We cannot expect the whole population to be literary-minded says Poetess and Novelist Prof. Anuradha Bhattacharyya

    I found all my education as a literary critic and the knowledge of psychoanalytic facts as hindrances to the flow of expression. Eminent poetess and novelist Prof. Anuradha Bhattacharyya in an exclusive interview with Nitish Raj of The Policy Times talks about the various aspects of literature alongwith the effect of traditional education on art.

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    We cannot expect the whole population to be literary-minded says Poetess and Novelist Prof. Anuradha Bhattacharyya
    We cannot expect the whole population to be literary-minded says Poetess and Novelist Prof. Anuradha Bhattacharyya

    Prof. Anuradha Bhattacharyya; a Ph.D. and MA in English literature is one of the prominent literary figures in English literature. She has been awarded Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi for her notable work “One Word” which was adjudged Best Book of the Year 2016. Alongwith writing fiction she has been an avid poetess, literary critic, essayist and a short-story writer. Apart from being an important literary figure, she is an Assistant Professor of English in Post Graduate Government College, Sector-11; Chandigarh. She has been an alumnus of prestigious Jadavpur University from where she completed her MA in English Literature. She was a Junior Research Fellow in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the highly acclaimed Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. Before joining as a faculty in 2006 in PG Govt. College she completed her Ph.D. in 2005. She has published in a number of print and e-journals which contain some acclaimed names like Indian Review, The Bactrian Room and The Writers Blog alongwith others. She was recently honored at Amaravati Poetic Prism held on 11-12 November 2017 at Vijayawada.

    Q. Does a formal degree in arts shape our creative writing or is it solely based on imagination?

    Ans. Writing, fiction or non-fiction, is always creative. The language in which you write is creatively employed to make the work interesting for the reader. A formal degree in the arts or in literature definitely helps the writer to shape one’s creativity. Others, writers from the science or commerce backgrounds, also employ their understanding of the world to write creatively. But no work is solely based on imagination. What we call imagination is always fired by personal experience and general knowledge. So the deeper your experience and understanding, the deeper is your work of art.

    Q. The art of essay writing is gradually diminishing due to the increase of media for the common masses? What can be done to revive this art?

    Ans. Essays are still the most popular and widely practiced art of writing. Essays are the basis of all newspaper reports and editorials, stories, opinions. The internet has provided the facility of blogging too. Schools and colleges provide the biggest platform for practicing essay writing. As for the common masses, who watch TV, there is no solution. We cannot expect the whole population to be literary-minded.

    Q. Why have the short-stories still not been able to get the popularity they deserve among the common masses?

    Ans. The internet savvy people do read short-stories. I have many published stories as well as poems online. In the past few years, all those who met me for the first time in person said that they had read one or other short story of mine. For one, it is easier to talk about. Secondly, the younger generation prefers stories. Somehow, the relative obscurity, that is characteristic of poetic expression, does not appeal to people who want quick information.

    There are many literary magazines that regularly publish short stories. But among creative writers there are more poets.

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    Q. You have done research on psychoanalysis; how much does it help our imagination while writing fiction?

    Ans. Psychoanalysis, as a research topic did not help me to write fiction. In fact, while I was working as a research scholar, I did not write any poems or stories. It was before that, as a child and as a youth. Afterwards, I did not become obsessed with the findings of psychoanalysis – theories about the structure of the human mind.

    My education is part and parcel of who I am today. But to tell the truth, I found all my education as a literary critic and the knowledge of psychoanalytic facts as hindrances to the flow of expression. Even now that I have refrained from delving into psychoanalytic investigations, I constantly check my words. I feel that one could even succeed without that background. This does not mean that I disown that phase of my education but I simply do not give it any additional importance in my literary career.

    Q. How much does getting published in e-journals diminish our reach to the common masses where still people prefer paperback editions?

    Ans. Paperbacks are really the most desirable pass-time for the voracious reader. We see them selling paperbacks in bus-stations and railway platforms and it is evident that those who cannot sit idle will buy a copy to read during travel. You cannot ask people to log-on to the internet through a portable gadget just to read a story.

    As a teacher, I discourage my students from reading anything online. Every good piece of writing will eventually end up as a printed book, even if one’s first publication may be in an online magazine. In a way, it is spurious writing that is available online. To convert the same into authentic books, worth spreading among the masses, it must come out in print as well.

    See, a sincere reader is very possessive about the books one reads. Many people like to have a good collection at home to boast about. Think of the crowded book-fairs. Reading online is just introductory and for quick scan.

    Q. Worthy academic books containing a lot of experience of the writer are not able to come out of the libraries of colleges and universities. What needs to be done by the writers in order to make it more interactive?

    Ans. As far as teachers and students are concerned, the libraries provide books to scholars on a large scale. Personally such a huge collection is unaffordable. Many good books have plates and illustrations that we need to look into but we don’t buy these books. Authors of these books have had received research grants to compile them. So, it is okay if scholars avail the library facility to study.

    For popular books, the paperback is the best option. We must also take into account global warming and the need to cut down printing. Go green.

    Q. Poetry, though the best form of literature, is not able to garner large readers. Is it a failure of poetry or the poets who haven’t been able to deliver quality poetry as of Keats and Wordsworth?

    Ans. There are many worthy poets out there and they are accordingly read. But, as my publisher emphatically said, poetry does not sell. I believe it is seriously because of its length. When I am on the platform waiting for the train, I pick up a magazine and flip through its pages. Lines of poetry catch my attention. I may even skim through a short essay or story. But it will not inspire me to buy the magazine. I will prefer a wholesome meal – the novel.

    Q. What would be your advice to young authors?

    Ans. Young authors are highly imaginative. Imagination has to be supplemented with proper nourishment. Mind flies and it is necessary to keep it grounded. Otherwise, after a few short spells, imagination dries out.

    As I said, your education makes you who you are and you cannot abandon it midway in pursuit of a dream called ‘author’.