Writers Ari Gautier and Ananya Jahanara Kabir in dialog

From Ari Gautier

“Specific trains”, “Trains of hell”, “Night time trains”, “Trains and landscapes”, “Trains of happiness”, “Trains of reminiscence”, and eventually “Trains and phantasmagoria”. Alongside the poets and novelists who gave it its letters of the Aristocracy (Verhaeren, Cendras, Valery Larbaud, Marinetti…), there are pages on trains by Zola, Valéry, Apollinaire, Jacques Roubaud, Proust, Paul Morand, Desnos, Walt Whitman, Svevo, François Bon…

The break-in of the practice as a “pure signal, open to all instances, all photos and all senses” (Roland Barthes) is a part of a symbolic community the place it represents escape and journey or refers to a path of life, to reverie. Promise of freedom on the one hand, within the service of genocide and deportation on the opposite, the practice is embodied in experiences that vary from jubilation to tragedy. The practice is motion and statis on the identical time. Time is suspended…

And it’s on this state of suspension that I discover the suspensional Ananya Jahanara Kabir, in a practice suspended in time.

From Ananya Jahanara Kabir

The next dialog befell between us on a practice between Paris and Strasbourg on the twenty first of September 2022; precisely 18 months after we had been meant to have travelled from Strasbourg to Paris in March 2021. After two years of digital conversations on and about thinnais, imprisoned in separate packing containers, we had been talking to one another aspect by aspect, on this practice. As all the time, I’m the one who takes notes in my blue “thinnai kreyol pocket book”, however that is the primary time that Ari can see me write.

Ananya Jahanara Kabir (AJK): Le Thinnai has been round for 3 years, and the English translation has lastly been printed. What does this growth imply to you?

Ari Gautier (AG): The e book was written for a French readership to ensure that them to know the historical past of Pondicherry. To counter the selective reminiscence of the French, and to remind the French of historic information – of why we’re French – to counter their shock once they realise, ‘on parle français en Inde?!’ (they communicate French in India?) All the e book is in regards to the French presence in India and its impact on society – on language, customs and habits.

On the identical time, there’s full ignorance in India in direction of the historical past of this French enclave. Folks go there for seashore, booze and the concept of French delicacies – however know nothing in regards to the folks. So the translated model reveals this forgotten however residing identification to a bigger viewers.

AJK: Though, admittedly, it does so by taking part within the hegemony of the English language.

AG: Since French isn’t a standard language in India, the English turns into essential. When you translate it into Tamil, it stays in a regional circuit.

AJK: The English translation is sort of a distinct e book, nonetheless. Blake Smith omitted plenty of particulars, as a result of, as you defined to me, he needed to focus the story on the connection between the French Caribbean and Pondicherry through the determine of Gilbert Thaata.

AG: Sure, the excision of about twenty % of the e book by Blake Smith has modified loads. It’s in the end two totally different books. However I took that gamble.

AJK: One of many tales Blake’s translation leaves out is that which issues the character Jean-Pierre Nagalingam going to Bombay. Eradicating this story from the interpretation takes away the connection between Pondicherry and different locations on the coasts of peninsular India, a connection that you simply and I theorise as a “littoral” vector. But it surely does sharpen the opposite vector of connection we additionally work on, the “transoceanic”, that connects Pondicherry to far-flung locations throughout the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, and even Pacific worlds. As a result of in the long run, your storytelling reminds us that Pondicherry has lengthy been suspended in an online of connections – the littoral, and the transoceanic.

AG: Sure even my first novel Carnet secret de Lakshmi connects these two coastlines of India. Finally I need to present how Pondicherry connects and is related to the littoral and the transoceanic. It’s not a small island.

AJK: However Pondicherry isn’t an island!

AG: No, however it behaves like an island. As you your self have proven via your theorising of coastal enclaves, Pondicherry has this island-like construction.

AJK: certainly, whether or not island or island-like, it’s this enclosed construction which behaves like a strain cooker for the cultural course of we name creolisation. And this course of provides Pondicherry its distinctive character. Let’s discuss a bit bit about how your new assortment of brief tales, Nocturne Pondichéry, provides us additional glimpses into this uniqueness.

AG: You possibly can say that there’s a thinnai connection between The Thinnai and Nocturne Pondichéry. Eighty % of the tales function a thinnai. However greater than that there’s a psychosocial connection. The brief tales are in regards to the impression of historical past on the characters I create.

AJK: So inform us in regards to the journey you make – from Carnet secret de Lakshmi – an allegorical story about Pondicherry, instructed via a forged of animals, to Le thinnai/ The Thinnai, a historic novel about Pondicherry instructed via a toddler narrator, and eventually to the brief tales collected in Nocturne Pondichéry, that are psychosocial explorations set within the up to date interval. What’s the motion arc these works hint?

AG: In Lakshmi, all of the characters have parts of me in them. However these parts are fragmented, disguised, and reassembled. My subsequent novel, Le thinnai, is clearly autobiographical. I acquired the braveness to deliver the non-public dimension to the general public, undisguised. In Nocturne Pondichéry, the brief tales hint the psychosocial dislocations of the Franco-Pondicherrian group, which I do know properly as a result of I belong to it. I really feel a maturity has arrived in me, which allows me to maneuver from myself to the group.

AJK: With Nocturne Pondichéry you have got additionally moved from novels to the brief story. Why this shift? Is a set of brief tales the easiest way to symbolize Pondicherry – as a mosaic?

