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Creative writing can't be a full-time profession

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Says K Satchidanandan, a Sahitya Akademi Awardee for Marannu Vecha Vasthukkal, poetry in Malayalam Except for a few people who are immensely...

Says K Satchidanandan, a Sahitya Akademi Awardee for Marannu Vecha Vasthukkal, poetry in Malayalam Except for a few people who are immensely popular, I do not think people can live on creative writing alone in our country. In the west, there is a support system given to the writers such as 'writer-in- residence programme' Muhammed Afzal P fullK Satchidanandan is an established Malayalam poet, translator, and critic. He has translated poems from many languages into Malayalam, apart from translating his own poems into English. Recently he was in Hyderabad to deliver a lecture at the University of Hyderabad on Indian Literature: Singular/Plural and one on Spirituality and Secularism at Henry Martyn Institute, Hyderabad. Satchidanandan was the secretary of India's National Academy of Letters, Sahitya Akademi between 1996 and 2006. A former editor of Indian Literature, the journal of Sahitya Akademi, he won the Sahitya Akademi Award, for his collection of poetry in Malayalam, Marannu Vecha Vasthukkal in 2012. In an interview with Young Hans, the versatile writer talks about various issues.
Do you think that blogs and online space are acting as new platforms for young writers? What do you think of their scope, reach and quality of work?
Blog has liberated writers, particularly young writers, from the power of publishers. It is a kind of open platform where writers can express themselves. There are some blog posts that are very popular. Some publishers even observe blogs and assign the bloggers to write for them. I have myself edited a collection of Malayalam poetry called Nalamidam, compiled from various blogs and I know that a lot of good writing happens on blogs.
Do you think creative writing can be taken up as a profession?
Except for a few people who are immensely popular, I do not think people can live on creative writing alone in our country. In the west, there is a support system given to the writers such as 'writer-in-residence programme'. Here, it is very difficult for creative writing to become a full-time profession.
What are your views on freedom of expression and censorship on Internet?
For any democracy to sustain, we should uphold the freedom of expression. If one is forced to hide his or her opinion for fear of consequences, it will ultimately lead to detriment of democracy. Suppression of freedom of expression will result in more and more areas of social life becoming unexpressed or silenced. I think writers have the right to critique social institutions including religion. If you have a different opinion, instead of silencing the writers or banning books or films, you should also come out with an equally strong argument. I think we need to develop a tradition of dialogues and debate. The state has no right to intervene in the freedom of expression anticipating social disturbance or revolt. At the same time, it is their duty to see that such events do not happen.
Have literary festivals become commercial events driven by the market?
There are both positive and negative aspects of literary festivals. The positive side is that writers get a chance to meet and interact with other writers across the country and abroad. Also, readers and lovers of literature get a chance to directly listen to and interact with their favourite writers. Since fests tend to become a kind of mela, it is natural for some commercialisation to happen. But one good thing about literary festivals is that demand for books has grown.
There were news reports that you were considered as one of the probable Indians to win Nobel for literature in 2011.
Those were guesses made by betting websites. I believe that we are in fact giving undue importance to Nobel Prize because it comes from the West. Idolisation of Nobel is part of our general Eurocentric thinking. Perhaps Asia should develop its own way of honouring and recognising its geniuses. I am sure Rabindranath Tagore was not the last great Indian writer. There were many during his lifetime and many came later. In fact, Tagore getting Nobel was something of an accident as WB Yeats happened to come across Tagore and travelled with him. Yeats himself was a mystical mind and so felt the kind of brotherhood with Tagore and he recommended him for the Nobel.
Do you think lack of translation is the reason for Indian writers not winning the Nobel prize?
India does not lack talent. However, unless our works are translated into Swedish, French, German or any other western languages that the Nobel Prize jury understands, our works are not going to be taken even into consideration. We do not have any dependable mechanism of translating our works into major European languages.
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