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The much looked-forward-to talk will not take place because the writer was unable to obtain a visa in time to travel to Pune. Responding to queries from Mirror, official sources from the Ministry of External Affairs said that the visa application, which was made at the Consulate General of India in San Francisco, was returned because the form was incomplete and some required papers were missing.
More than one attempt was made to submit the application, albeit unsuccessfully. My assistant Barbara Caldwell flew to San Francisco twice to plead my case in person. The first time, a Friday, the consulate was closed. However, it will be too late for the esteemed writer, who was to be the main speaker for the PEN International Congress this year, to arrive in the city.
In an email interview with Mirror, the year-old Kenyan novelist, who is the distinguished professor of comparative literature and English at University of California, Irvine, shares his ideas of literature in the 21st century, and how to take the post-colonial narrative forward.
Freedom, Truth, and Diversity. The Indian consulate at San Francisco denied me a visa. But PEN is also very important in my life.
The theme of the conference was the Writer as an Independent Spirit. The theme in New York connects very well with the current theme of freedom, truth, and diversity.
Both themes assume freedom; the freedom of the writer to write; the freedom of ideas to circulate. Freedom makes us able to search for the truth: Truth and diversity are very important. And no group or language can claim a monopoly of truth. Diversity should also mean diversity of languages.
Languages should not relate to each other in terms of hierarchy but in terms of a network. Freedom of writers; freedom of languages; and freedom of ideas. Like KenyaIndia is also a land of myth, epic and oral literature.
How has this changed over the decades? Literacy produces literature; and it helps in the preservation of artistic utterances. Orality is equally important; it produces orature.
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But orality is primary; it is the basis of all orature and literature. Unfortunately, there is tendency to think and even act as if literature is of a higher order than orature.
In reality, the written draws heavily from the oral. Modern Indian literature in English draws from the Mahabharata and Ramayana. And the western European literatures draw a lot from the Greek mythologies.
Unfortunately, the suppression of mother tongues in our world today results in the depression of the epic imagination.
Letters from Prison, with: What would you, a writer known for his literature of resistance for decades, have told Rao if you could meet him in India now?
I am sorry to hear that. Varavara Rao is a very fine intellect. He is committed to the empowerment of the least among us. He should be free. So also my translator into Telugu — GN Saibaba.
I hope the authorities set them free.
Let ideas clash, freely. The idea that comes closest to reflecting reality, will triumph. And to Varavara Rao, I say:Email subject optional This is the text that will appear as the subject of mails sent from this link.
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