Award-winning writer Anjum Hasan, along with writers Zac O’Yeah and Eshar Sundarsen, is leading the second edition of their hit ‘World-Famous Semi Deluxe Writing Program’ in July. After the success of the first edition, conducted at Shoonya Center of Art and Somatic practices in Bangalore, the literary trio have collaborated again to conduct a second edition. Participants will get to hone their skills by engaging in creative workshops and writing classes covering every genre. The nine-weekend program will begin at Shoonya on 10 February. Last date for applications is 7 February.
We took the opportunity to ask Hasan some new year resolution type questions. (Yes, we know it is February already.)
Which books by women writers are you looking forward to reading in 2018?
I’ve been reading a range of Urdu fiction in translation and am looking forward to Qurratulain Hyder’s Chandni Begum which appeared recently in English. I just read an older short story of hers that blew me away – ‘Confessions of St. Flora of Georgia’. It’s like a potted history of the medieval world in the form of a clever, witty tale about a resurrected dead saint. Also going to read Atiya Hossain’s classic Sunlight on a Broken Column, which is in English originally but, given its style and concerns, could well have been translated, just as some of Hyder’s fiction may well have been written in English first.
What are you reading right now ?
Jayant Kaikini’s book of stories No Presents Please, Shamshur Rehman Faruqi’s The Sun That Rose From the Earth and Virginia Woolf’s marvellous essays in The Common Reader.
You have written novels, short stories, been the books editor for Caravan and last year you launched a writing course in Bangalore. What has teaching writing taught you?
That the unschooled imagination can throw new light on a text and, as much as teach, there are insights to gain from working with those who are not yet readers or writers. Of course, the aim is to make them readers and writers. I am also interested in Bangalore as a space to which people are drawn from wherever in the country to make a living, and then some of them try and develop a creative relationship to it. And how might they do that – in which language and with what idiom? These are some of the questions our course tries to explore.
What books, fiction or non-fiction, spring to mind when you look about and see the global #metoo movement?
For some reason I have been thinking of books from before there was a #metoo or even a women’s movement, books about women’s lives in which assault and force is part of the contemporary culture – novels like Somerset Maugham’s Liza of Lambeth, or Mirza Hadi Ruswa’s Umrao Jaan Ada, or Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
Tell us about a book by a woman writer who you think is underrated and you think everyone should read.
I think Anita Desai’s Journey to Ithaca is remarkable for its sensitivity to the Western encounter with the idea of India, and also for its depiction of a female guru, a Mother-like figure who is utterly charismatic, canny and compelling.