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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Thursday, 6 December 2007

A quick take

Eli Amir says... starts off my new literary blog.

David Davidar, famed for his debut novel The House of Blue Mangoes and who is currently President and Publisher of Penguin Books, Canada, joined us at the Singapore Writers' Festival, 2-day symposium, today and took up the coffee queue with good humour.

He had earlier appeared for Singapore's Channel News Asia, on its breakfast show where he spoke very quickly on his tightrope balance as a writer and publisher. The author who has edited famous Indian novelists like Vikram Seth, Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy, stressed that he had to acquire a brutal balance for himself while writing novels and keeping his publishing career on an even ground.

He enthused that it was common knowledge daily at the office to come across pitfalls, diffculties, painful truths and struggles; the kinds that faced authors and of how they would have to compete heavily to survive the world of books.

"So challenging are the upheavals that if as a writer, I think about what I see at the office everyday, I'd never be able to write a single sentence," he says. "This makes the balance between writing and publishing not delicate as it is brutal. I have to forget completely that I work as a publisher. Switch off totally and as I write, think only of my book. Otherwise, there's no way in my profession now that I could stay an author," he added.
He too asks himself, many questions of a writer grasping with its roots. "Am I really an Indian writing novels in the West," he would muse. "And who am I really as an Indian novelist?" "Have I robbed myself of my heritage, not writing in India?" He has still not found the answers but feels that it is the very puzzlement of identity, heritage and location that spurs him on to keep up with the writing.

Later at the festival, David Davidar would say that he didn't believe in self-publishing unless it was a do-it-yourself manual. "If you think your story is good, then somewhere a publisher should be able to take it on," he concluded.
Davidar who completed a course in publishing at Harvard, launched his newest novel, The Solitude of Emperors in September. He used Harper Collins as a publisher even for The House of Blue Mangoes simply because he didn't care for people commenting that he published his own writing under Penguin, as an easy advantage. He approached publishers in the UK under a pen-name and only revealed his identity on acceptance of the manuscript.

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