tv Talking Books at Hay Festival 2018 BBC News June 16, 2018 2:30pm-3:01pm BST
how do you feel? very this. how do you feel? very emotional, and a bit numb. it is ha rd emotional, and a bit numb. it is hard to believe this has happened. it is very upsetting. it is part of the soul of glasgow and we want to keep it that way for the future. susan, the leader of glasgow city council, thanks for joining susan, the leader of glasgow city council, thanks forjoining us. a couple of dozen people had to be evacuated overnight but they might get back into their homes, but the priority remains on dampening down this fire. lorna, thanks forjoining us. thank you very much indeed. lorna gordon, live in glasgow. time for an update on the weather. i'm not going to move you very far. this is the scene in south lanarkshire. if you know sheila, tell her she has been on the telly, and it may cheer her up. the weather is not looking good. it will improve slowly. it is notjust lanarkshire.
eventually the rain will clear away but it will take awhile to get away from the north—east of scotland. clearing skies overnight. some brightness in the west to finish the day. temperatures in single figures. that is not the case in the south west because the cloud will thicken all the while during the early hours. then rain, northern ireland, down towards wales and the south—west. maybe the west of scotla nd south—west. maybe the west of scotland as well. you will lose some sunshine evening news, but the best prospects for sunshine will be in the east of scotland and england. top temperatures around 18. the week ahead and settled for scotland and northern ireland. warming up in the south. see you later. —— unsettled for scotland. this is bbc news. our latest headlines: fire has broken out for a second time in four years at one of scotland's architectural landmarks, the glasgow school of art. there has been extensive damage.
the government has said it will help with restoring the building. we do not know what the structural damage is, the damage to the stonework, so i think it is too early to say what is going to be required, but what i can say, absolutely, is we will be there to help. the home secretary uses an exceptional power to release illegal cannabis oil to severely epileptic billy caldwell after doctors said it was a "medical emergency". his family say the substance helps keep life—threatening seizures at bay. billy is getting the best care in the world here, and i feel safe here at this particular hospital with billy. so, again, it isjust one step at a time, praying for a miracle, really. and andy murray confirms he will make his competitive return from hip surgery at queen's next week. now on bbc news, award—winning indian writer and publisher anuradha roy speaks to gavin esler at hay festival.
hello and welcome to talking books, from hay festival. every year, writers, politicians and thinkers from around the world come here to wales to discuss books and big ideas. my guest today is anuradha roy, a writer whose four novels dissect the society and culture of her native india. anuradha roy, welcome to talking books. thank you. applause now, i've just finished your latest novel, and i wanted to give everybody watching and listening a flavour of your writing, and maybe if you'd be kind enough just to start. we'll talk about the book
in detail later, but this is all the lives we never lived. could you read the opening paragraph? in my childhood, i was known as the boy whose mother had run off with an englishman. the man was in fact german, but in small—town india in those days, all white foreigners were largely thought of as british. this unconcern for accuracy annoyed my scholarly father, even in circumstances as dire as losing his wife to another man. now, when i read that, i couldn't then stop reading. that is a great opening paragraph. did you... in terms of the craft of writing, when you sit down, is that something you revised and revised and revised? is that somehow.. because it does set out all the themes of the book. a young boy who grows up, but his life is entirely changed
because his mother ran away. i normally rewrite beginnings endlessly, and in my first book, what i thought was the beginning ended up in the middle, when i had finished the book. with this paragraph, i started the book and that was how it came, and not a word of it changed, right through many, many drafts. and it is terribly engaging for all sorts of reasons. first of all, we feel immediate empathy for the child, don't we? but we also understand that his father is a bit of a pedant, and this is something that you have explored throughout the book. and it is set, as all your books are, really, against the developing politics of 20th and 21st century india, the family's story and then the background. yes, this book is actually set in the time when the second world war is about to begin. and for india itself, it's a time when the fight for freedom from colonialism is reaching ahead. and this is a war which will also
lead to about a million indians becoming soldiers for the british empire, and so for families, losing their sons and husbands and so on. and it's a war which will lead to the bengal famine, which happened because food grain was diverted to british soldiers. so as a result, the situation at home is a very fraught one, because the father is a political man. he is part of the freedom struggle. he is part of the gandhian freedom struggle. and in his view, when there is a political crisis of this magnitude in the country, you need to put aside all your other, you know, your intellectual or artistic pursuits, and devote yourself to the struggle, and this is what he wants his wife to do. and she, on the other hand, is a painter who thinks that
