Authors Talk About The Writing Process At Sharjah International Book Fair

Sharjah (UAE) – Authors from all over the world have discussed various components of their art with a multicultural audience at the 41st Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF).

Award-winning Indian writer Geetanjali discussed her writing process and the art of translation. 

Shree’s Hindi-language novel Ret Samadhi was translated into English as “Tomb of Sand” by Daisy Rockwell and won the International Booker Prize this year.

Discussing her seminal book’s translation into different languages and the challenges of capturing its nuances in those languages, Shree said language has no borders and it is not rigid. 

“If anyone says this is how things have to be done, they are wrong. Creative writers reinvigorate language with new usages and coinages,” Shree said Monday night. 

“People bring in their own flavours from all over the world – that is what makes language richer, and it is one of the most miraculous things.”

Shree spoke about the world’s most prestigious fiction writing prize, the process of inhabiting and fleshing out different characters, and the art of translating work to today’s multicultural readers.

Tomb of Sand is the first book originally written in an Indian language to win the Booker.

The book follows the life of Ret Samadhi, an 80-year-old woman who sets out on a journey of self-discovery after the death of her husband and is set partly during the 1947 Partition of India.

Shree said winning the Booker changes something, yet it has changed nothing. 

“The Prize didn’t make me a writer; I have been one for many years. The Booker or any recognition is a wonderful moment of elation and encouragement for any writer. But I am a writer who is still going to write, with or without a Booker,” she said.

The 65-year-old writer said her protagonist Ret Samadhi had been 8 or 9 years in the making. 

“To quote another writer, ‘I don’t go chasing the poem, I place myself in that position and situation where the poem will find me’. The stories are all around us and they are there within us.”

She said that in the case of Ret Samadhi, what worked as a trigger was a very ordinary image of an elderly person who had just lost her husband and no longer had any interest in life.

“Writers and their characters are shaping each other. Like sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan said, ‘When I start, I play the sarod, but after some time, the sarod plays me.’ That’s how it is with the writing process,” she said.

Shree said she has begun work on her new book.

“At the moment, I’m still the ‘Booker baby’… but I will go back and pick it up again,” she said.

The author said she would also love to see her prize-winning work translated into Arabic.

The Arab world is vast, and I’m lucky to have the chance to interact with Arabic speakers here in Sharjah, so I would love for the book to be read in the language and receive more feedback.”

Alessandro Baricco talks about writing books

Celebrated Italian author Alessandro Baricco opened up about what inspires his current writing and the elation of seeing his book being adapted into a blockbuster Hollywood film.

Baricco’s book “Without Blood”, a heart-wrenching novella about revenge, survival and redemption during and after a conflict follows the heart of 4-year-old Nina who was left for dead in the family house after her father and brother were brutally murdered.

Hollywood star Angelina Jolie wrote the screenplay for Without Blood for her fifth directorial project and is set to direct and produce the film starring Salma Hayek.

“It is like winning a lottery, you feel like you have been chosen among thousands,” Baricco said. 

“It makes me very excited, a film like this cannot be done without an actress of that stature.”

The popular Italian writer, journalist and pianist enthralled audiences with an interesting talk on the writing process, the success of Italian novelists, his school of writing and storytelling.

The postmodern author who emerged in the 1990s has earned critical acclaim around the world for his works mainly targeted at younger audiences while using classical literary devices and rhythmic language.

His notable novels include Castelli di rabbia (Lands of Glass), Oceano Mare (Ocean Sea), Seta (Silk), and Senza Sangue (Without Blood).

“Writing is a process when you are exploring yourselves, your childhood, your parents. It gives meaning and order to life, and at the same time an aura, it is a ritual that helps us discover ourselves,”  Baricco said.

“So, if a person has been writing for 20 years, you will find a person that is well balanced and harmonious.”

However, Baricco also pointed out that writing is also a very big sacrifice, not just for the author but the people around him or her. 

“If you want to create books that have a certain level of impact, then you have to put that kind of passion into it. You have to be mentally and physically devoted to it,”  Baricco said.

In 1993, Baricco co-founded a creative writing and storytelling school in Turin, naming it Scuola Holden after the protagonist in writer JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. 

The school hosts a variety of courses on narrative techniques including screenwriting, journalism, novels, and short stories.

“We wanted to create an institute for those who didn’t fit in – the Holden Caulfields of the world,” he said.

“We had 19 students in the first year, and 400 today. 30 years ago, it was difficult to create a school that is independent, visionary and crazy, and it still remains a challenge to this day.”

On the success of Italian writers such as Umberto Eco and Elena Ferrante, and the consequent popularity of Italian novels worldwide, Baricco said when a writer manages to enter the hearts and minds of so many people within and outside the country, it meant they were effective. 

He said that if writers were able to do that, it was not a coincidence, it was not just a good marketing campaign.

The Name of the Rose by Eco, for example, jump-started modern Italian literature by 20 years. It created a journey, a direction for literature and art, dictated future styles of writing and what came after it,” he said. 

“He influenced video games, music, and television. When I started writing, there were no writers of aesthetic value at the time; Eco changed all that.”