Monday, December 22, 2014

Jaipur Literature Festival – Part 6 – Jhumpha Lahiri, Non Fiction Writers, Learning from Everyone

Jhumpha Lahiri, the Pulitzer prize winning short story and fiction writer, then delivered a session titled, ‘The Interpreter of Stories’ where she described her method of writing.

Celebrating Literature. What a great idea!

Her book the Interpreter of Maladies was one of the first fiction books I read. I was born and brought in Bahrain and connected with her stories because she spoke about something I had in common with her. This was the life of the non-resident Indian abroad that many of her characters lived through.

She spoke about fiction as one of the only ways a human being could get into the minds of another human being and know all of their secrets. It is an intensely creative process.

Art of Writing Non-Fiction

The next session I attended was by four of the best non-fiction writer in the world. They were Reza Aslan, William Darylmple, Antony Beevor and Geoff Dyer.

Antony Beevor, the author of the book Stalingrad, described how every word and sentence he put down in his book, required lots of research. Sometimes Antony Beevor, researched four to five books for one sentence.

Geoff Dyer was a non-fiction writer and he described the variety of genres he wrote his books in. He had written a book about Jazz, Ist World War, D.H Lawrence, Yoga and the History of Photography. I was fascinated by how one individual could explore such a diverse variety of topics and create valuable content based on that study.

While listening to them a thought sprung up. Almost all the writers chose a topic that they were interested in and then setup a research plan to study as much as they can about that subject. This study would give them a valuable understanding of the subject and then they would create fiction or non-fiction content out of it.

The content they create is for a world market, but is mostly based on the local intelligence and knowledge they have gathered over the years. It may also be based on a subject they specialize in

Before they embarked on this process of creating content, they spent years mastering their craft of writing.

You can learn something from Everyone

For me the real transformation in my learning happened when I realized that you can learn something from everyone.

Socrates would walk around the market place in ancient Athens and ask common people he met questions on philosophy like, ‘What do you think about Justice?’ He believed everyone could think philosophically.

R.K Narayan, the Indian fiction writer, would spend the morning and afternoon writing. Then in the evening he would go for a walk to his local village market nearby and speak to his friends and other villagers. Many of the conversation he had on these long walks have been part of his future writings.

Similarly on this year long learning sabbatical in 2013-14, I noticed that almost every individual I met had a unique perspective to life and something useful to share.

All we had to do was listen, and there is so much to learn from the lives of the people we interact with on a daily basis.

Let us Learn Together
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