Episode 13 - Amit Chaudhuri Part 1

3Jul

Amit Chaudhuri is a novelist, academic and musician whose books include A New World, The Immortals and most recently Odysseus Abroad
His talent for close observation of everyday details, events and characters have earned him comparison to Proust, though Chaudhuri tends to work on rather smaller canvasses. 


We met in an extremely noisy cafe in Oxford, and began by discussing Chaudhuri's own time as a postgraduate student in the city over two decades earlier. In the same way that this period inspired his second novel, Afternoon Raag, Chaudhuri's arrival in London and undergraduate degree in English at University College is the basis for Odysseus Abroad. As well as describing an early love of poetry, the novel traces through its allusive form a love of Homer and James Joyce. In the first part of our conversation, we also talked about: 
  • his ambition to be a poet
  • his early career as a novelist and academic
  • why Oxford didn't inspire him as a writer
  • his memories of literary students and England's intellectual culture
  • Chadhuri's first visits to England in the 1970s
  • racism, Enoch Powell and Margaret Thatcher
  • why Chaudhuri wrote about undergraduate days in London
  • how a memoir became a novel thanks to Homer's Odyssey
  • how Chaudhuri's Uncle Radesh the uncle in Odysseus Abroad
  • how a charcoal sketch, 'Ulysses', by the Indian painter FN Sousa shaped the character of Uncle Radesh
  • Uncle Radesh becomes Odysseus, Chaudhuri becomes Telemachus
  • ten years later, Chaudhui begins to write a memoir
  • how Stephen Daedelus turned the book into a novel about unhappiness and alienation in London
  • how an Indian literary student reads Shakespeare's Sonnet 18: 'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?'
  • 'I learned about language through the weather. I also learned about my love of light and of life through London'
  • the importance of travel and living 'abroad' for Chaudhuri's writing
  • poetry as Chaudhuri's first love
  • 'I am far more excited by discovering the German poet Gunter Eich than anything on the Booker Prize shortlist, with very good reason'
  • time, slowness and Chaudhuri's prose
  • popular culture and why Chaudhuri loves The Simpsons

Amit Chaudhuri's website can be found here

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