de Krishna Baldev Vaid
recueillis par Philippe Pratx
pour La Nouvelle
Revue de l'Inde et
Connu dès les années
soixante comme un des piliers du "nouveau roman" hindi, Krishna Baldev Vaid
est l'auteur d'une vingtaine de romans, de pièces de théâtre et de critiques
littéraires. C'est à l'occasion de la traduction en français, par l'éditeur
suisse Infolio, de son livre Requiem pour un autre temps que nous lui
avons posé nos questions et qu'il a eu la gentillesse de nous répondre...
KBV : It's my misfortune that I am
not a familiar name among French readers even though I have had four books
published previously in France--two volumes of short stories. a short novel
entitled "Lila", and a play. I hope the translation of my novel, "Guzara Hua
Zamana" by my friend and a consummate translator of Hindi fiction, Annie Montaut,
will introduce me and my work to a wider circle of French readers. By way of
introducing myself to my French readers, I would like to stress the fact that I
have been profoundly influenced in my formative years by the French avant-garde
of the late nineteenth century and early 20th century in literature and the fine
arts -- Jarry, Apollinaire, Lautréamont, Tzara, Breton, Proust, Henri Michaux
and many others. I have experimented with narrative structure right from the
beginning. I have tried to avoid the beaten track and taken risks unlike many of
my contemporaries. I chose to write in Hindi even though I knew English rather
well and earned my living as a professor of English in India and U. S. A. I
thought writing in Hindi was more of a challenge for me than writing in English.
I think I will stop here because I do not find it easy or comfortable in talking
about my work -- I have a fear that I will become immodest if I say more. I am by
nature rather diffident.
KBV : I think I was 'infected'
rather early in my school years. By the time I reached the university as a
student, I knew that I'd earn my living as a university teacher and devote
myself to writing creatively. A few teachers in my high school and college
detected my 'infection' and nursed my talent by encouraging me. An inclement
environment at home drove me inward and enriched my imagination, I believe.
KBV : It will be a long list, I'm
afraid, but I will restrict myself to mention the ones I admire most: Tagore,
Prem Chand, Nirala, Nirmal Verma (even though I am also critical of his
limitations and failings as a writer), Vinod Kumar Shukla, Ashok Vajpeyi,
Krishna Sobti, Shamsher Bahudur Singh, Muktibodh , U.R.Anantamurthy, Rajinder
Singh Bedi, Bibhuti Bhushan Bandopadhyaya , Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Mulk Raj Anand,
Raja Rao. Amnd world wriuters: Shakespeare, Racine, Cervantes, Laurence Stern,
Henry James, Flaubert, Dostoevesky, Tolstoy, Goncharov, Babel, Proust, James
Joyce, Beckett, Marquez, Virginia Woolfe, Michaux, Eliot, Pound, Mann, Goncharov,
Neruda, E.M.Cioran and several more.
KBV : Indian literature is written
in more than 18 major languages and English. Unfortunately in the West modern
Indian literature written directly in English is mistakenly considered as the
only Indian literature worth serious attention. That is not the case. Of course
there are some very good Indian writers in English -- Vikram Seth, Salman
Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh, Anita Desai and a few others but there are many average
and below average Indo-Anglian writers as well. The language letters are ignored
even when they are well-translated. Translation from Indian languages other than
English is problematic, and there are not many great translators. Annie Montaut,
I believe, is an exceptional translator from Hindi fiction.
I have an ambivalent attitude to modern Hindi and Urdu literature.
I admire many writers but find many more poor and timid and hampered by their
inhibitions and their mistaken regard for progressivism and social
responsibility as writers. Many of them still view concern for form and style
with suspicion and keep on producing literature that is not very different from
journalism. However, I have faith in the young writers even though I wish they
were more audacious and iconoclastic in their writing.
KBV : Guzara Hua Zamana is a
belated sequel to my very first novel, Uska Bachpan (Steps in Darkness in
English translation by me). Uska Bachpan is the cornerstone of my fiction in
more senses than one. It concentrates on a lower middle class family as seen and
experienced by a young boy Birou who is extremely sensitive,, precocious,
morbid, and imaginative. The locale is a very small town in pre-partition Panjab.
Guzara Hua Zamana is narrated by the same Birou who is now in a college away
from his hometown but back home during summer vacation. There are portents of
fear and turmoil in that small town where Birou has grown up. I have attempted
to offer a fictional microcosm of the macrocosm of tensions between Hindus and
Sikhs on the one side and Muslims on the other. Birou and a bunch of his
friends--Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs--become the troubled conscience of the tense
town. They and a group of half-crazed alienated elders provide the core of
sanity and clarity that stands against hatred and violencebut is unable to
overcome it. It is a novel rich in black humour and fantastic characters. It is
an important element of my oeuvre.
KBV : No, I don't think I can write
the same novel on the same topic today. But my experience of Partition of India
was very traumatic, perhaps the most traumatic; and I had to write Guzara Hua
Zamana in order to go on living and writing about other things. It took me
twenty five years to relive the trauma and write Guzara Hua Zamana.
KBV : There is a lot of Krishna
Baldev Vaid in Birou. Of course, there is a lot of imaginative distortion also
there. But I believe that the character and the mind of the novelist permeates
his entire work and especially that part of it which comes out of his or her
KBV : I attach a lot of importance
to style and stylists are my favourite writers. My style has been formed by my
early exposure to Urdu and classical Persian and a bit of Arabic. I had an
excellent Urdu and Persian teacher in my high school in that small town on which
the unnamed small town of Uska Bachpan and Guzara Hua Zamana is based. I learnt
Hindi on my own later while I was at college. I have kept the door of my
consciousness open to Urdu and Persian. My choice of words is governed by
considerations of euphony--sound is as important to me as sense. I think in my
best sentences I am able to create a kind of music. My Hindi is richer because
of my Urdu and Persian. I take many risks in style; I think of style as an
excitement because of the risks I take, almost intuitively.
KBV : The Indo-Pak situation is
farcical at times and dangerous most of the time. Pakistan is hung up about
Kashmir and cannot forget India's role in the secession of what is now
Bangladesh from Pakistan. The nuclear rivalry and parity complicates matters
further. But I believe that if Pakistan can get rid of its reliance on its
Generals and succeeds in establishing a stable and noisy democratic civil
government that is genuinely interested in the economic and social welfare of
its people, all its problems with India can be resolved and the borders can
cease to be barriers between the two countries. I may be wrong but I blame
Pakistan more than I do India for the tension between the two countries.
KBV : I have not decided to leave
India. In actual fact, I have been dividing my time between India and U.S.A ever
since my voluntary early retirement from teaching in 1985. Technically I was a
resident of U.S.A throughout this period and a citizen of India. I am still a
citizen of India and a resident of U.S.A. We cannot continue to go back and
forth between India and USA as we have been doing so far. So we will be spending
more time in USA where our children and grandchildren are and not in India where
our friends and roots are. 5 hope I will be able to write something of value out
of this experience as well.
KBV : I have been at work on a
novel for the past seven years; I hope I will continue to bend over it. I'd love
to have all my work translated into French--novels, short stories, plays,
diaries--because France is the second spiritual home of all writers and artists.
La Revue de l'Inde