What life doesn’t offer you or takes away from you, novels give it in abundance. A chance to juggle multiple answers for a question troubling you, a chance to peek into someone’s thoughts, a chance to bridge the perception of imagination and reality, is given or sought in the fictional world.
“These and other factors like awakening to the sensory experiences, the feeling of being sucked in by time, giving us motives, and the ability to break the boundaries of time and space are the ‘10 ways in which novels can change your life’,” says author Chandrahas Choudhury, who was in Pune recently at the invitation of Open Space, taking time off from his busy life in Delhi and Mumbai.
To elaborate on the topic, Choudhury chose 10 passages from the works of the past and present writers, which were not necessarily the central plot or even focussed on the protagonists, but nevertheless struck a chord. He first read out the passage from Irene Nemirovsky’s Suite Francaise which depicts the sensory experiences of a town or city cat that has moved to the country. According to Choudhury, the non-human perspective of the cat allows us to become more human.
To give the audience a complex example of time, he chose to go back to 200 CE, where Nanda, Buddha’s half-brother is “drawn on to visit Buddha and drawn back to his wife.” He said dramatic moments like these lead to the “explosion” where one is irrevocably sucked into by the time.
The excerpt from Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red — Enishte Effendi Meets God — tells us that there can be alternative possibilities to one question. Novels leave the choice open to us.
In Anton Chekov’s The Kiss, Ryabovitch, the soldier, knows no woman will ever marry him, yet he cant’ help dreaming about the woman who mistook him for someone else in the darkness and kissed him. He dreamt of being married to her, work taking him away from her, and then meeting again... Don’t we all dream and imagine, even if the reality is very different?
The highlight of Manu Joseph’s Serious Men was the correct usage of the right word at the right place. “The word ‘something’,” says Choudhury, “tells us about the action taking place in the story.”
He also chose to read from U R Ananthamurthy’s Bharathipura, because it delved into human psychology. “Jagan, the protagonist realises that people wouldn’t accept anything just because it’s given to them. The import in this story is ‘change’ and ways of democracy.”
Now, you know why we often say, “I could relate to the book and its characters.” Because it’s you who are ‘living’ out the life.