„A good author needs to love reading and sitting at his desk“

Chandrahas Choudhury wuchs in Bombay auf. Er studierte in Delhi und in Cambridge und lebt heute in Mumbai (Bombay). Choudhury ist als Kritiker unter anderem für den Observer, den New York Times Books Review und den Sunday Telepgrah tätig. „Der kleine König von Bombay“ (engl. „Arzee the dwarf“) ist sein erster Roman. Wir haben mit ihm über sein Buch, Indien und das Leben als Autor gesprochen.

Chandrahas Choudhury. © privat
Chandrahas Choudhury. © privat

Where did the inspiration for your book „Arzee the dwarf“ come from?
From a very small, good-looking man I saw on a street in Bombay (Mumbai) one day many years ago, but also of course from all the novels I’ve ever loved and all the things that I believe when I sit down to write stories.

How do you live as an author in India?
I work on books as long-term projects, and also on book reviews and essays from week to week. I also write a weekly column on India for the American website Blooomberg, and edit the Literature section of an Indian monthly magazine called The Caravan.

Are you able to make your living from writing?
Between all these things, yes, I’m able to make a living from nothing other than writing!

Did you always wanted to become a writer?
Yes, I did.

Do you have any literary role models?
Many. To name just a few: Orhan Pamuk, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Willa Cather, Jose Saramago, Charles Dickens, the literary critic James Wood, and the Indian novelist Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay.

In your book you talk about fantasy as a grace. Are there any personal experiences behind this thought?
Yes, it has always seemed to me at difficult moments in my life that, at the very least, nobody could take away from me the power to think and to dream – and indeed the pleasure of reading!

In „Arzee the dwarf“ film and cinema play an important role. Are you a big film fan? What’s your favourite movie? 
A big one! Among my favourite films is the German one ‚Goodbye Lenin‘. While writing the novel I would often listen to Yann Tiersen’s wonderful score for the film.

„Who really is the kind of man, he believes to be.“ What kind of man you believe you are?
Hopefully a man of wit, intelligence, compassion, and novelistic ability! I also think I can run faster over 100 metres than any other Indian writer.

You studied for some time in Cambridge. What’s the biggest difference between Europe and India?
The way in which these two civilizations understand the relationship between the individual and society.

What did you miss most while living in England?
Probably cricket matches on TV!

What does nobody know about living in India who hasn’t been there?
It has more entertaining talkers than anywhere else in the world. And also the worst beer.

Do you write a new book at the moment? If yes: What’s the topic?
Yes, a new novel. Once again, it is set in Bombay. I can’t tell you any more except that it will be very different from „Der Kleine König von Bombay“.

How is it to hold your own printed book in your hands for the first time?
Almost the best feeling in the world.

When and how do you write?
Usually in the mornings, at my desk in Delhi or Bombay or in a café.

What is important for a good author? What qualities does he need?
He needs to love reading and sitting at his desk, listening to people, thinking about how people and situations translate into words. He should know how to use both his life experience and his imagination in the service of stories. It also helps if he can take a short nap every afternoon to cool his brain down, and drink beer in the evenings to warm it up again.

Rezension "Der kleine König von Bombay"

Kleiner Mann ganz groß

Obwohl er klein an Statur ist, weiß Arzee sich zu behaupten. Meistens jedenfalls. Er arbeitet als Filmvorführer im „Noor“, einem Kino, das noch Filmtheater, Lichtspielhaus ist – voll von der Grandezza vergangener Zeiten. Als Herr über den Lichtstrahl, der die großen Geschichten auf die Leinwand zaubert, fühlt er sich ganz groß. Und als auch noch der alte Phiroz, Chef der Filmvorführer des „Noor“ in Rente gehen will, fühlt er sich unschlagbar. Doch wie so oft in seinem Leben lauert der Niederschlag schon hinter der nächsten Ecke. Zwischen Traum und Realität, zwischen Freiheit und Unterdrückung muss er seinen Weg finden.

„Wer von uns ist schon wirklich der Mensch, für den er sich hält?“

Chandrahas Choudhury nimmt den Leser mit in eine Welt im Wandel. Die alten Ordnungen brechen auf, die Zukunft wir immer ungewisser. Zusammen mit dem kleinen Arzee streift man durch die Straßen von Bombay, das offiziell ja längst Mumbai heißt und lernt die Licht- und Schattenseiten der Megametropole kennen. 

Gisela Stummer (academicworld.net)

Chandrahas Choudhury. Der kleine König von Bombay (Übersetzung von Kathrin Razum)
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