I wish I had known beforehand about Paul Theroux’s visit to India. Almost everyday there is something about him in the papers, an interview here, a write up there and a quote somewhere, and I regret I couldn’t meet him. I had read somewhere that he was in Kolkata to inaugurate the Book Fair which was cancelled at the last minute.
Then I read that he was in Chennai to conduct a writing workshop for a group of aspiring writers at the US Consulate. One of the writers was New Indian Express columnist Biswanath Ghosh who wrote about what the great writer told the lucky few in an article in last Sunday’s ‘Sunday Indian Express’. Biswanath Ghosh is an unabashed admirer of Paul Theroux and he writes about his idol in his blog- http://www.bytheganges.blogspot.com/.
In Biswanath’s article in the Express he writes about Theroux’s beginnings as a writer and his friendship with VS Naipaul which takes up the most space. There’s also advice from Theroux for all writers- Write in longhand, Revise, Leave home and work far away, Read (Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’, Thomas Mann’s ‘Death in Venice and Kushwant Singh’s short story ‘Rape’) and Don’t worry about publication but express yourself.
The same day, The Hindu carried an extremely interesting interview by K.Srilata with Theroux. In the interview Paul Theroux replies to Srilata’s questions about fiction writing and travel writing, which he says is a form of autobiography. Once again the subject of Naipaul pops up and he says that Naipaul ‘s criticism is savage and provocative.
In the same week 'Outlook' weekly carried a smallish interview with him. One question Paul Theroux must have got tired of answering is his soured friendship with VS Naipaul, his former mentor. But Theroux revealed different aspects of the friendship in each interview, something only inventive writers like him can do.
In the most recent issue of 'Outlook' there was a small item about Theroux, again about his friendship with VS Naipaul and whether Naipaul liked to read his books. Theroux gently pokes fun at Naipaul in his reply.
Today’s (29/2/08) Metro Plus supplement of The Hindu carried an interesting quote attributed to Paul Theroux- ‘ I cannot make my days longer so I strive to make them better.' The quote carried a striking picture of Theroux looking every inch a writer.
In fact, The Hindu’s done the maximum number of items on Paul Theroux. Not a day goes by without reading some thing about him in that newspaper. There was a write up on him by Shonali Muthalaly sometime in the beginning of this month. Then there was a short write up by Suchitra Behal in her weekly column ‘Sightings’ in last Sunday’s The Hindu.
I guess he is still around in the country, somewhere. I wish I had the good fortune to meet him and listen to his talk about writing. It would have been a wonderful experience meeting a great writer who inspires me and also, no doubt, thousands of readers in India. I am waiting for his new book which he says is a sort of sequel to ‘The Great Railway Bazaar’.