‘I vote with every sentence I write’
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For British-Pakistani author Nadeem Aslam, the personal and the political coalesce effortlessly. Author of three acclaimed novels, he is now out with The Blind Man's Garden (Random House), which takes the reader into the war-wounded areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. While the book might deal with trauma and tragedy, in true Aslam style, it is ultimately a love story of doomed alliances. In an interview with Nandini Nair at the Jaipur Literature Festival, the author reveals his experiments with blindness, the importance of craft and the next 11 novels in his head.
We must unfortunately start with asking you about what you make of the recent brouhaha created by certain groups over the presence of Pakistani authors at the festival.
I am probably the wrong person for that question. Frontiers and boundaries don't mean anything to me. If I loved someone, I could live anywhere. There is no end to the ingenuity of hate. If they wish, people will find differences and will use those differences to create walls and barriers. I am not interested in it. My India is not the India of BJP or RSS.
One of the speakers said that freedom is the choice to be political, or not to be political. Do you feel that as a British-Pakistani author, you are denied that choice?
There are a number of authors of my ethnic background who choose not to be political. If I wanted to, I could also choose not to be. But with me, I vote every time I write a sentence. I am interested not in politics per se, but in the effect it has on human beings. I am most interested in love. Most of my novels are love stories where there are a number of obstacles to overcome, and one of those could be political. Authors don't tell people what to think, they tell you what to think about. We have lived through an extraordinary decade, beginning from 9/11 to the Arab Spring...I wanted a novel that would mention all this (the turmoil of the decade). But The Blind Man's Garden is ultimately a work of fiction. It is not a pamphlet.
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