Neel Mukherjee on his next book: I don’t want to write on India again
During a panel discussion at the Sharjah International Book Fair, Neel Mukherjee, whose second novel The Lives of Others was shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize, spoke about writing and reviewing books and ideas of home, migration, freedom and identity .books Updated: Nov 07, 2017 16:25 IST
Famous for writing books that have India as a recurring theme, acclaimed Indian author Neel Mukherjee has said that his next novel will not be about his birth country as he has written enough about it.
Calling himself a book reviewer instead of a critic, Mukherjee, whose second novel The Lives of Others was shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize, said writing about ten good book reviews a year that compel readers to buy the volumes was more difficult than authoring a book.
“Writing is nine parts instinct,” Mukherjee, 47, said at the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF 2017) on Friday while urging aspiring writers to read and explore the vast universe of books.
“I don’t want to write on India again, I think I’m done with writing about the country for a while. These could be famous last words,” he replied when asked if he felt under pressure to write a book that is chasing topicality.
“Writers stereotype themselves because they internalise their own idea about what it is they should be writing about. I don’t try to fit myself in a box. I don’t feel under pressure to write a book that is chasing topicality,” he adds.
Mukherjee, who reviews fiction for a variety of publication in the UK and the US including The Times and Time Asia, recently came out with his new book A State of Freedom, which formed the basis of a literary discussion on the ideas of home, migration, freedom and identity at the event.
“A great part of your talent dies if you feel assimilated somewhere,” he said, adding that not being able to call a country his own is very enabling for him as a writer. “Feeling like a tourist in one’s own country is not necessarily a bad thing,” Mukherjee said. He said migration and movement were a theme that had remained a constant through human history.
“If you think of the words of the European filmmaker, Michael Haneke, he once said, ‘the history of the 21st century is going to be characterised by one and one thing only, the mass movements of people’. Various countries are now experiencing the same, which is leading to a great unravelling of states, constitutions, peoples, conglomerations and the way people aggregate together,” Mukherjee said.
“When you visualise the idea of freedom you visualise a kind of freedom of movement, but the moment you start moving you bump up against constraints,” he said.
Picking V S Naipaul’s 1971 novel A Free State as one which has had a big influence on his work, Mukherjee said that researching for the topic of a novel only gets one to the door of the room that one wants to enter. “It is one’s imagination that gives one the key to unlock this room and enables to move around,” he said.
Born in Calcutta, Mukherjee lives in London and has studied at the Oxford and Cambridge.
First Published: Nov 07, 2017 16:25 IST