Monday, October 1, 2012

Out of Print Author Series: Janice Pariat

We are proud that Janice Pariat’s Embassy, acutely centred in its setting, that appeared in the second release of Out of Print is included in her collection, Boats on Land published by Random House, India.

The blurb proclaims that the book is a unique way of looking at India’s northeast and its people against a larger historical canvas — the early days of the British Raj, the World Wars, conversions to Christianity, and the missionaries.

Janice creates a world in which the everyday is infused with folklore and a deep belief in the supernatural. Here, a girl dreams of being a firebird. An artist watches souls turn into trees. A man shape-shifts into a tiger. Another is bewitched by water fairies. Political struggles and social unrest interweave with fireside tales and age-old superstitions.

We asked Janice a couple of questions:

OofP: The stories in this collection are profoundly linked to place. However contemporary the piece, however universally accessible, your stories are woven into the North East, its culture and geography.  Were the stories written when you lived there? How is this connection to place affected by moving out of the region?
JP: Mostly here and there. A bulk of the stories in Shillong - where I had the space, time and quiet to work. The rest in London, where I was studying History of Art at SOAS.  I don't think the connection is in any way broken. I carry the places in my head - Shillong, Cherrapunjee and parts of Assam. They're ingrained in you, where you spend your years growing up. And that's part of the challenge (and fun), to re-imagine the places you love.  

OofP: Has any writer or work had a particular influence on you, and how?
So many. It's a long history of reading. Nabokov, for his ethereal prose, Virginia Woolf, for her lyricism. But if I had to pick one writer in particular, especially for Boats on Land, it would have to be Jeet Thayil. I read Narcopolis while working on the first edits of my stories - and his language is fearless. It quietened the tussle I felt between poetry and prose. 

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