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Anita Desai

Anita Desai most recent novel is In Custody. She is currently Helen Cam Visiting Fellow at Girton College, Cambridge and is working on a new novel.

Malgudi

Anita Desai, 4 December 1986

Narayan has written a postscript to his new novel which ought to have been a foreword, since it answers the exclamation practically every reader will make on seeing it: ‘Such a short novel!’ One hundred and nineteen pages of large print would hardly make a novella: it is only slightly more than a short story. Narayan is perfectly aware of this inevitable reaction from his devoted readers, who can never have enough of Malgudi. His reply is uncharacteristically forceful: ‘Why not only 119 pages? I question. While a poet or dramatist rarely exceeds a hundred pages even in his most ambitious work, and is accepted without anyone commenting upon the length of his composition, a writer of fiction is often subject to a quantitative evaluation.’ Too true: we are conditioned by the size and weight of the classics, of the Odyssey and the Mahabharata, of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, to take seriously only what has weight, although the weight of a book’s worth ought surely not to be connected with its avoirdupois.

Anita Desai

Gabriele Annan, 27 May 1999

When Tim Parks reviewed Salman Rushdie’s latest novel, The Ground beneath Her Feet, in the New York Review of Books he grumbled ‘that the sheer quantity of events that crowd these 575...

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Other Indias

Walter Nash, 15 September 1988

For my parents, it was the strangulated crackle of the old gramophone tenor forlornly wailing ‘Pale hands I loved’; for me, it was Kim and lives of the Bengal Lancers; and for my...

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Irishtown

D.A.N. Jones, 1 November 1984

These novels, all in the literary-prize-winning league, tell us of areas with which we are probably unfamiliar. William Kennedy’s Ironweed is about Albany, capital of the State of New York....

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