Amit Chaudhuri Talks About Creativity, the Essay, and D. H. Lawrence

Amit Chaudhuri Talks About Creativity, the Essay, and D. H. Lawrence

Amit, can you talk a little bit about
what it means to you to be a creative writer who also practices criticism? As a
creative writer I embarked on what I would see as a particular kind of
project in writing, which is closer to modernism but embarked on it in in the
age of what might be called you know the postmodern or the post-colonial novel. And as I was doing this I didn’t feel I was doing something antiquated but I’ve
definitely felt out of place and I was wondering why I was doing this–what
my compulsions were, and whether I had history and why that history had been
obliterated or presented to us only in a particular way so that we understood the
history of modernism as a European history and a particular kind of
European history. Why as an Indian, as I am, what kind of antecedents to have, and that’s when I first, I think, began
to address these things in terms of the essay but the other thing I have to say
over here is, I was also emerging from an academic background. I was doing a PhD, a DPhil here in Oxford, but I did not want to write the footnoted kind of
academic peer-reviewed essay anymore so I used the London Review of Books quite
often and sometimes the tls as forums in which to write these
essays which were which which I thought were intellectual explorations to do
with questions that have I was putting to myself, but not scholarly
footnoted work but something else which I thought was urgent and that’s when this
critical project began into which I was also putting myself in and necessarily
had to put myself in as a writer but also physically myself as a person who
had gone out for a walk that day, was having a cup of coffee– that this
bit of myself was what overlapped with the self as writer as creative writer
between with with the writer of the essay with the writer maybe theorizing
or thinking about something this was the overlap. What would you say to somebody really loves reading your novels but hasn’t encountered your criticism–
your critical writings–yet? Well, I would say that they are not going to be
encountering in in in the origins of dislike something that’s just
secondary to my creative writing, that origins of dislike also expresses a
kind of creative putting together of ideas and things which are often
critical ideas and which are often ideas to do with the critical and to do with
the imagination and especially in two of the essays towards the end of the
book I think directly about the friend of my youth, my new novel, and connect
ways of reading in connection to that but to other books that
I’ve read and I have written to this friend his his real-life prototype and
the way he approaches reading so that gives you a clue as to how the essays
and the criticism are part annotation but also have their own creative life
connected to the creative work so you know what once trying to move a little
bit beyond both in the in the so-called creative work and the critical work
beyond genre and and make these sort of boundaries more fluid. Could you say
something about the title of the book that you’ve chosen? I know it’s also the
title of the lead essay. Say something about that, and about the word
dislike. The title, I thought it was a good title for it and for an essay, and
for the book as well, so I went for it but also it’s a detailed
exploration of some of my own dislikes and then you’ll say what kind of dislike are you talking about? So are you talking about disliking somebody or a kind of behavioral kind of trait or something to do with fashion or food and
I would say that it looks like that what I dislike is completeness so even if I’m talking about Renaissance painting, I’m making a generalization over there to talk about the urge to
reproduce life in its completeness and the taste
that’s fostered in us to give that kind of urge and that kind of replication
respect and I’m saying I want to look at the opposite: I want to look at how the
dismantling of things is interesting So I’m saying I then dislike this monumental kind of ambition true to present things in their completeness, and this I think
runs through much of my creative work and my critical writings you know, and
not only that, I think one is in a state of tension in that if one belongs to
culture to Western culture or any modern cultures so one has a particular
relationship of either privilege in completeness or as an artist saying that
no, this is not the path I want to go down. There is something that that I’m
uneasy with about this ambition towards completeness so just just one kind of
example of this which is not an aesthetic example is the idea of the
developed society for instance you know the idea that everything needs to be a
kind of in a state of utopian perfectionism and so I think the
Laurentian in me would reject the the perfection. It goes
back a long way my love for Lawrence also is connected with his affinity, I
feel for his impatience with perfection which he sees as an ambition of
Western culture and Western art so it’s kind of meditation on not only why
perfection is privileged but what it is about ourselves that is unable to
privilege it so I mean I would as I’ve often said I would rather be doing what
everybody else is doing, it’s nice to fit in then if one doesn’t
fit in–why? Why doesn’t one fit in? It’s also trying to address that.

1 Comment

  • P Brown says:

    Regarding 'completeness' I offer Flaubert's remark to the effect that a novel is never completed but abandoned; Andrey Platonov also had similar issues with the concept of completeness (note in particular his editing process as per Robert Chandler's comments). cf. also the curator Anthony Shaw, his recent exhibition at the York City Art Gallery (Summer 2018) manifested a fascination with the unfinished, albeit I note differences between 'unfinished' and 'incomplete'.

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