I grew up in financially straitened circumstances and meat, which was expensive, was a rare thing at mealtimes. We ate meat about once a month, if that.
To write, I think one must sit in one place and be bored. Boredom is a very good state for writers to be. Things cook away in your head when you're bored, and suddenly one day, you have a book or a germ of a book.
The freedom fighters in India's long struggle for independence from British rule, or members of the African National Congress, were once classed as terrorists. History, as they say, is written by victors, but history also has many cunning corridors – how much time must elapse before all those tricky side-passages are revealed?
Given that all our lives rest on work that defines us, the business of labor, the wealth that work manifests itself to, I find it odd that not much is written about it. We talk about relationships, damage, adultery, revolution, but we don't talk about work.
Remember that what seems zeitgeisty today is the cause of tomorrow's bafflement or, worse, ridicule.
Fiction can either be a mirror reflecting you back to yourself or it can be a clean pane of glass looking on the outside.
Nostalgia can be extremely powerful in the right hands: think of the intense longing in the films Andrei Tarkovsky made after he left the U.S.S.R. They wring your soul.
I think there's a joy to be had in taking readers where they just don't want to go. If you are writing a properly realist novel, then don't blink. Why not see something for what it is and render it truthfully? I find it a good way of going about writing – not to blink.
The bestseller charts, a sure indicator of public taste, tell us with relentless frequency that Marian Keyes or Jeffrey Archer is a better author, by some dizzying six-figure sum, both in numbers of copies and money, than, say, J. M. Coetzee or Patrick White. Are they right?
I don't read my books, so I don't allow myself the dangerous luxury of toying with the idea of doing things differently.
I had just begun an M.A. in Creative Writing, and I had to write a novel, so I began writing a novel that later became 'A Life Apart.'
Nostalgia is a particular affliction of immigrant fiction, and it's led to a kind of sclerosis of the form. I hate nostalgia, and I feel it's good to be aware of the politics of these genres.
The Naxalite revolution – an ultra-left Maoist movement – in Bengal, and elsewhere in India, in the late 1960s provides one strand of 'The Lives of Others.'
I'm much more attracted to the miscegenation of cultures than to harmony.
I have one very bad experience with a U.K. publisher, who gave it out to be understood that she wanted to publish my book and made me do a lot of changes, all outside a contract, only to reject it in the end.
Innocence is a pretty dangerous thing, you know. Revisit Dostoevsky's 'The Idiot' or, for that matter, Greene's 'The Quiet American' to find out how destructive it can be.
I start with theory rather than people. I don't like novels which have no theoretical or philosophical underpinning. I hate the contemporary novel where people just sit and talk to each other about their relationships.
It's always good to get good reviews. I read my reviews. There are a lot of writers who don't read their reviews at all. I read them; then I put them away because it's not good to engage with them too much.
To be an Indian writer is to write, necessarily and inevitably, about politics, so it was a given that the story of the Ghoshes, the family at the centre of 'The Lives of Others,' should have a political soul.
I wouldn't call myself a 'literary critic,' just a book reviewer.
In any restaurant, my eyes alight first, as if by an atavistic pull, on the meat dishes on the menu. In any dinner party I throw, I think of the non-vegetarian dish as central. I view this as a combination of weakness, greed and moral failure. Someone please help.
India introduced Britain to vegetarianism – see Tristram Stuart's excellent first book on this – and it is possible, indeed all too easy, to be a vegetarian in India and eat extraordinarily good, varied food every day, with very few 'repeats.'
Writing a book is as difficult or as easy as any other job. Everyone's job is difficult. So to fetishize difficulties in writing as something extra-difficult or something very privileged – I don't buy that at all.
Meat-fetishiser that I was, I used to find willed vegetarianism inexplicable. It was one thing to be a vegetarian because of religious and caste reasons – something I was familiar with because of my Indian upbringing – but to choose to be a vegetarian when you could eat meat for every meal every day? That seemed madness to me.