Be it the Tiananmen Square massacre or criminalisation of homosexuality, writer Vikram Seth has always taken a stand. Last evening was no different when he came out strongly in support of fellow writers who have returned their awards to the Sahitya Akademi.
“It is difficult to give up an award because it is a mark of honour that you get in an isolated professional life that shows that your colleagues and compatriots think well of you.
“To give it up is no easy thing and perhaps that is why it has bewildered the powers that be at the Sahitya Akademi so much so they have brought forward their scheduled meeting to October 23.
“I think and I hope that they will come up with something robust in defence of free speech, reason and at least the right to life of people who speak their minds.” Mr. Seth was speaking at the launch of his latest collection of poems, “Summer Requiem”, published by Aleph.
He hinted that the Akademi was under pressure. Responding to a question, he said, “History is full of instances where writers have suffered. They have been imprisoned like Tulsidas. They have been impoverished like Firdausi. (Osip) Mandelstam was killed by Stalin. One cannot expect them to be molly-coddled or put on a pedestal but to be insulted in a gratuitous manner is a bit unnecessary. However, our power lies in convincing and not haranguing and heckling.
“The good thing about writers is that they do not speak in one voice. That is our strength. Our isolation is our strength because no one can accuse us of being conspirators.”
Mr. Seth said that he did not create an artificial bifurcation between the writers as writers and writers as citizens because it was seamless. “I do not think there is a concerted effort in giving back honours to the Sahitya Akademi. I have not spoken to any writer. I spoke a couple of days ago about the events and how disappointed and shocked I was by the fact that an institution that has such a wonderful history, which provides refuge to creative people who lead such lonely lives, did not speak on their behalf.”
The book was launched by Mr. Seth’s parents with the event coinciding with former Justice Leila Seth’s birthday, the poet’s mother. Mr. Seth referred to the title poem Summer Requiem as the most curious in the collection because he could not quite understand it himself and is contrary to his idea of poetry and the kind of poems he likes to write.
Talking about love and longing, the poet said for most people love is one of the elements in life besides work and food on one’s table. “But love makes us human beings.” He said the poems which were the most difficult for him to put in words were the ones which resonate the most with the readers.
Vikram Seth was speaking at the launch of his latest collection of poems, Summer Requiem. He referred to the title poem Summer Requiem as the most curious in the collection because he could not quite understand it himself