know not much to comment! The personal is political, the political is personal... and so forth.

Albeit I am a man who doesn't appreciate strong language, to put it mildly, some things must come out with the verisilimitude of protest without the crimson losing ground. What I was touched by most in your post was when you say, when someone tries to recognise you, do not turn into a platform for your own agenda! Well... welll... well as Sunil Shetty says in Main Hoona "we have been in a state of war with Pakistan since 1947", I think we have been in a state of war with our ego's politics and the world about, since we were made or we evolved...
Creation and evolution in a way started as egos didn't they?

Krishna Kumar said...

Yes, I am one who believes 'from the personal comes the political' and without the personal element my theatre would lose its politics. Anger is essential to artists the same way obsessive clamour for excess was essential to Wolfgang to become an Amadeus. But talking survival socialism is one thing and practising self-serving capitalism is another. To use a genuine occasion for ends that will never be reached just because the protest will attract public attention is stupidity. This is like some people who would come to attend a funeral or wedding because there are lot of people there to hear their grumbles and wubbles!

Creation and evolution are matters of ego, no doubt. But there we talk of the Roarkian ego that Rand spells out. The ego to realise that I the proud artist cannot give sub-standard work. Not the ego that brooks silly squabbles to flex its power because the platform is there. The definition of ego is perhaps the only thing I accept with Rand. I categorically deny any affliction towards Rand or her writings. Not even her "Epistemology" stuff.

Krishna Kumar said...

It is the regular Arial font that Blogger provides. Probably you need to check the text size in your View sub-menu.

As for Naipaul, I have no respect for him the same way I disregard Nirad Chaudhuri. Rushdie I don't mind, because he writes of a city and that part of the country he once experienced. It is not the India so much as his experience that Rushdie brings into his writings and he writes genuinely funny. Naipaul! Have you read Raja Rao? Brilliant the pictures he evokes of rural India sometimes. As good as honestly earthy like R.K.Narayan. There's always some humour to be had. Unlike some writers from the other side of Vindhyas who're obsessed with pre-Independence struggles and partitions in a serious mode.

Srini said...

Acharya (Sir) KK,

My conjecture is the names and the concepts are going over my head at this point in time! But, yes these two instances of ego-citing (or -sighting) are indeed as variable as lightning and a fire-fly); one of them at least as cheap as cheapness can be!

And as for the Booker... well, I hope over the next decade it doesn't become a 'dubious distinction' from being a distinction, if it is already there. If The God of Small Things won a booker (deliberately with lower case b), well I know not to talk more. Goodnight...

Anand Ramamoorthy said...

Dear KK,
cool views on Naipaul somehow I felt that his writings on India didn't connect someplace...there was a strangeness to the whole set of essays that made me feel that he was holding a distorted lens all the time when trying to magnify images of Indian life...

Raja Rao, I'll see if I can get hold of some books of his..R.K.Narayanan is indeed the quintessential Indian Writer in English...as for those whom you speak of as ones on the other side of the Vindhyas, well... that sums it up again I guess.

I guess it's time for another post fro Sir KK, ...

best wishes

SARVAM SRIKRISHNAARPANAMASTHU!

Anonymous said...

YOU talk abt roy denying the award..but my question is does at all she deserve one?

this hypocrisy of roy and her likes needs to end up somewhere! just because you sip in a glass of apple juice and join medha patkar in her life time battle or bcoz u r a person using arbitary words in the name of "essays" - u dont become an "activist". roy has been a contradictory quack and a tragedy of errors! i have no doubt about her literary (vocabulary) skills, but does that make a sensible activist,essayist (columnist or whatever?) and above all a political thinker(my GOD!!?#@$).

shame on the academy which is requesting her to accept the award and this one mr.sachidananda in the committee feels the committee is not in perfect synchronisation with the ideology of the GOV?

ideology-does ms.roy have one? she calls chomsky the greatest intellectual(who talks communism but is a capitalist), talks about environment (but has built a resort in forest reserves), hates capitalism but accepts capitalist money and has no standpoint to talk about!

i wonder if ever india will recognise (if not honour) true thinkers(im sure india has many) and a day will come when ppl will realise that there can never be second novel from this female bcoz...the first one was tragedy of errors(on ammu,ayemann, sex and nonsense) which won the booker bcoz...wow it was amazing language and now she is Empty....as empty as the brain of her neo-liberal friend -SONIA GANDHI!

MY GOD SAVE INDIA!!!

vbk said...

god of small things(GOST) wasnt great at all, like u said. its just stunning the way people think. (if they think at all, that is)
there's this gang of people saying GOST is great.possibly,no, probably, they overdid the appreciation. thats it. GOST becomes popular. then more false appreciation. then GOST becomes a craze. more and more false appreciation. Then the world gets divided into ppl who've read GOST and those who have not. (sorry for the cliche... )
ultimately, im in perfect concurrence with ur opinion that there's just too much publicity around. not just the advertisers, the publishers etc... but also the people.

Gounder Brownie said...

May I point out that the 'Brownie' link does not work because you are under the impression that my address is: http://whyamiabrownie.blogspot.com

It is NOT. It is http://whyiamabrownie.blogspot.com

Please don't make me sound like I am lamenting my identity :p

Krishna Kumar said...

Hey Anon: your views would be respected even if you owned it. Don't worry. Talking of SONIA, I read an article in some tamil magazine... "In Delhi now we have a Catholic Democracy". How true!

Krishna Kumar said...

VBK, welcome to these shores, may you be blessed with more visits to this site for controversial posts... or posts about controversial events. Well, I guess if we started a blog against Ms. AR, that would be the most popular stuff next to anti-Britney stuff on the web!

Krishna Kumar said...

Brownie... hey... surprise visitor... thanks for deigning on our blog. And wokei... the link would be set right asap. At the moment am not in the tweak the template mood. And I don't think you have identity problem either, being the only brownie that blogs. And to imagine the only brownie that blogs travelled all the way to play Nakkeeran and not to comment on Ms. Roy... *the doc sits down like eliot's patient etherized upon the table*

Krishna Kumar said...

Anand... thy wish shall be granted tonight with a brand new blog. Wouldn't know if it is to your liking. And I would also post the first few words of the first chapter of my first serious and what appears to be a full length magnum opus (if it sees the daylight in full height weight and breadth!) fiction at my new blog "Novel Space" - http://novelspace.blogspot.com to which you will be the first guest of honour, tonight.

Gounder Brownie said...

@KK- I like Roy :)

eyefry said...

Chuck Arundhati Roy, whatever happened to that massive worldwide fundraising shindig that was the Live8? Does anyone even remember it, let alone care? Seems like a whole lotta big money was spent on a whole lotta small talk...

Krishna Kumar said...

@ GB

liking Roy's penchant for words is one thing, identifying with her antics is another thing. See, already, like the other day I was pointing out in my post This and That Bloggettes about Orhan Pamuk - it is the same case with all writers and governments. Today the hindu reads that Turkish govt has decided to backtrack, because they want E.U more than they don't want Pamuk. It's all a world of marriage of conveniences and divorces of allegiances. Political Expediency.

Krishna Kumar said...

@ Eyefry

Live8 was the biggest scam even then, didn't you see. The moment anything gets publicised rather than gone about being done, it's glamour and at some point peters out. Of course you won't hear about it anymore.