Source : Hindustan Times
Anuradha Roy’s All the Lives We Never Lived weaves a story where significant historical characters are involved with the fictional characters in the book, exploring the loss, memory, conflict, war and freedom during the disorderly times preceding Independence in India.
Writing a book that wants to be written is quite a challenge. The amalgamation of heard and unheard voices, told and untold narratives, the roads that were taken and the ones that were missed, the real characters and the more dominant, unreal characters, the yearning to write such a book is a journey in itself. Anuradha Roy’s All the Lives We Never Lived weaves a story where significant historical characters are involved with the fictional characters in the book, exploring the loss, memory, conflict, war and freedom during the disorderly times preceding Independence in India. She touches upon the transforming lives of men and women, their struggles, their idea of freedom and the price one pays for it.
All the Lives We Never Lived in all its subtlety is a powerful voice amid all the political, social and cultural conversations and what we are going to be left with in the end. It has been longlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2018 among 16 novels that represent the best works of fiction in the present times. The DSC Prize for South Asian Literature which was instituted in 2010 by Surina Narula and Manhad Narula, is one of the most prestigious international literary awards mainly focusing on the rise of South Asian writing and its place and impact globally. It encourages fiction writing on the South Asian region from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Maldives and Afghanistan and the trajectories of untold stories and the social, political and cultural collision that each of these landscapes share.
Q: All the Lives We Never Lived is a mixed bag of fictional and non-fictional characters. How the non-fictional characters help in shaping the fictional ones?
The book plays a great deal with history and memory and fiction and the characters from fiction and non-fiction intermingle to create the world of the novel. I’ve tried to remain true to the real lives and voices of the historical characters while drawing them into fiction. The historical characters are very much a part of the context and action for the fictional ones.
Q: Where does the portrayal of the female character stand right now in the world of writing? When you are working on a female character, what are the challenges? Did you face any with Gayatri?
Gayatri came to me very naturally, fully formed. She had a strong voice and personality for me from the time I started thinking about her. The difficult part with her was the letters she writes from Bali to her friend. They had to be in her voice – the voice of a woman in the late 1930s, writing in English to her friend. There had to be a complete change from that of the main narrative, which is in the voice of an oldish man. The tone and style had to be true to the period, to use a conversational idiom that would have been prevalent then, among her class. I had to read reams of letters, fiction, and memoirs from the time, and internalise them before I got into a place where I could write Gayatri’s letters in a natural, spontaneous way. I don’t find it any different writing male or female characters, no.
Q: How awards and fame change a writer’s road ahead? Did you experience a certain change?
Awards help to bring a writer’s work to a larger number of people. They are usually judged by your peers and it feels like a vindication of your work if your book is considered for awards.
Q: You speak English, Hindi and Bengali. Which language you choose to think in?
Bengali and English.
Q: Writing is a consuming process. How do you think initiatives like DSC Prize will inspire budding writers to look at writing as a full-time profession?
Usually you can’t make writing a full-time profession either here or abroad. Most writers have other day jobs. In the West, a large number of writers teach creative writing. Here they do different things as well.
Q: What are you currently reading? How many books you read at a time?
I am reading a book by Janet Malcolm called The Journalist and the Murderer, which studies the uneasy relationship between journalists and their subjects. I tend to read two to three books at a time.
Q: Any particular writer’s work you could relate to and why?
I love Alice Munro’s work — her short stories contain enigmas that make them linger in my mind for ages. She has a gift of observing small details and building them into larger narratives which go in quite unexpected directions.