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14 November 2011 Books 10 Questions

Rahul Bhattacharya

The writer has won The Hindu Literary Prize for The Sly Company of People Who Care

How did Guyana become the subject of your novel?

It seemed to me beautiful and “bruck-up”, to use the Guyanese creole for broken-down, both qualities I am attracted to.

Is the voice of the narrator—”slow ramblin’ stranger”—yours?

It’s the author’s voice for the narrator. I don’t, for example, write e-mails or talk to friends in the voice of the book.

In Guyana, were you a traveller or a novelist?

Travelled as a traveller, wrote as a writer.

Was it tough writing the book in Delhi?

Sometimes. Not because of the distance from Guyana, which was necessary, but because of the power cuts in extreme weather, and the demolition and then the construction of the building beside my house.

Your favourite character in the book?

Probably Ramotar Seven Curry. He is a man who finds weddings to attend and attends them passionately. Because a Guyanese newspaper editor once asked me where he lived, I must clarify he is fictional.

How different was this experience from writing Pundits from Pakistan?

Very. The tapestry of fiction is the finer, and so the harder to make.

The role of music in your writing process?

I use it to stay in a mood. And headphones help cut the sound of a cement mixer! In the case of this book, it was vital also because Caribbean music carries great insight.

Did the title of the book dictate the story?

No. Rather, the title hints at the themes. It came after the book was written.

Any universal lessons from the journey?

Well, the Brits screwed all, a universal truth.

What does this award mean to you?

This may come back to bite me at some point, but I feel grateful to critics—reviewers, the judges—as it is easy for books to disappear.

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OUTLOOK: 14 November, 2011
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