Sasthi Brata Biography
Sasthi Brata Comments:
(1991) My first published book, My God Died Young, was a self-professed autobiography, written at the age of 28, before I had made any kind of a name for myself as a writer, or anything else. This led a good few publishers, readers, and finally critics to utter the exasperated cry: "What makes you think that the story of your life (woefully unlived-in up to that time) deserves to be told? Or that people will want to read it?" The answer to these questions was within the book itself, of course. But in a sense all of my writing, fiction, non-fiction, and journalism, has been an attempt to refute the assumptions lurking behind those superficially plausible and innocent-sounding queries. For they presume that only the heroic and the grand deserve artistic exploration and autobiographical treatment. While I believe, very firmly, that everyone, but everyone has a story to tell. The difference between the true artist and the pub bore is that the writer has a sure grasp over the instruments of his trade—words, sentences, paragraphs, syntax, metaphor, melody—and is then able to select, assemble, and present a somewhat more ordered and appetizing version of the world than the chaotic, often repetitive jumble of experiences from external reality which make up his raw material.
All my fiction has been supremely autobiographical. Even in those books which are listed as non-fiction on library shelves, I have used fictional devices, and equally freely introduced reportage techniques in books which profess to be novels. I should warn the prospective reader however not to deduce from this that every hero in every one of my novels is an exactly congruent picture of the man I am. In a review of the late Yukio Mishima's novels I wrote: "The obsessionally autobiographical writer may be an invisible man." For while he may not be telling lies, he is not necessarily telling the truth either, at least not of the kind the law courts would accept. Since he is an artist, he has used his imagination, but he has not necessarily let you into the secret of where the fictive imagination begins or where empirically verifiable reality ends.
There was a time when I used to be irked by attacks on the high sexual content in my writing. I am no longer. Few addicts of hardcore porn would find any of my books satisfactory. Prurient sensibilities, with a cavalier indifference to style and linguistic resonances, might equally be put off by their subject matter. Apologies to neither group.
I would call myself a "radical traditionalist" as a novelist, if only because to be a successful "experimental" writer, in the sense that Joyce and Borges are, requires a poetic sensibility I do not possess. It is easy to descend into the wholly bogus or deliberately pedantic in trying to achieve effects about which one is not totally sure. There are no rules in the use of language of course, but I would rather stick within certain wide but strictly defined limits, than stray into those unexplored territories where the arcane, obscure, or simply fraudulent vendors ply their wares. I believe that all my books can be read simply as good tales.
Labyrinths in the Lotus Land was my first commissioned work. I wrote it specifically for a Western audience. It was an ambitious attempt to inform a western reader, within the compass of a single book, everything that he or she might wish to know about the country, spanning the whole gamut of history, religion, art, politics, etc. Critics who complained about the apparent incongruity of introducing personal experiences into a book which purports to portray a picture of contemporary India were not aware of my long-held belief that by relating a particular incident or episode in a graphic and authentic manner, the universal is illuminated more poignantly than any amount of dry didactic scholarship can ever do.
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