Writer and journalist, M S Prabhakara, started his career as a teacher of English literature before turning to journalism. He is one of the most incisive observers of contemporary history today. Literature, he tells Uddipana Goswami, is what liberates us.
What does literature mean to you? Do you think it has any relevance in our day-to-day lives? According to you, does it have anything to do with all that is happening around us?
Yes, literature certainly has all the relevance in our day-to-day lives. It means everything to me. So long as you are alive, you use words, and literature is the most sophisticated way of using words. It enriches and liberates us every time. It gives us relief in crisis and joy in life.
How close is your relation with literature in general, and with literature of the Northeast in particular?
I have a very close relationship with literature. In fact, I used to be a teacher of literature for many years. I enjoy reading old literature, especially old books. Shakespeare, Jonathan Swift, Eric Ambler, Dashiell Hammett are some of my long time favorites. I can never tire of reading Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire. Among the Northeastern writers, I enjoyed reading Jahnavi Barua’s Rebirth, Dhruba Hazarika’s A Bow String Winter, Mitra Phukan’s A Monson of Music. I also like the works of Temsula Ao and Easterine Iralu. However, I am not quite up to date with the latest trends and publications. I live in Karnataka now and the distance affects my knowledge.
What future do you see for literature from the Northeast?
Northeastern literature has a bright future. The only problem I foresee is the limited readership. For instance, the percentage of people reading literature in English is limited. How many people do you think even know English? Then there is also the problem of readership for the writings in the diverse languages of the region. Despite these pitfalls however, the literature coming out of the region has a fine sensibility. I believe it can compare with any other literature of the world.
Name one book that had a lasting impact on you. In what way?
Shakespeare has always been my favourite. His language, diction, sensibility, everything is excellent and I never get bored of reading his works. Troilus and Cressida is a play I return to over and over again. I love the play of emotions in it.
What book would you recommend for our readers and why?
There are hundreds and thousands of books in the world which beg to be read. I cannot just recommend one particular book. But I do want that people should keep alive their habit of reading books.