A novel lives and dies in details: Kamila Shamsie

  • Subuhi Parvez Subuhi Parvez, Hindustan Times, Jaipur
  • Updated: Jan 25, 2015 12:42 IST

Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie, who is at the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, spoke about the art of historical fiction and how she has "OCD" for getting the facets right.

"I am very particular about my facts and details. I think a novel lives and dies in these details. You have to give yourself to it," said the author of A God in Every Stone.

Talking about the detailing and how much is too much, New Zealand author Eleanor Catton said that it becomes hard to know the level of familiarity readers have.

"I don't understand sometimes whether to give an elaborate backgrounder to the readers. If I am writing on Word War and educating them about who killed who then it is patronizing the readers' intelligence," Catton said.

"Another tricky part about writing historical fiction is to avoid modern stereotypes in your work."

Adding to this, Damon Galyut - South African playwright and novelist- raised a pertinent point in saying that the basic characteristic hardly changes from ancient times to now.

"Human nature doesn't change. It is a constant," he said.

A question popped from the audience to Shamsie on making her characters speak English when it wasn't a universal language to which the 41-year-old replied, "In my novel some characters speak Pashto also but I focused more on what they are talking about rather than language."

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