The Year Of Duels


Literary Feuds In 2012

If you think that little fights happen only among actors and actresses, that it’s only the Khans and the Kapoors that end up in a feud; then you are so wrong. The world of literature isn’t far behind. They have all together written their own book of feuds. So here are the top literary feuds of the year 2012:

Salman Rushdie v/s the world:

Where there is Rushdie there is always a controversy. The year began with the appearance that was later cancelled. His cancelled Jaipur Literary Festival appearance became breaking news. Rushdie and Chetan Bhagat ended up having a war on Twitter. The organisers at Jaipur Festival were stuck between the two famous writers.

Though Rushdie never made the Indian Trip this was a “fictional controversy at best.”

Amitav Ghosh v/s Salman Rushdie:

If you remember the year 2012 started with a spat. Rushdie was not allowed to attend the Jaipur Literary Fest because of the fatva against him. This feud was started by Amitav Ghosh. When Rushdie was making the news for cancelling his visit to India, Ghosh wrote on his blog “I have never attended the Jaipur Literary Festival; nor does a visit loom in the foreseeable future. This is largely (but not wholly) because I have no taste for tamashas.”

I think what he meant to say was that the relationship between the readers and writers has changed and the literary fest is no more a celebration of literature.

Whatever be the case the media and the literary world saw this statement by Ghosh as a call for war.

Girish Karnad v/s V.S. Naipaul

I don’t think anybody has forgotten about this little spat. If you have then here is the story.

Girish Karnad went after Naipaul who received the lifetime achievement award at the Mumbai Literature festival. Karnad who seemed to be have taken offense to this made use of the chance given to him by the organisers to the fullest. He called Naipual “Anti-Muslim”. When the organisers told him that his actions weren’t polite, all he said was “I don’t have to be polite. I’m following in the footsteps of Naipaul.”

In case anyone missed the first round he followed it up with a column in India Today magazine. Karnad wrote about Naipaul winning the Nobel Prize, “Many of us saw it as a result of his being a nice brown face spouting venom against Muslims.”

And Karnad did not stop at that, his next target was Rabindranath Tagore.

Girish Karnad v/s Rabindranath Tagore:

The Bengalis were shocked when Girish Karnad said “His greatness as a poet is there, his greatness as a thinker is there… he wrote plays, he certainly was a pioneer in breaking away from the unexciting commercial plays…he didn’t direct great plays. The point is he was a mediocre playwright.”

But he is not the only one to say this, there have been many other writers. Bengali dramatist Sekhar Chattopadhyay found some of Tagore’s plays too complex.

As I said before Karnad was on a roll this year. But personally, I think that Karnad has a right to his own views about other writers. The only problem was that it did not go well with the audience.

There were many other spats, but in future, remember that the main ingredients to cook a feud that will attract media coverage are as follows:

  • Famous writers like Salman Rushdie, Chetan Bhagat, Girish Karnad, Arundhathi Roy and Tagore.
  • Both the people involved in the feud should have Twitter accounts or a blog. However, Twitter is a better option since the whole world is on Twitter these days.
  • Literary Prizes are a must, since they are the topic of the feud.
  • The venue. A literary fest is the arena of the duel.
  • There you go; you have cooked a literary feud for yourself.

As Mahesh Dattani, playwright writes in The Week magazine:

“Village people have their melas to fulfil their social needs like meeting friends and relatives from neighbouring villages. City people have their literature, drama, music and film festivals. The spirit is the same. To congregate and catch up on gossip with an apparent sense of purpose. In the city, sensation replaces gossip. So unless you can rustle up a good controversy, your festival isn’t really a successful one… So now, the pressure is on for future festivals to match up in scandal, sizzle and slur.”

So who is going to be making news in 2013? Time to place your bets everyone.

Shraddha Jandial

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