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.

 

What do you think of Coldnoon?

Impressively varied.

 

Tishani Doshi

Tishani Doshi

Born in Madras, India, to a Welsh mother and Gujarati father, she received an Eric Gregory Award in 2001. Her first poetry collection, Countries of the Body, won the 2006 Forward Poetry Prize for best first collection. She has been invited to the poetry galas of the Guardian sponsored Hay Festival in 2006 and the Cartagena Hay Festival in 2007. Her first novel, The Pleasure Seekers, was published by Bloomsbury in 2010 and was long-listed for the Orange Prize in 2011, and shortlisted for The Hindu Best Fiction Award in 2010.

She works as a freelance writer and worked with choreographer Chandralekha until the latter’s death in December 2006. She graduated with a master’s degree in creative writing from the Johns Hopkins University.

Countries of the Body was launched in 2006 at the Hay-on-Wye festival on a platform with Seamus Heaney, Margaret Atwood, and others. The opening poem, “The Day we went to the Sea, won the 2005 British Council-supported All India Poetry Competition; she was also a finalist in the Outlook-Picador Non-Fiction Competition.

Her short story “Lady Cassandra, Spartacus and the dancing man” was published in its entirety in the journal The Drawbridge in 2007

Her most recent book of poetry, Everything Begins Elsewhere, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2013.

Tishani Doshi delivered the keynote address at the 13th annual St. Martin Book Fair on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten/St. Martin in 2015. Her newest book, The Adulterous Citizen – poems stories essays (2015) was launched at the festival by House of Nehesi Publishers, making Tishani Doshi the first important author from India to be published in the Caribbean.

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