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Pankaj Mishra stated that VS Naipaul showed him the importance of writing about one's country with honesty.
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Pankaj Mishra stated that VS Naipaul showed him the importance of writing about one’s country with honesty.

is from when I was a young child.

One of my first memories of reading is from my early childhood.

Similar to numerous upper-caste families in northern India, my household owned clothbound editions of a Hindi version of the Mahabharata. During my childhood, I eagerly devoured the books from beginning to end, savoring the illustrations of the main characters, and I later revisited them multiple times – though I cannot recall exactly how many. Looking back, I realize that this initial encounter with imaginative literature was incredibly significant.

My preferred book during my childhood

I long for the days when I had in my possession Russian and Ukrainian folktales that my parents purchased from bookstores subsidized by the Soviet Union. The Soviets engaged in a cultural cold war by promoting the diversity and abundance of Russian literature in large regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, making it easily accessible. During my childhood, I often delved into collections of fairytales published in Moscow, and as a teenager, I read English and Hindi translations of renowned Russian authors such as Chekhov, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, and Bunin.

The novel that impacted my adolescence greatly.

When I was 16 or 17 years old, I read An Area of Darkness by VS Naipaul. It left a lasting impact on me, evoking strong feelings of shock and confusion. It was eye-opening to discover that one could write about their ancestral land and culture with such unfiltered honesty. The author fearlessly revealed their own inner turmoil and insecurities. Additionally, the book taught me about the power of literary form, showing how even travel writing can contain deep emotional and intellectual themes.

The author who altered my perspective.

When I was in my twenties, I spent a summer reading all four volumes of Eric Hobsbawm’s world history. Before that, I had only read histories that focused on a single country or time period. Hobsbawm’s books showed me how the history of the modern world is interconnected and cannot be separated into individual parts. He emphasized the importance of demonstrating the interconnectedness of events when writing about world history.

This book inspired me to become a writer.

As a student at a tumultuous and dysfunctional university campus in Allahabad, India, I stumbled upon a book of poems called Middle Earth written by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra. The poems frequently referenced familiar places – a street, a shop – and even the most mundane details sparked a sense of epiphany within me. This collection made me realize that my bleak environment, which I hoped to escape through writing, was actually the foundation of my creativity.

The book I could never read again

As a child living in small towns near train stations, I did not have access to quality libraries or bookstores. However, I managed to read most of the published works by authors like Robert Ludlum, Sidney Sheldon, Jackie Collins, and Jilly Cooper that were sold at affordable prices in paperback form at the train station bookstores. I have not tried to reread them since then.

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I am currently reading a book.

Julio Ramón Ribeyro, a renowned writer from Peru, lived during the same time as Mario Vargas Llosa. However, his style of writing, which was intimate and concise, set him apart from the popular Latin American “boom”. In his journal, La tentación del fracaso (The Temptation of Failure), Ribeyro reflects on his struggles with poverty and his feeling of being on the sidelines of the political, intellectual, and literary scenes of his era. This journal is considered a masterpiece and can be compared to the diaries of other notable writers who also explored the theme of failure, such as Cesare Pavese and EM Cioran.

Source: theguardian.com