Rebellion a Topical Shifting Idea: Jeet Thayil

Rebellion a Topical Shifting Idea: Jeet Thayil
Booker-nominated author Jeet Thayil, who was caught up in a controversy for reading out portions of Salman Rushdie's banned book during last year's Jaipur Literature Festival, today said there are people in every gathering who are quick to take offence.

"It seems (that especially here) there is a contingent of people at every gathering looking at a sentence or a gesture to get offended. It is cheapening of the idea of rebellion," said Thayil addressing a session titled "A rebel state", at the the Lit Fest here.

In the spirit of the theme of the session, when invited to read out from his debut book Nacropolis, the Delhi-based poet and author chose to read out a section filled with a very common Hindi swear word.

Issuing a disclaimer before he began to read, Thayil said, "My apologies to anyone who might feel offended. But this is being said by a character in my book."

"It contains a word that is very commonly heard in Mumbai but is not very often employed in English literature," he said.

As the audience applauded at the end of his reading, Thayil expressed his gratitude to the small gathering at the first session of the last day of the five-day festival.

"Thanks for being a sport," he said.

Thayil was in conversation with Marathi writer Bhalchandra Nemade who extended his support to the author, and said "there is ample scope for rebels like Jeet to exist".

The discussion that centred around rebellion in literature.

Nemade also argued that every rebellion is necessary in some way. "Every rebellion has a constructive value," he said.

Thayil also pointed out the idea of rebellion changes over time.

"The writers or poets who were once considered rebels are now thought of as part of the cannon. So rebellion is a topical shifting idea," he added.

What remains to be seen, according to him, is how any writing considered rebellious now is perceived in the future.

"We need to see how these books are read in the 30 to 50 years," Thayil said.

At the the end of the session, Nemade had a message for the young generation to go much ahead of just rebellion in books. "A bit of revolution will clear the country forever. So, this would be my message to the younger generation."

At the JLF 2012, Thayil was at the center of a row after he read passages from Salman Rushdie's banned book Satanic Verses. The aftereffects were seen even this year when some groups voiced opposition to his inclusion in this year's festival and also when he bagged this year's DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.
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