individual humanity needs to be preserved at all costs, whatever the politics around it. let's go back to how you actually started, because your first book, an atlas of impossible longing, how did you get that published? i finished atlas. i was a publisher, i still am in my other life. and so after i finished atlas, i thought, how hard can this be? i know absolutely everybody. and so my book will be out, in, you know, a year, whatever time it takes to typeset a book. and i sent that out, and at that time there was no e—publishing, so if you wanted to be read across the world, and it is a book in english, you had to approach publishers, especially in britain. and then it kept getting rejected. 16 times it got rejected, and a whole year and a half passed. and then i came to the london book fair, where i was at the seminar
where six publishers were to speak on publishing. and absolutely every one of them spoke on the bottomline and product placement, except the very last publisher, christopher maclehose, who had just started his press. and he actually talked about building a list, and about which authors would you want sitting around a table with you. gosh, a publisher who talked about books rather than about sales! it's shocking. i hope nobody here is going to emulate it. so how did you get on with maclehose? so he was very eloquent, but also quite frightening, because he's very tall, and i'm not. so i had to pluck up courage and go to him at the end of it and say, will you read my book, because nobody else wants to read it. and he took away 50 pages, and read those, and ultimately he has published all
my books since then. and an atlas of impossible longing, again it explores, it seems to me anyway, the things you continue to explore, which is partly the caste system, whether people's lives are determined at birth, whether they're a boy or a girl, and so on. so it's actually quite intimate things, quite sensitive things in india today. well, i think that the common strand running through all the books, if i look at them from the outside, is that the books are about power. and they're about the play of power within small settings, like small households or small towns, but that these structures of power are actually replicated in the wider world, so that when you talk about these small things, what you're saying is something much bigger. so in atlas of impossible longing,
i have a character who is orphan caste, because he's an orphan, and he doesn't know who he is, and there is also a widow. so a woman, particularly one without a husband, and a lower—caste man or woman, these are the lowest—power people in indian society, today and earlier, and i was interested in looking at how, you know, you could overturn this. in atlas, when he becomes the person, towards the end of the book, who controls everything and so the book is actually written in two voices. the first half happens in the third person, and then suddenly it's his voice that we hear, because i wanted him then to say, this is my turn. and without giving too much away, it is, at its heart, a love story, isn't it? it's quite an engaging love story, but a very difficult one. a romeo and juliet—type love story, which is an impossible love story,
or seems to me. it's a transgressive love, because he grows up as a child in a household where he is part servant and part... his identity is very indeterminate. you don't quite know, is he a son, is he an adopted child, or is he a servant? and then there's this attraction with the girl, who is actually the daughter of the owner of the house. so this is why the love story is complicated. and in terms of power and powerlessness, there is an elderly woman character whose powerlessness manifests itself in comic ways, because she bursts into swearing outbursts at really inappropriate times, which is very funny, but it is also very dark and sad. yes, it's actually a disease where your gestures and your words are not entirely in your control. and this woman who has not been able to speak,
you know, to say to her extremely patriarchal husband what she actually thinks and wants, her desires are always subordinated to his. i thought of this swearing as a way in which she actually expresses herself. her swearing sounds like nonsense, but she's actually telling them exactly what she wants to say. when i read that book, i thought of that phrase from thoreau that the majority of men live lives of quiet desperation. and that is her life as well, and it's the life of pretty much all the characters. sometimes they burst out, in her case, to not—so—quiet desperation. yes, in that book, everybody is quite solitary. you're quite right, because even the widow's character, who i found quite painful to write, she has come there to look after the children, because there's no other young woman in the house.
and she is dependent on this family because, as an indian widow of that time, she has very few ways of earning money. and many things are forbidden to her, including eating fish and meat and garlic and onion, and she can't wear coloured clothes. this, fortunately, is now all in the past, in most places. how does this go down in india? we see the modernisation of india, we don't tend to see this. and that was what was so revelatory, to me, at least. when you see essays written by an economist who still works on poverty, and you know exactly what levels of illiteracy, poverty, hunger and lack of public health exists in india, aside from the fact that 50% of the population, that is the women, are oppressed, it's a society that has become violent towards women in frightening ways. and this is hidden by this
whole success story, which is the only thing that the big media likes to write about, so this is what people read about. inequality has become incredibly, you know, noticeable. it wasn't this way when i was growing up, because it was, you know, still a pre—liberalisation country, and we were all unhappy together, in a sense. but now there is just so much, and there are people standing outside the glass window and looking in, all the time. now the most disturbing of your books, i've found, in some ways, which touches on these things was sleeping onjupiter, which at its core it is a story of sexual abuse in india. it's very disturbingly told, as well, because it involves children. in this case, it's a little refugee girl who has been supposedly adopted by an ashram that will look after her.
