The Great Indian Novel is on our list of the greatest Indian novels of all time. A rather befitting title for the list, actually. Did you always know it would be so great?
It was ambitiously conceived and written with all my heart and soul, but "greatness" is a quality for others to judge. I am glad it is still in print a quarter of a century later, and after 42 reprints, Penguin is planning to bring out a Silver Jubilee hardback edition in October.
It's been 25 years since the novel was first published. Would you change anything about it now?
No. Any book is true in and of itself, as a reflection of the time in which it was written. Every book is infinitely perfectible, but to change anything afterwards would be like trying to fix the DNA of a baby after you've given it birth.
How many versions of the Mahabharat have you read?
Dozens! I never stopped reading the Mahabharata. In fact, when I was in London to sign my contract for the novel with Viking, I was browsing in a bookshop and found the script of Jean-Claude Carriere's play for Peter Brook -- which I didn't hesitate to buy, even while wondering if he had done things with the epic that would render my effort superfluous.
It's been a while since you've written a novel. Are you working on anything fictional right now?
I began a novel after Pax Indica, but then they made me a minister again! I've had to abandon that project for personal reasons, but hope to return to fiction one day. But in my current political life, I don't know where the time -- or the creative space inside my head -- is going to come from, though.
From HT Brunch, June 22
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