Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Booker bagged by Irishman - but not by Barry

Alas! Sebastian Barry has lost the Booker and the 50,000 pound prize has gone instead to the other Irish writer in the fray - John Banville for The Sea. Barry was the underdog anyway but I suppose Indians would have been rooting for him after he revealed his fixation with the country.

Here's the interview with Barry -

Booker-nominated Irishman recalls Indian link
Tony Tharakan
New Delhi, Oct 7 (PTI) For Irish novelist Sebastian Barry, India used to come alive at night - with a little help from his grandfather.

Although he's never been to India, the 2005 Booker Prize-nominated author got his first glimpses of the country through bedtime stories.

"My grandfather, a major in the British army, loved Kipling but he also adored Tagore and read him to me as a child in bed. He had worked in India and carried in him memories of it that were valuable to him," Barry told PTI in an email interview.
Of all countries in the world, Barry would like to visit India the most. And for good measure, he holds Mahatma Gandhi to be the only true politician of the 20th century.

The author's childhood fascination later turned into a love of all things Indian, including its authors whom Barry ranks among the world's best.

"There is, as the whole world knows, a great line of Indian writers in English. Rohinton Mistry seems to me to an example of the pure writer," says Barry.
But isn't it surprising that since Arundhati Roy's Booker triumph in 1997 for The God of Small Things, no other Indian has managed to lay hands on the prestigious literary prize?

"Indian writing is a series of mountains, maybe it has gone higher than prizes and the like," says the 50-year-old writer who was nominated for the Booker this year.
Barry, counted among Ireland's foremost playwrights and novelists, achieved that milestone with his latest effort - A Long Long Way.

The novel tells the story of Irish teenager Willie Dunne who volunteers to serve Britain during the First World War. Like his 1995 play The Steward of Christendom, this latest novel is also seeped in a lot of Irishness and autobiographical elements.

Barry knows very well that many people never imagined he would ever achieve literary success. A slow learner, he could not read or write till the age of nine.

"I couldn't learn to read for the life of me and the London schoolmaster made me sit beside a clever girl who was to help me. When we went back to Ireland with my new English accent, I was beaten up in the schoolyard as a little English boy, so maybe suddenly I was very aware of language," he says.
"At any rate I quickly regained my old accent, and learned to read off the Catholic catechism. But I still read slowly I think," he adds.
Even though he's a prolific playwright, poet and novelist, Barry considers himself an odd sort of a writer. His writings seem to metamorphose from one genre to another.

"Usually something starts with a poem, that years later may become a play, more rarely a novel," he says.
That Barry is mainly considered a playwright even though he's been writing fiction since 1977, may have something to do with the fact that his mother Joan O'Hara is a veteran theatre actor.

Currently working on the screenplay of A Long Long Way for a film version, Barry says he was greatly struck many years ago when he read Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms.

"In fact, I should think I modelled my early work on Hemingway, at least in the spirit of the undertaking," he says.
When it comes to the new-age fad of blogging, Barry feels he's too old and too scared to start now.

"I do read them though. One thing I have noticed is the astonishingly high quality of Indian literature blogs. Everyone who writes there seems to have the grasp of (literary critic and poet Matthew) Arnold and the penetration of (critic F R) Leavis," he says.
Barry prefers restoring old houses instead - a hobby he picked up after renovating the house in lives in. PTI TT

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