Indian author Kunzru says no more "sari" stories

Wed Jan 28, 2009 1:29pm EST
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By Rina Chandran

JAIPUR, India (Reuters) - Marriage, migration, and family ties may be the usual themes for English-language novels by authors of Indian descent, but best-selling writer Hari Kunzru is determined to change that.

Kunzru, who has a Kashmiri father and an English mother, made the departure in his recent novel "My Revolutions" which is about a failed 1960s English radical and has no links to India.

The country, however, features heavily in his two earlier novels, the acclaimed "The Impressionist," set in British-ruled India, and "Transmission," about an Indian computer programer in California.

"I said let's do it, let's not even have a hint of India in the book because I wanted to make a statement that I reserve the right to imagine anything I want," Kunzru told Reuters at an annual literary festival in Jaipur, India.

"I wondered if I would be allowed to write a book that didn't have Raj furniture or any Indian people. And I found that my publisher was very supportive," he added.

Readers have long been fed a steady diet of multi-generational family sagas, arranged marriages and difficult migrations from writers of Indian descent, but Kunzru said people are more sophisticated now and more accepting of other themes.

"It was always in the air. If the world of south Asian writing in English starts with (Salman Rushdie's) "Midnight's Children," then there was an expectation that you might write a family saga, or about migration," he said.

"It is a double-edged sword: we've done well with all the attention, and there certainly is a market for it, so there has been some collusion between writers and publishers.   Continued...