Pankaj Mishra says Faulkner’s work is “excruciatingly written” and brilliant

Too many to list here; I will cite those who remain relatively (and unfairly) obscure because of their remoteness from the metropolitan networks of publishing and advertising. Among the novelists and short stories: Michelle de Kretser, Anuradha Roy, Gail Jones, Ivan Vladislavic and Vinod Kumar Shukla. I have benefited for decades from the work of the poet, translator and anthologist Arvind Krishna Mehrotra. Literary critics and essayists James Ley, Delia Falconer, Maria Tumarkin and Amit Chaudhuri never cease to amaze. The great Indonesian playwright Goenawan Mohamed is also a resourceful cultural commentator; columnist Mukul Kesavan writes powerfully about conjunctures in art, popular culture and politics.

Do you consider certain books as guilty pleasures?

Yes the hard romans by George Simenon. I am unconvinced by the claims made for him – that he is the author of first-rate literature – but few writers set the scene and create atmosphere as vividly as he does.

Which writers are particularly good on class issues, in fiction or non-fiction?

The great realist writers of the 19th century – Stendhal, Balzac, Dickens, Maupassant, Zola and Dostoyevsky – placed the subject at the center of modern literature. This preoccupation with inequality and its psychological damage persists among American writers in the first half of the 20th century. Recently rereading the Snopes and Studs Lonigan trilogies, I was struck by their insight into the emotional debility and cruelty of socially mobile men. Oddly, class antagonisms disappeared from contemporary fiction even as they became politically explosive in most democratic societies around the world. Among the exceptions are the fictions of Elizabeth Strout and the untraceable work of Annie Ernaux. Of course, it would be a mistake to assume that social disparity is best explored through the experiences of the working classes or the lower middle classes. The extreme class consciousness of the characters of Proust or, for that matter, Evelyn Waugh and Louis Auchincloss also tells us a lot about the inner lives distorted by rigidly hierarchical societies.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned in a book recently?

“The Curse of the Nutmeg” by Amitav Ghosh is an all-enlightening book on the historical roots of the climate emergency today. I was particularly struck by his account of Indigenous peoples’ critique of settler colonialism.

What topics would you like more authors to write about?

I feel like a huge gap has opened up in our imagination about life in remote provinces and rural areas – coincidentally, also the places that have become so politically important. I recently finished reading “The Gray Notebook”, by Josep Pla, translated from Catalan by Peter Bush. It’s a hypnotic account of the author’s life in the Catalan provinces and Barcelona in the first half of the 20th century, and I found myself wishing this very long book would last forever.

What is the best book you have ever received as a gift?

A selection of Chekhov’s stories in a hardback book printed in the former Soviet Union. I was overwhelmed by them. I didn’t really know what to expect – I was 16 then – but after decades of reading fiction, I have not lost the undemonstrable conviction that only Chekhov has managed to describe life as it is. is truly, uncompromising by the artifices of literature. creation.

What do you plan to read next?

“Violent Brotherhood: Indian Political Thought in the Global Age” by Shruti Kapila. I read there already published material – enough to know that the book embodies the fresh and bold research that redraws the intellectual map of the world.

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