A Literal Journey: Encountering Writers Workshop

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Author: Jed Bickman
Pages: 212
Year of Publication: 2009
Price: HB Rs 300, FB Rs 200
HB 978-81-8157-891-4 (9788181578914)
FB 978-81-8157-892-1 (9788181578921)

About the Author:
Jed Bickman is, in his own words, “a young American wanderer.” After graduating from Brown University with a degree in American Literature, he was awarded the Arnold Fellowship by the same university to undertake a research project abroad. His project aimed at focusing on independent publishers in India and he chose to intern with Writers Workshop. We were delighted to have him work with us from August 2008 to June 2009; A Literal Journey describes his experiences during this period.

“When I came to Kolkata, I wasn’t sure why. I had been planning to go to school in New York, to leave India far behind, and I had been gearing my mind up to fight for my pace within what I saw as the ailing capitalist structure. But when I got this fellowship, I just couldn’t come up with a reason not to go — except that I knew it would be hard. It was an opportunity I would’ve felt silly turning down. I was surprised I had gotten the fellowship at all; I had thought that my proposal was vague, and the fellowship committee had implied in my interview that they thought that it was politically questionable — a position that I should not have been so quick to dismiss. My impression was that they were afraid that I would reproduce the old power relations between the West and India by imposing my own ideas of language and literature on Indian writers. I responded that I would only do what they asked me to do. The reality when I got there was an inevitable third path; I was welcomed, but not directly asked to do anything specifically — that was for me to figure out for myself.

None of it made sense till I met P. Lal. Instantly, I was thanking my karma for bringing me into the presence of such a man, because I knew that I could learn from him. Prof. Lal is the embodiment of a teacher, and I can’t help but believe that he was kept (that he kept himself) on this earth because he had more to teach those willing to be his students. And to have the opportunity to be a listener — that was a great gift my life had given me. It made sense to have left behind my friends and family to be near this man.”

Foreword by Rakesh Dogra / 9
Beginnings / 11
Transcreation, Mahabharata and Lessons / 41
Forming the Project / 61-190
1. Writing in English / 66
2. Writing Women in India / 84
3. Development, NGOs, and Despair / 99
4. Spirituality / 117
5. Subversive Sexuality / 127
6. Form, Content, and the Writing Life / 159
7. Orality, Fable and Conflict in the Northeast / 174
8. The Color of Poetry / 186
Appendix: Ganga-Ji / 191

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