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Being a Successful Poet is an Exercise in Obscurity

To some extent. Bombay is a mistress to many a lonely soul, its opiate histories and drunken peripheries have a natural intoxication.

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Jeet Thayil reads from his These Errors Are Correct, his 2008 haunting collection of poetry. Jeet Thayil reads from his These Errors Are Correct, his 2008 haunting collection of poetry.

Can you crunch Narcopolis into one line?


I can try. Narcopolis mixes fantasy and reality to create a powerful story that deals with a less-known aspect of life in metropolis like Bombay, where episodes collapse into one another.
So is Narcopolis an imitation of your life?

To some extent. Bombay is a mistress to many a lonely soul, its opiate histories and drunken peripheries have a natural intoxication. I have been a literary junkie for the most part of my life. By-lanes of Shuklaji Street, the place where my book is located, is both real and an imaginary continuum.
 
Coleridge, Thomas de Quincey, Oscar Wilde Ð there were several English/Irish opium champions. Newton Xavier is the voice of the Romantic view of intoxication and its aesthetic uses. Is there a similarity between your own opinion of the same? 

Newton Xavier is really the aesthetic fulcrum of the book. To a large extent, he could be seen as articulating the romantic view of the opium culture on Bombay in the 1970s. There's an aromatic exuberance in Xavier, and my next book will explore his character in greater detail. Dom Ulis, the narrator, is also present, but as an observer mostly, a quiet participant sometimes. He is the eye of the novel, but Xavier is the mind. Dimple, the hijra, can be seen as the heart, if you want to put them in such boxes.
What, according to you, is the state of Indian Writing in English? Do you think freedom of expression is facing a crisis of late, particularly in India?

When I read out excerpts from a book the last time I was here, I came face to face with a menacing side of culture. Now more than ever, there is pressure against expressing oneÕs mind without fear. The future appears bleaker.    
You received the Sahitya Akademi Award for These Errors Are Correct. The poetry book was published in 2008. Belated recognition?

Being a successful poet is an exercise in obscurity. I have been a poet and an anthologist for long now, but poetry, unfortunately, does not attract many readers. Fewer takers now than there were ten or twenty years back. I would love to see a revival of the culture of poetry reading and writing. 

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Books | Life | March 2013 | Arts & Entertainment

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