Jaipur Literature Festival: Vikram Chandra

On technique: “If you’re a writer or a sportsman, if you’ve ever practiced a sport, you’ll notice that at first you get worse. That’s because you’re becoming aware of the technique involved, whether it’s writing or a sport. Then you practice some more and then you get better. There’s a balance between learning technique and finding freedom. You do your daily riyaaz, and you try to reach that flow state, and you eventually do reach it.”

On meeting gangsters for Sacred Games:
“The bigger guys are eager to meet you. They’re like corporate heads: there’s a PR line they want to feed you. It’s the footsoldiers who are harder to meet. (He mentions one gangster who demanded a meeting near the police station in a Bombay suburb.) “He was a hitman who worked very close by. He felt safe around the police station.”

On cognitive poetics, his latest obssession:
Literary criticism in the west has looked at content, not at the art of reading. Almost nobody has bothered about what the reader feels, the emotions of the reader as you encounter this text. But when you read a written text, you’re making up your own narratives. And cognitive poetics, through specific studies, has shown that when you read a story, there are specific inflexion points–the points of greatest emotional impact in the narrative. It’s exciting to me to think that they could be mapped.”

Later, Chandra mentions Brian Boyd, and his theories of story–especially the theory that story telling is an adaptive evolutionary behaviour. Here’s a link to a review of Boyd’s work.





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