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 Tabish Khair.
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?
That is an interesting parallel. My answer is ‘yes and no.’ I belong to that diminishing minority of writers (and academics) that believes that there is something called ‘literature’: it is not just whatever is written, or whatever the market decides. At its simplest, I define literature as language that pushes against the limits of language — not just what language says, but also what it can possibly say. So, yes, I am conscious of what literature is not, but that does not determine my own writing. I feel I am more positively motivated by the definition of what literature is, rather than what it is not. (But note: I am talking of literature, not writing: these words might have different connotations.)
Besides writing what would you most like to be known for?
For being a decent human being.
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?
I think Rabindranath Tagore has a story or poem along similar lines: a man goes searching for beauty (or something) all over the world, and returns to find it outside his doorstep. I read it in secondary school, so might be misquoting! Yes, travelling takes place across all spaces and at all times. It also takes place internally. In fact, I think that sort of travel — introspection and contemplation — is the sort that a writer needs most of all. Otherwise, as happens with most tourists, you can see all the wonders of the world and have nothing to say of them. You start by traveling internally, only then can you travel externally — in the real sense of the word.
Your favorite or most striking lines by another author; or if you will, any composed by yourself?
Never quote yourself.
Do respond to the following words:
“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.”— Philip K. Dick.
Great admirer though I am of Philip K Dick, I must say that I see it from the other end: reality is already so bloody insane that you get credit only for staying sane despite it all! You are not really swimming if you let the current wash you away. (Of course, what you mean by in/sanity is another matter).
What do you think of Coldnoon?
Hot nights, man! (Add a smiley with a wink here, in case some moralist looney takes umbrage).