Namita Gokhale on her latest book, her narrative technique, and Bob Dylan.
PICTURE the Jaipur Literary Festival. The hustle and bustle of literary talent, against the backdrop of the Diggi Palace. It headlines across newspapers, literary circles are all abuzz and crowds line up to catch a glimpse of those they idolise. Amidst all the clamour is the lady behind the largest free literary festival, a doyen herself — Namita Gokhale, who loves the luxury of a packed schedule, and favours first-person narratives. Gearing up for the 11th edition next January, the 60-year-old talks about her latest book, Things to Leave Behind, the caste system in the country, and more.
Things to Leave Behind spans the period of the ‘Ferangee Raj’, and has a perplexing love quadrangle at its core, while exploring the pursuit of individual freedom, human nature and human dilemmas. Singular in its narrative technique, the author divulges the first-time use of a detached perspective. “This is the first time that I have worked on an entire novel in a third-person narrative.” Resonating with memories of Nainital of an adolescent Namita — family histories, conversations and an absurd sense of caste entitlement have played a pivotal role in her characterisations.
Mirroring the past Drawing parallels between prevalent caste prejudices and the theme of the book, this writer, publisher and literary fest director is quick to quote Gloria Steinem on her new novel. “Things To Leave Behind is a personal story of the ways the caste system — and
by extension race and caste everywhere — imprison the humanity of those within them.” Namita adds, “These are, as the title of the novel suggests, things to leave behind.”
Recalling the premature demise of the Indian Literature Abroad project, Gokhale is rather hopeful about homegrown publishing houses taking notice of the expanding market for translated texts. Leaving us with her thoughts on the Nobel Prize for Literature, she signs off, saying, “Voice, word, music and lyric poetry are an important part of literary heritage. Dylan was a good choice for the Nobel.”
Currently reading The Liberation of Sita by Telugu writer Volga, and Uttara , the Book of Answers translated by Arshia Sattar.
The Liberation of Sita by Telugu writer Volga, and Uttara , the Book of Answers translated by Arshia Sattar.
Favourite quote from her books
“Before the warblers began their dawn chorus, while it was still dark outside, a blackbird would begin its song. The night was holding fast, but
it knew the morning was waiting. Sometimes Tilotamma felt she was like that blackbird, anticipating the turn of the Earth.”
Favourite character from her books
Paro from my debut novel, Paro, Dreams of Passion.
— Rebecca Vargese