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Booker prize awardee Marlon James asks writers to stay away from activism


Jaipur: Jamaican, Marlon James who won the 2015 Booker Prize said, writers should stay away from activism as it increases the risk of didacticism.

“I think the writer enters a dangerous zone by becoming an activist. Didacticism will destroy a book. Writers should try to do their job and let activists do theirs,” he said on the ninth edition of Jaipur Literature festival.

James, a professor of English at Minnesota’s Macalester College, feels writers need to strike a balance when it comes to dealing with social issues.

He won the Booker Prize for “A Brief History of Seven Killings”. The novel, set in the 1970s and 1980s, is based on the story of an assassination attempt on reggae star Bob Marley. The book explores the turbulent political situation in Jamaica and the West during that period,

“It’s not really about Marley. It’s about what happened to the man who tried to kill him and all the people whose life got affected by the assassination attempt,” says James.

The book is told through fifteen characters including gunmen, dons, and politicians. Interestingly, the author hasn’t mentioned Marley by name. But what led to the book?

“I was curious about the assassination attempt on the singer in 1976. Nobody talked about it. Being a writer, I was attracted to the holes in the story, to the unanswered questions and to fill in the gaps,” he said.

James says his literary sensibilities were formed in Jamaica though he moved to the US later for work and he is not quite sure how his book would be accepted in India as it had explicit scenes of sex and gore.

“I have noticed that in India, writers face censorship. My book is quite explicit. I don’t know how it will be accepted,” he adds.

Though there is no direct censorship in Jamaica, he feels that the country still harboured an outdated Victorian sense of morality.

“Writers keep writing without caring much about consequences. It’s our hope. The balancing of freedom and censorship is a very slippery slope,” he feels.

How has life changed after Booker? “People give importance to what I say now. If I put something on Facebook, it becomes the headline of The Guardian,” he chuckles.

His next book will be an ‘African Game of Thrones’, set within the continent.

“I was sick of arguing about whether there should be a black hobbit in the ‘Lord of the Rings’. The book will be drawn from the African folklore that is rich and diverse,” he said.

A big fan of Salman Rushdie, he loves many Indian authors. “I have too many favourite Indian writers. I am a fan of Amitav Ghosh, Amitava Kumar and Jeet Thayil among many others,” said James adding that he admired Anuradha Roy’s book, the Indian contender in the Booker race.(IANS)

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Amitabh Bachchan Feels Writers As The Most Important Part of Filmmaking Process

Big B himself ensures he writes everyday -- even if it is to connect with his fans, whom he calls his extended family

Amitabh Bachchan
Amitabh Bachchan. Pixabay

Megastar Amitabh Bachchan, son of late celebrated poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan, says writers are the most important part of the filmmaking process.

Talking about his father at the Tata Literature Live here, Big B said: “Every time my father wrote a poem, we were the first he would introduce the poem to. In particular he would ask us to read it in almost the same graph and tone with which he had written and I felt that it was extremely important and has affected my work as a professional actor. I feel that writers are the most important ingredient in filmmaking.”

Amitabh Bachchan was accompanied at the event on Thursday by his politician-actress wife Jaya Bachchan. They launched author Siddharth Shanghvi’s new book “The Rabbit and The Squirrel”.

On being asked about the importance of storytelling and whether she reads to her grandchildren, Jaya said she made a habit of reading to them every night.

Commenting on reading stories to the eldest, Navya Naveli Nanda, she said: “I used to make up stories every night when she was little and when my grandson (Agastya) arrived, I started telling the same story, adding a little bit and paying a little more attention to the prince. It used to be a bit more on the princess before.”

The 70-year-old actress said when the two grew up, she stopped making up stories and read proper published books to them.

Why are the Bachchans reluctant to part with books?

Amitabh Bachchan
Amitabh Bachchan. Wikimedia Commons

Jaya said: “When we were little and invited to birthday parties, I remember kids would bring a box of sweets or cookies to birthday parties. But when we grew a little older my father would always say, give a book, it remains on the shelf; at some time you pull it out and read it.

“That’s more important than eating chocolates. It was my job in the house to clean the book shelves every Sunday and I would browse through the books. It was such an interesting activity.”

She said being brought up with books taught her that “their value was more than anything else, even more than a piece of jewellery”.

“It’s difficult to part with books,” said the mother of Abhishek Bachchan and Shweta Bachchan Nanda. Shweta recently turned an author.

Big B himself ensures he writes everyday — even if it is to connect with his fans, whom he calls his extended family.

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On blogging every day, he said: “I have dedicated followers on the blog and I call them my extended family. I feel very committed now because there are people who are waiting for the blog to come.”

He calls blogging “a commitment”.

“No matter what time I finish at night I do find time to write something. It is not for any kind of commercial or personal gain,” he added. (IANS)