After ‘Solo’, novelist Rana Dasgupta has Delhi on his radarApril 13th, 2010 - 12:08 pm ICT by IANS
By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, April 13 (IANS) Novelist Rana Dasgupta, who won the Commonwealth Writers’ prize for the best book 2010, is now writing a non-fiction volume on Delhi.
“The book is a kind of quest through many areas of life in Delhi, trying to probe how the city works, the problems and what does this confusion mean to us and the reasons to be horrified. The 21st century may be a significant moment in history,” Delhi-based Dasgupta told IANS in an interview.
His new book is a departure from his previous novel “Solo”, which earned the writer the Commonwealth Writers’ prize for the best book in the capital Monday. While “Solo” is a soliloquy about a 100-year-old Bulgarian man ruminating on violent politics, failed love, alienation and a future, the new yet to be named book “is about hard facts”.
“I took it off from an essay in the Granta (collection of new English writing) about a changing Delhi,” the writer said.
Delhi, described Dasgupta, “was an impenetrable, wary city - a city with a fondness for barbed wire, armed guards and guest lists”.
Though its population now knocks up against 20 million, the country’s capital remains curiously faithful to the spirit of the British administrative enclave with which it began, he said.
“Delhiites admire social rank, name-dropping and exclusive clubs, and they snub strangers who turn up without a proper introduction,” he observed.
A number of forces have suddenly converged on the city “which have radically changed the way the city looks”, he said.
Writing “Solo” was a different experience. Recalling the making of “Solo”, the writer said: “After writing my first book ‘Tokyo Cancelled’, a collection of 13 stories from a common source, I decided that my next book would be a novel with an epic soul. I had to redraft it because I made several mistakes. I started writing the book in 2004 and completed it in 2008,” he said.
Dasgupta said he wanted to “write about a lot of different things in ‘Solo’ - and how they could be put together”.
“I call it the book of life and a book of daydreams about a slightly crazy man,” he said.
The research was exhaustive. “In writing this book, I had to read about Bulgarian history and gather information about 20th century Bulgaria,” he said.
Dasgupta is reading three works of non-fiction to “orient himself to writing his book on Delhi.”
“One of the books I am reading is a history of the Indian middle class because this is the class that is benefitting from the changes taking place in the Indian economy, the new products and the new jobs,” he said.
But the books “have not influenced him in any way”.
“When you decide to write a book, you do not look to other people to tell you what you should write. The books I am reading now are helping me create the right environment,” he said.
The writer was born Nov 5, 1971 in Canterbury, England. He grew up in Cambridge and studied at Balliol College in Oxford and the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US.
He has been living in Delhi for the past 10 years.
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Tags: 21st century, alienation, armed guards, barbed wire, chatterjee, commonwealth writers prize, dasgupta, enclave, english writing, fondness, guest lists, name dropping, New Delhi, non fiction, novelist, proper introduction, rank name, ruminating, social rank, soliloquy