Tabish Khair is a Indian fiction writer, poet and academic. His works include the novels Filming, A Thing about Thugs, How To Fight Islamist Terror From The Missionary Position and Jihadi Jane. His latest published essay is titled The New Xenophobia.

 What is your earliest reading memory? American and Indian comics, fairy tales, Hitchcock thrillers, Enid Blyton, Hardy Boys, Wild Westerners, and Reader’s Digest, I am afraid!

Has writing been a conscious choice or a natural thing for you? Neither, perhaps. More of a compulsion.

Do you have any special habits or rituals when you write? Not really. Except that I do not want anyone else in the room.

 Do you choose your stories/poems or do the stories/poems choose you? I think it is the latter. If I could choose my stories, I would have written a multi-million bestseller or at least a Booker winner by now! 

What national books/authors do you enjoy re-reading and why?

 No rules. Also it changes: there are authors I absolutely loved once upon a time – like Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jane Austen, William Wordsworth – whom I still like but like much less today. Then there are those I did not like many years ago – such as Emily Bronte – whom I absolutely adore today.

 What foreign books/authors do you enjoy re-reading and why? My current favorites – because I discovered them late– are Italo Svevo and Erri di Luca. These days I seem to prefer the relative sparseness of some of South European writing to the increasing verbosity of much of Anglophone fiction.

What is so important about fiction/poetry? Literature is the most complex thinking device we have as human beings: it demands a level of contemplation and deep attention that is essentially what makes and keeps us human. In short, even animals have facts, but only human beings have fiction.

Flaubert says he was physically sick when he wrote Emma Bovary’s death. Are you empathetic with your characters? Not to the extent of falling sick. But definitely to the extent of not wanting anything bad to happen to them – a tendency one has to resist for the cause of the story at times.

Can you cry writing your own poem? Not cry, and not while writing, but when I was much younger, I could be moved by a poem that I had just written if I thought it had achieved its effect. I guess I still would be, though more rarely and in deeper recesses of my encrusted being. If something you write does not move you at all, then I suppose it is not worth publishing.   

What is your ideal reader? I don’t think I have one, unless it is the kind of reader who thinks and reads, and reads and thinks.

Should writers be embraced by society or should they be exiled? 
They should just keep on writing no matter what happens. 

Is there a God or are there gods for writers? If there is a god for writers, then it is definitely not a god of commandments.

 What makes a writer a writer?

Reading and living. Or maybe living and reading.

Tell us about your fiction/poetry. I think I will just list my recent books, and let your readers choose. My poetry collections include ‘Where Parallel Lines Meet’ (Penguin, 2000) and ‘Man of Glass’ (HarperCollins, 2010), and the novels are ‘The Bus Stopped’ (Picador, 2004), ‘Filming: A Love Story’ (Picador, 2007), ‘The Thing About Thugs’ (Harpercollins, 2010; Houghton Mifflin, 2012), ‘How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position’ (Interlink and Corsair 2014), ‘Just Another Jihadi Jane’ (Penguin and Periscope 2016, Interlink 2017). As you know, all except one of my novels are available in French – I seem to be more often translated into French than into other languages, which, I think, says a lot about the good taste of the French!

What is the purpose of your writing? A fuller engagement with life – before I die one day.

How do you really feel about recognition and fame? Are you a satisfied mind or always craving for more? Recognition is always welcome because it enables one to write and live more freely. Fame might be another matter: its gold might come in the shape of intellectual chains. But, yes, I do crave for more. As one of my favorite poets, the early 19th century Ghalib, puts it: ‘Hazaaron khwahishen aisi ke har khwahish pay dum niklay / Bahut niklay mere armaan, lekin phir bhi kum niklay’ (A thousand wishes and each wish worth a lifetime / So many desires fulfilled, and yet not enough.)              


Popular posts from this blog