AG: The brief story has all the time been for me a transitional type. I’ve been engaged on these brief tales for a very long time, whereas in between novels. The primary brief story in Nocturne Pondichéry was written in truth as a transposition. I transposed a stunning story I had learn, about prostitution in Kerala, to Pondicherry. It struck me as an applicable strategy to discuss Pondicherry’s sordid aspect. One other assortment can be increase – it’s in regards to the streets of Pondicherry, and the way every road has a little bit of historical past hooked up to it that reveals a lot in regards to the caste and sophistication divisions that form this area.

AJK: And now you might be writing a brand new novel too; not only a novel, however a “saga”. Pondichéry: Une saga kreyole. Inform us about it.

AG: Sure, this novel is a saga, as a result of I want a approach to consider 300 years of the French in India and their relationship with varied maritime communities, particularly Muslim maritime communities such because the Maraikkars. And I additionally needed the novel to depict Pondicherry’s independence battle via political wrangling. Furthermore, as a result of its protagonist is homosexual, I may also deliver a brand new form of narration via that identification.

AJK: And all this materials can be channelled via the idea of creoleness?

AG: Sure. After I met you, the concept of the novel modified. I used to be considering at the moment of my novel as “Pondichéry: Une saga famille”: a household saga. This household was fashioned via transoceanic connections. However after we met and began working collectively, I realised that this household additionally allows the method of creolisation. You introduced creolisation into my writing, and it made me reorganise all the things. The creole factor is after all already there in Le/The Thinnai, however will probably be elaborated on extra, and in a extra aware approach, in Pondichéry: une saga kreyole.

However can I ask you a query now? What would you say is the distinction between postcolonial English Literature and postcolonial French Literature, because you’ve learn all my work in French?

AJK: Thanks for the query! One factor that drew me to you as a author was my realisation that you simply and I, merchandise of two totally different but intersecting colonial histories, had very related emotions of affection and affection and possession for English and French, the languages which we relate to as our mom tongues. I grew up with English as a lot as Bengali as my first languages as a result of my father’s household is extraordinarily Anglophone. And you’ve got the same twin relationship with French and Tamil. I perceive what it’s to like and really feel for a language that has been imposed on our ancestors by the colonising equipment.

Our ancestors made the languages their very own, whilst we proceed to take action. In that sense, writing postcolonially, whether or not in French or in English, reveals related difficult feelings on the a part of the writers in direction of the language in query. The distinction although, is that postcolonial French writing from India sheds mild on to an entangled and sophisticated colonial historical past, an inter-imperial historical past, that connects you and me as a lot because it separates us. And that’s a complexity that postcolonial Anglophone writing doesn’t normally take care of. And a associated distinction is the connection of Indian writing in every of those languages, to the market. The place is the marketplace for your books?

AG: Between the selective reminiscence of the French and their colonial coverage of cultural assimilation, and the amnesia of postcolonial India, there’s certainly little or no area. However the market is, I imagine, opening up now. The Thinnai in English translation will, I hope, affirm the worth of the small aperture.

AJK: Completely, the critiques and reception of the e book are already pointing in direction of an keen new readership. However what made Hachette India go to the e book? We all know how tough it’s to position a so-called “unknown” author in a brand new market.

AG: I imagine it’s their curiosity in various writings that we don’t see within the mainstream.

AJK: It’s a fantastic funding they made. As a result of everybody wins, in a approach. The mainstream itself can get reconfigured. This, too, is how creolisation impacts on tradition.

AG: What’s most “various” about The Thinnai is that it’s a e book about all the things and nothing. In your lengthy important essay on the e book, you have got famous how it’s a e book that goes in every single place with out going wherever. Everyone seems to be imprisoned on the thinnai whereas the storytelling goes on. And it’s additionally a e book with no protagonist.

AJK: The truth is, it’s a e book which avoids the romance plot. The romance plot performs straight into assimilation. A meets B, falls in love, they marry and reside fortunately ever after (or not). This story turns into the one strategy to narrate cultural encounter.

AG: I discover it boring and tiring to remain there.

AJK: Certainly, there should be different methods to speak about how cultures encounter one another, grapple with one another, generate negotiations, compromises, and improvements. That’s the story of creolisation, and it’s additionally the method via which Le thinnai creolises the novel as a style which was born in Europe on the peak of colonialism. Pondicherry has creolised greater than the French language; together with your novel, it has produced an Indic creole response to the French narration of the on a regular basis, which has come to us via the grand traditions of Rabelais, Zola, and Flaubert.

AG: That’s precisely the purpose, Rabelais, Zola, Victor Hugo, are my colonial masters’ references. How and the place and when do I enter the narrative? Positioning myself, present, narrating are the elemental parts which are essential in different to inform my tales and my Historical past. Appropriation is my motto.

AJK: And creolisation, the consequence. Look, now we have reached Strasbourg. Might many extra journeys await us!

Ananya Jahanara Kabir is Professor of English Literature, King’s School London, who works on creolisation as historic course of and cultural concept. In Might 2020, she co-founded with Ari Gautier the web cultural platform le thinnai Kreyol, which promotes their imaginative and prescient of multicultural, plural, and creolised India.

Ari Gautier is a author and poet, whose most up-to-date works, The Thinnai (the English translation of his second novel, Le thinnai) and the brief story assortment, Nocturne Pondichéry, had been each printed in the summertime of 2021. In Might 2020, he co-founded with Ananya Jahanara Kabir the web cultural platform le thinnai Kreyol, which promotes their imaginative and prescient of multicultural, plural, and creolised India.

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