and instead she finds herself trapped in a place where the head person is a violent sexual abuser. and when i wrote it, it was very odd, because i wrote this book, and after that we have had a series of actual god men who had done exactly what is in the book. these god men are extremely powerful. they have the patronage of powerful politicians, who are superstitious, and this means that they can get away with almost anything. under the disguise of religion, you can be — have unquestioned power. maybe you could do one short reading or so on this. and again, it begins with the powerful, and it ends with the powerless, because it's a point where a very senior politician comes to the ashram, and she is there. a satin cushion kept
guruji's feet off the floor. some favoured devotees sat at the edges of the stage. they came one by one, stretched themselves full—length, and touched their foreheads to the floor in front of his feet. dazzling light shone on guruji, changing from gold to orange. his skin gleamed under the lights. the people in the hall craned their necks for a glimpse, and chanted his name. only i knew he had a stump between his legs oozing slime. how does that go down in india? i was quite apprehensive when this book was published, and so was my publisher. and there were a fair number of people who,
of course, objected to it. you know, there is this sense among some people who read in india, not all, that when you write about it, then it has to be some kind of nice tourist brochure, that tells people how nice india is, and that if you write about what you perceive, and it may be not so pleasant, then you are in some senses being disloyal to your country, or being unpatriotic, so... is it dangerous to write this kind of stuff? because you know some of these god men have followers who are very violent, and have been violent recently. yes. in fact, when the last god man got arrested, somebody discovered this book. and there were a lot of tweets and so on, mentioning this book, and saying, isn't it uncanny how like him it is? and i started to feel worried at that time. you know, most writers in india now feel a sense
of being threatened, because you... it's not as if books have not been banned before. but now it is as if there are these very shadowy mobs out there who can find you. and you know perfectly well you are not going to be protected by the state. we read here about the rape of an 8—year—old girl, for example. utterly shocking. what is actually going on there? is it the use of sexual brutality as a kind of political weapon, or a weapon between religions, or what? it has become just a straightforward means of asserting power. it is a way of showing a woman her place in some instances. in the case of this woman, this little girl, the 8—year—old girl in kashmir, it was five men raping one little 8—year—old girl.
and according to the police report, they even phoned a friend in another city to come and join them, because this thing went on for about a week, until they had killed the girl and found the criminals. maybe we can turn a little bit to how you put yourself in the head of children, for example. because your children narratives, or part narratives, they are wonderful creations and totally believable, it seems to me. and mishkin, who is the narrator at the beginning of your latest book, talking about his mother, and of course he grows up during the course of the book, but how easy or how difficult is it to put yourself in the head of a child who is both immediately sympathetic a character, but also somebody whose naivete about the fact that his mother ran
away is really engaging? yeah. when i was thinking about mishkin, i have had him with me for a few years, asjust a boy who could enter paintings. and that was how this began, because he is a boy with a very vivid visual sense and he enters these paintings and loses himself in them. but then the rest of the story grew around him and it is actually narrated by mishkin when he's much older. so he is thinking back to things in a way that, you know, there is a kind of double prism. he sees himself there as the child and he can see how he was, in a way. he couldn't understand what was going on around him. and as an older man he is trying to make sense of those things that he now sees in quite a different light.
so in this book, the same person actually had to be written as both an old man and a child simultaneously. that is a very clever device, if i may say so, because it means you can combine the naivete of the child with a degree of wisdom from the older person, who can put it into some kind of context. yeah, i was actually not, you know — in sleeping onjupiter when this little girl is a little girl, she is just written straight as a little girl. she is not an older person. so i had to work out a completely different language for her to sink in, and to write in, the way she absorbs the landscape. the whole language of the book in those sections was quite different. but in the case of all the lives we never lived i didn't want to be trapped in the mind of a small boy. i wanted the reflection
and the distance of a grown—up on the thoughts about child. let's have some thoughts from the audience. who would like to start us off? just adding on to the thoughts around the caste system, we have got a couple of offices in calcutta and bangalore. the caste system doesn't come into play at all inside the office environment. it is completely broken down, we are all one team. i am just staggered about how women are treated in india. can you talk more about that? women have a very hard time in india. in fact, the numbers are reducing in the work force. there are many people researching why this is so, when across the world the number of women in the workforce is actually increasing. but in india it has been reducing and their physical safety is a huge concern. when they go out in the evening, if i go out alone, then i am always worried about how i will get home. it is not as though i canjust run into the tube at 9:30pm and i will be fine.
