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 Semeen Ali.
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 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?
I think when you sit down to write, it is best not to have an audience in mind. The moment that comes in, your work no longer remains your own. It is defined by how people will perceive and how they will react to it. I am not at all saying that one should not be sensitive to one’s surroundings and not care; but when you write — the moment you start editing your work, revisiting it — it dilutes that rawness that came out when you first put yourself on paper.
Besides writing what would you most like to be known for?
A voracious reader!
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 have read that one and loved the book. And to quote from that book, which I follow in life: “When I travel through my room, I rarely follow a straight line…,” holds true for me. I am a nomad at heart. I keep running away from the city I live in, not because it has run out of reasons for me to write about but my hunger to explore other places for their stories — it can be a street, it can be a tree or it can even be a wall. I don’t know what can catch my attention but when I travel, it opens up the possibility of another life that I can have there. That I choose not to have. And I translate that feeling into words. I think travelling is necessary for me but then necessity is a relative concept, so what I hold necessary for me, might not be for someone else.
Your favorite or most striking lines by another author; or if you will, any composed by yourself?
I love José Saramago’s works and this one is from his book- Blindness
Words are like that, they deceive, they pile up, it seems they do not know where to go, and, suddenly, because of two or three or four that suddenly come out, simple in themselves, a personal pronoun, an adverb, an adjective, we have the excitement of seeing them coming irresistibly to the surface through the skin and the eyes and upsetting the composure of our feelings, sometimes the nerves that can not bear it any longer, they put up with a great deal, they put up with everything, it was as if they were wearing armor, we might say.
Do respond to the following words:
“A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.”— Charles Dickens
From one of my favourite books, A Tale of Two Cities, It is a beautiful sentence where a boy tells a girl in a roundabout way his love for her, with a feeling that he is unworthy of her. Don’t we all go through this feeling at some point in our lives? Dickens captures it beautifully here as well as I recall in his other book — Great Expectations. These two books have been my all-time favourites by Charles Dickens.
What do you think of Coldnoon?
I have been reading almost all the articles on Coldnoon since its inception! The quality has never been compromised. The articles, each one of them handpicked and I have shared so many of them with people I know would appreciate reading them. Coldnoon continues to remain one of those few journals that I admire and follow religiously.