Depressing That Homosexuality Outlawed In India: British Novelist Hollinghurst

Meraj Bhat/Jaipur
Depressing That Homosexuality Outlawed In India: British Novelist Hollinghurst
Representative Image/PTI

Booker-winning British novelist and poet Alan Hollinghurst today said he found it "depressing" that despite being the world's biggest democracy, homosexuality was still outlawed in India.

The 62-year-old writer, who wrote his thesis on the works of Ronald Firbank, E M Forster and L P Hartley -- three gay writers -- won the coveted 50,000-pound prize in 2004 for his book "The Line of Beauty".

"It is totally depressing. And if anti-gay laws remain on the statute book, even if they are rarely invoked, I do feel they give rise to an increase in anti-gay feelings.

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"Things are not good all over the world. Situation in most of Africa is extremely bad...Something very much encouraged by the Christian Church. A lot of American right wing people are behind this intolerance in Africa. They must be frustrated by the success of gay rights in America," he told PTI in an interview.

Hollinghurst, whose first four books form a quartet that explore the gay life in the United Kingdom, said the "genre of gay writing" is over now.

He went on to say it was "frustrating" for him that many people pigeonhole him as a 'gay writer'.

"When I started out in 1980s, I consciously set myself up as a gay writer. I thought it was important to write from a gay point of view. It is only frustrating if it is thought to describe the whole interest," he said, adding that his last book 'The Stranger's Child' was not about gays.

Hollinghurst, who has written novels, short stories and poems, said penning a novel was the "most challenging as well as interesting".

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"Writing a novel is more challenging than writing short stories. It is the most interesting form," he said.

At an earlier session at the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival here, Hollinghurst termed the novel as a "miraculous thing", saying the hardest part of it is to complete its middle stretch.

He said it was important for aspiring writers of fiction to know the world they plan to write about.

"I love the early part of a book. It's a lovely period. A sort of tingle when something is getting going. The plot comes to me at the last," he said.

"Middle stretch of the novel is the hardest one. It is the worst part. You have to have a subject. You got to have a sense of the world you want to describe or has not been written before," he said.  Hollinghurst said it was strange that despite living in an era of "instant obsolescence" and a world of "soul-numbing digital distraction", the demand for short stories had not grown as much as one would have expected.

"It is strange. There are different cultures of short stories. In America short stories demand a pure and concentrated attention. Short stories are wonderful. It is the art of omission," he said.

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However, he also noted that it was important to focus on short forms rather than going for long form of writing when a person starts out.

Saying that his writing and reading patterns have changed with the advance of technology, the award-winning writer said the art of novel is more creative than television writing.

"The miraculous thing about novel is that it reveals a different reality to the readers who read them. There are creative dimensions to reading a novel which is missing in TV watching," he said.

He said living in a literary bubble helps a great deal in shaping one into a novelist.

Asked why he discontinued writing poetry, he said it "just stopped" coming to him.

"It was the time when I was getting going on writing my first novel. I was putting all my ideas into it. That was it. After that I never had an idea of a poem," he said.

Hollinghurst, whose Booker-winning work was a "tribute to Henry James", lauded the American-born British writer for his preoccupation with a point of view, while describing him as a "fascinating" novelist who seduced him with his "extraordinary" talent.

"I had a long obsession for him and wanted to do something which was related to Henry James. My book is a homage to him," he said.

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