Author Timeri Murari doesn't like Salman Rushdie's writing. The man who has created many bestsellers and an acclaimed film describes all those who read awarded authors as "literary masochists".
"I've never finished reading any of Rushdie's books," says Murari. "All those who read awarded authors are literary masochists. Never did good writers like Somerset Maugham, Oscar Wilde, Tolstoy or Frederick Forsyth sniff an award." <b1>
Murari has worked in Canada and Britain as a journalist, author, filmmaker and playwright. He has produced 14 books, including 12 works of fiction.
Time magazine voted The Square Circle - a movie scripted and produced by Murari - one of the best films of 1997.
Excerpts from an hour-long interview with IANS:
Q: Despite having the world's largest English readership, India has produced very few bestseller authors.
Murari: Indian authors' successes coincide with our emergence as an economic miracle. While the global awareness of India has helped, some of our well-known authors like Salman Rushdie cannot be called our best literary ambassadors. Sure, Rushdie is famous and I am happy for him. But, I have never finished reading any of his books. His prose is tortuous. And now, he has won the Booker again!
If one writes good prose, he/she is suspect because judges aren't "intellectually challenged" whatever that means.
Q: Taut, readable prose is often dismissed as pulp fiction.
Murari: Incomprehensible writing is called "high quality!" Never did good writers like Somerset Maugham, Oscar Wilde, Tolstoy or a Frederick Forsyth ever sniff an award. The awarded authors are read by mostly literary masochists.
Q: One of your books based on a trip to the Himalayas seriously discusses religion.
Murari: The sight of Mount Kailash did not instil the belief in Shiva in me. But it helped me understand the Himalayas' majesty and I admit I felt puny before a landscape that has been around for over 40 million years.
Q: Talking of God, isn't the number of competing religious beliefs more like a five-year-old saying my dad - or in this context - God - is stronger than yours?
Murari: In the humans' quest for power on earth, they have ended up dividing a nonexistent heaven! If at all such a place exists one can't have wars there. More seriously, the concept of an earth's God is like that of a district magistrate. Probably, there are other superior judges with a larger jurisdiction controlling multiple universes.
Q: Talking of destruction in the current political context, we know that the nuclear-armed nations have enough weapons to destroy the earth 16 times.
Murari: Obviously, the world's nuclear powers know much more. Somewhere, some crackpot in an angry moment might press a button and obliterate us all. The US is talking of colonising Mars to escape earth if and when she is hit by an asteroid or comet. One asteroid missed us by some 92,000 miles in the past. Next time, twin asteroids might not miss us and Mars! But then, we have created enough homemade asteroids to finish us off and a few jokers are insisting on their right to make more of them in the name of national defence interests!
Q: Talking of preserving mother earth, ancient sages of Indians were naturalists who practised a healthy fire sacrifice that detoxified the atmosphere.
Murari: Globally, the ancients, be they the Greeks or Aztecs or Indians, all worshipped nature and demonised those against it. Slowly man became so conceited that he ignored nature and deified himself. Now we have an unnatural humanoid set of Gods who are merely figments of faulty imagination that began probably some 2,000 years ago.
Q: For a man who has written for more than four decades, what changes do you see in modern literature juxtaposing yours with those in the world?
Murari: My fiction writing took a turn for the better only during the last decade or so. In my non-fiction works, facts are uncompromisingly sacred. Some non-fiction books authored were bestsellers until the truth bubble burst. And in Frank McCourt's case it was the exact opposite. The fine line between fiction and non-fiction is slowly disappearing.
Q: Comment on fiction based on a certain series of assumed facts like the work of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code ...
Murari: All fiction these days needs factual inputs. But liars like the Harvard student whose book that won an award were caught. Authors led only by momentary money are intellectually dishonest. And awards that promote this crime are criminal instruments of manipulating readers.
Q: As a successful writer, what would you advise budding writers to do and not to do?
Murari: Chasing bestseller lists is a futile exercise. Express your passion freely. Every writer who gets better each time will eventually emerge a winner.