Ulka Anjaria and Madhuri Vijay sit down to talk about Madhuri’s prize-winning first novel The Far Field. They discuss what it’s like to write intimately about a place – Kashmir – that many people even within India know only through headlines and news stories. Getting intimate with a place moves us into talking about the Indian novelist as a guide to Indian society. Sometimes guiding readers reflects a legacy of cultural imperialism where writers in the Global South gain prestige and fame from addressing audiences in Europe and the United States. Other times guiding readers enables citizens of India to see regions of conflict, like Kashmir, with more sensitivity rather than sensationalism. The serious overtones of the conversation relax into reflecting on the pleasures of creating fictional characters and watching them grow as if they were real people independent of the writer. Ulka and Madhuri reflect on the urge to read and write stories where relationships are hard and not everything is a damn metaphor!
In our search for a metaphor-free zone, we did not have to go to any far field. Turns out it was right there in mother-daughter relationships and the less dignified aspects of parenting. As Madhuri says, the silly is much harder for the novelist to get right than the serious!
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