you are always worried about somebody following you or harming you. every single one of my friends have been subjected, as have i, as has almost everybody in india, subjected to some form of harassment or abuse. what i wondered was, where does hope lie, either in yourlife, or in the messages in your writing, that things can actually be better? i am very hopeful that things can be better. through these characters, individuals who really struggle against the circumstances they find themselves in, and often manage to make something different out of their lives, i am trying to say that in these small ways, through individuals, something better and more hopeful might emerge. we have all experienced the rise of social media, with some good things about it and some less good. do you think it is actually a vehicle for the future with the greater ownership of mobile phones, for people in your country to actually, to give voices to the dispossessed and the poor,
and to reduce inequality? is it something that could be a great force for good? it is true that it gives a voice to people who earlier did not have one, but it has also given voice to a lot of people you wish would just shut up. laughter. every single time anyone of us who is a woman writes something, if it is even slightly disturbing to the majority, you just get so much violent abuse online. i don't have a twitter account because i don't want to hear it. recently i had written about this little 8—year—old girl in kashmir. this article came out in april and the abuse is still coming. i wonder if we could talk a little bit more about the craft of writing. how do you write, when do you write,
how quickly do you write, and so on? do you get up early in the morning? i am terrible at getting up early. but i need to get, if i am working on a book i try to get to work by, well, after walking the dogs at ten o'clock. and if i can get in a straight few hours of good writing i find i can go on for the whole day, until late at night. but if i don't get that first thing in the morning, then i am finished. there was one writer, i cannot remember who it was, he said that writing is like stoking a fire. once you get the fire going you can keep it going for a long time. yes, but i wonder why you have to stoke it every day. because you don't get up early enough, that's why! anuradha roy, thank you very much.
i don't know member ourformer colleague they're doing many early shifts! —— remember. this is how the weather watches have been viewing the weather today in the north. looking rather damp, but on improving picture in lancaster. the weather fronts drag their way further to the east. we have had an area low— pressure further to the east. we have had an area low—pressure close to the west of the british isles and that is throwing the cloud across scotland and the north of england and it sickens as it drifts from west to east —— thickens. down into the
western side of england, as well, and eventually everywhere is under clear skies what time until we drag more cloud into the south—western quarter which is why we have six in scotla nd quarter which is why we have six in scotland and 13 in cardiff and down into plymouth. just watch out, if you need dry weather, the western wiles and northern ireland, you have got to be up and about sunday, because you will get thickening cloud and there will be some rain, not with the intensity we have seen in northern britain, and generally speaking it will be the north east of scotla nd speaking it will be the north east of scotland with some of the driest and warmest weather and it will be that bad in the eastern side of england. with the exception of the pollen levels, still pretty much on the high side, grass is the main cause. thickening cloud and rain keeping the pollen levels of bit more moderated in the western side of england and wales. this is the start of the new week, low—pressure close by to iceland, and raining yet
again for northern ireland and the western side of scotland, not too much initially, but the odd moderate burst coming through westerly breeze, and further south and east, some dry weather to behold, and the south—east having the best the sunshine. 25 may be in east anglia, but under the cloud and rain further north back towards the mid—teens. the headline probably being made in the first half of next week in terms of the warm weather in the southern counties, but further north there are fronts for scotland and northern ireland. this is bbc news. i'm vicki young. the headlines at 3. a second major fire in four years at one of scotland's architectural landmarks, the glasgow school of art. the scale of damage is extensive.
scotland's first minister, nicola sturgeon, has been visiting the scene and talking to emergency services. it is actually quite hard to find the words, given what happened four yea rs the words, given what happened four years ago, the fact it was so close to being reopened after the restoration, that this has happened again. the home secretary uses exceptional powers to release illegal cannabis oil to severely epileptic billy caldwell. the medication has now been administered. his mother remains at the hospital. billy is getting the best care in the world here,