Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Interview - Gaurav Monga

Gaurav Monga interviewed by Frank Burton.  

Gaurav's short story collection, Tears For Rahul Dutta is available to read online or download for free here.

Were the pieces in the collection conceived as stand-alone stories or were they always intended to be part of a collection? 

These pieces were written over a span of ten years and were all individually intended as stand-alone works. The last piece I wrote in this collection was 'Missing Parts.' It was written in October, 2011. Earlier in 2011, I saw that these pieces somehow work together. I even toyed with the idea of the stories being chapters of a short novel, but it couldn't work like that. In the author's note, I have recommended that the stories should be read in the given order because even though they are stand-alone stories there is a sense of linear development. In the original version there was one more story which was weighing the whole piece down. I replaced that with 'Missing Parts' and it seemed to do the trick without being verbally heavy.

Are you able to describe your writing process?  Is there a specific process you follow when you write a story?  

This is very difficult to write about.  I can say is that it makes me feel that I'm not writing enough. I am a slow writer and I would rather have a fully polished paragraph than a rough complete story. I feel that I stop after a few paragraphs to grasp what I am writing and then restart and then stop and restart and so on. Perhaps, I should let it flow more, which I do sometimes but not enough. There, you go, self-criticism, right there.

What would you say are the book's central themes?  Is there one theme tying the collection together?  

I am fascinated by the concept of 'being' and as a result, also 'not-being' which I think is a consistently underlying theme which ties these stories together. In 'Tears for Rahul Dutta,' the first story I was trying to make Rahul simply disappear without real cause. It was not a death, it was not that Rahul was somehow hidden and could be found. He was simply no longer there. In the last story Rahul asks himself, 'whether it was possible to feel pain in a situation which didn't give rise to it,' which essentially sheds light on the existentiality of existence. Family, of course is the phenomenological theme of the narrative.

Would you call yourself an absurdist writer?  

I would like to, although I sometimes think I'm not as absurd as I would like to be. I enjoy reading Gogol,  Camus, Kafka and Kharms. They are all absurdist in very different ways. Although I like Kharms I don't think that my writing in anyway is like his. I would say that it would probably be closer to Kafka's breed of absurdism, so in that sense, yes, I guess I could call myself, at least in some instances, an absurdist.

Who are your influences?  

In this collection I can see the influence of  Franz Kafka, Nikolai Gogol and the contemporary poet, Matvei Yankelevich. 

We used Red Virginia Creeper by Edvard Munch as the cover.  What drew you towards this painting?    

Somehow I strive to visually be an expressionist. I love this painting and I think it captures the scene where Rahul leaves his home completely baffled by his father's unexpected enthusiasm about nothing. The house with the red creeper is where Rahul's parents sit at the dining table, twitching their noses and eyes. It is also the house where Rahul's mother sticks her head out from a window in the roof, as if a bird had just landed.

How do you feel about online publishing?  

I have a feeling that it is the future. E-presses are a little ahead of their times. Paper books, were also at one point an advancement in technology. If you have a kindle or some other good e-reader then it is as good as a book. The internet has allowed me to discover some great writing, which you can't find in bookshops and also the possibility to publish my own writing. I think the best literature is online because it is free and when the commercial aspect of publishing is gotten rid of, writers simply can give their art priority over commercial demands. I once tried to publish some of the same stories by submitting to Random House. They told me that I should try writing young lad lit which is literature for young lads about young lads. I'm glad I found a space to publish my writing just the way I like it - without any young lads in it.

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