In September-October, 2017, Coldnoon celebrated six years of publishing, and travelling with you. To mark our anniversary, we got together with writers, intellectuals and stalwarts of the art of thinking (and travelling). Here is an interview with Tishani Doshi.
We believe, in making travel arrangements, we subconsciously tend to eliminate possibilities which we deem unfit to perceived etiquette, or norms or occasions. Our understanding of travel is based on premises that define what traveling is not. Is writing for you a similar activity, where you are conscious of what writing is not? If so, what according to you is not writing?
This question has a whiff of Keats’s negative capability. I don’t know. Does intuition guide us into mysteries and brilliance we couldn’t get to in a more straightforward manner? Is the purpose of travel to dislodge us somehow and guide us into territories we can’t imagine, and is it only by the act of travelling that we can arrive there? Does writing share this journey-like metaphor? Yes. But not writing is also simply not writing.
Besides writing what would you most like to be known for?
Or rather, how would I not want to be remembered?
In 1794, the French author, Xavier de Maistre, wrote the renowned book, Voyage Around my Room, during a month and a half of solitary confinement, in consequence of a duel. Besides being a satire on the contemporary literary culture of voyages and adventures of colonial sailors to prospective new worlds, the book proved to be a demonstration of how an individual is almost always travelling, but perhaps does not recognize the value of their domestic travels, mobility or even touristic acquisitions. How do you see or understand travelling? Do you think it is a necessary activity for a writer?
Shakespeare wrote about Venice without ever having left England. Marco Polo travelled the world and embellished his stories to the extent that it was impossible to say what was true and what was false. I got into a discussion with Geoff Dyer once about whether a writer could ever truly understand what home was without leaving it. He said no. I said yes. Then he said yes. I don’t see travel as essential. I see it as a gift. But it is also a gift to be rooted to a particular land, to know it intimately, to have ancestors who have also known that land. But in the increasingly fragmentary and mobile world we live in, the displacement that travel allows can offer us a chance to discover the multiplicity of our selves. It can help alter our vision so as to accommodate other people’s stories as well. For me, the journey out is as essential as the journey back in. Because somewhere in between is this whole territory of longing and elsewhere, which I’m terribly interested in.
Your favorite or most striking lines by another author; or if you will, any composed by yourself?
Favourite is impossible. But I’m immersed in Virginia Woolf at the moment, and this, from a letter to her friend Hugh Walpole, is pretty lovely: “In fact I sometimes think only autobiography is literature—novels are what we peel off, and come at last to the core, which is only you or me.”
Do respond to the following words:
“Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.” — John Steinbeck
I think this has always been true but it feels truer now in these politically divisive times. But it is also true that where there is fear there is wonder. And sometimes transformations occur between the two.
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