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 Manu S. Pillai.


We believe making travel arrangements, we subconsciously tend to eliminate those possibilities which we deem unfit to perceived etiquettes, or norms or occasions. Our understanding of travel is based on premises that define what travelling 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?

It would be presumptuous to sit in judgment over what is and is not writing. At the end of the day, if anything creative is to emerge, we must resist tendencies, no matter how inconvenient, to make rules. Perhaps it comes from the way society itself is structured—this quest for order, rules, and ‘ways’ to do things, like a machine where the goal at the end is to achieve some kind of harmony that takes the form of output. Writing can certainly do that, as much as it can quite consciously seek to shatter harmony and do the exact opposite—break your paths, hack away at the rules, and indeed destroy all that is correct or appropriate.

But at the end of the day, we are after all creatures of society, and if I were to answer this in one line I would say that what is not writing is that which fails to convey what you set out to convey. And that which is ungrammatical.


Besides writing, what would you like to be known for?

Politics one day, perhaps. They don’t make very good bedfellows, writing and politics. So perhaps I shall have to think more realistically and settle for a professorship, addressing a different kind of restless audience instead.


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?

It is essential to a certain kind of evolution for a certain kind of writer, but I do not think it is necessary to writing as an art. Great ideas have been born in the minds of people who never had the opportunity to travel but who penetrated what they saw around them, in all its limited setting and relative flatness, and discovered oceans to explore.


Your favorite or most striking lines by another author; or if you will, any composed by yourself?

There are too many. Having favourites is a waste of time. Unless you have children and have a favourite among them, which is a perfectly natural, human kind of flaw.


Do respond to the following words:

“Wanting to be liked can get in the way of truth.”— Delia Ephron.

Wise words and quite correct. Since I work closely with a lot of historical material, I only need to look into history to find that those who set out to be liked prospered, but those who set out to find the truth (or a new kind of truth) left behind milestones in our evolution as a people. Of course they did so at their own peril, which is a pattern we see all though time, century after century. Men had it easier, but if it was a woman looking for the truth, the challenges were titanic.


What do you think of Coldnoon?

The name—it is interesting, approaching deliciousness, but also oddly reminds me of a cottage in the hills.