February 19, 2020
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Footnotes Of Hypocrisy

Footnotes Of Hypocrisy

What Ruchir Joshi—author of  The Last Jet-Engine Laugh, which his publisher in the UK proclaims “the literary debut of the year”—hates are novels with little footnotes to explain Indianisms. “They (authors from the West) make no concessions for me and expect me to make sense of their slang, invectives, argot. I don’t see why I should make any concessions. I think footnotes are offensive.”

“I’m not writing for readers in the West, but for people like me, wherever they are—urban, educated, coming from a more traditional system but exposed to the new polyglot reality.”

“The advance (he won’t spell out how much) was nice, yes, but I’d have written the same book, with or without the advance. Ten years from now, nobody is going to remember how big the advance was, just whether the book has survived or not. The advance is like a reward for an outline you have and someone says, ‘We like the picture you want to paint—here is the money for the canvas, paints and your sustenance, now go ahead and paint the big picture.’ I got an advance for Eleven Miles too, though not this much. You owe it to yourself then to do the best damn job.”

“Of course, I didn’t have a writer’s block. I wouldn’t dignify it by that name. It’s just that I write very slowly. But I really enjoy writing, and the response I get from my friends.”

Autobiographical? “My parents were Gujaratis who lived in Calcutta and were in the freedom struggle; Paresh is the same age as me, but that’s all. I’m more interested in the times I live in but not the events of my life. It’s the same frame but different characters. Para, the fighter pilot, just came in through the window one day and worked herself into the novel.”

Nor is he afraid of his take-off on one of Bengal’s holy cows: “I take off on everything, including Subhash Chandra Bose. Holy cows are not particular to Bengalis, every state has its own share, including Gujaratis. Bengalis, moreover, have a great sense of humour and irreverence. Look at their Bauls, they take off on just about everything and everyone.”

“Straight narrative is fine, but it’s not the song I want to sing. The form I chose, a kind of fractured narrative, is what works best for this novel.”

Why such a curious title? “Because it invites curiosity. Besides, here are two men who take a machine like a jet engine and create something as human out of it as laughter.”

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