Powerful writing sheds light on darkness: Atwood

Jaipur: Powerful writing has been shedding light on darkness, be it darkness of regimes, poverty, discrimination of certain sections or atrocities against women, according to Man Booker Prize winning Canadian author and poet Margaret Atwood.

The 76-year-old prolific author spoke about the “many darkness” in the “very optimistic act of writing” and on other issues in her keynote address at the inauguration of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) here today.

She termed the annual jamboree as a service to readers and also writers.
“For what do the authors get? They get you, his/her other half, the dear reader, the musician of the book. As every musician plays his or her own interpretation of the music,” she said.

For her, a positive of attending a literary festival in a different country is getting a sliver of another nation.

“This festival is a feast of words and books, and it is a happy beginning,” she said and called India’s literature as both huge and complicated.

“Here we all are to celebrate books, authors, writing and reading. For writers and readers are joined at the hip.”

Apart from 15 novels, Atwood has also published 17 books of poetry and 10 non fiction books.

Many of her poems have been inspired by myths and fairy tales, which have been interests of hers from an early age.

“In an age that persecutes deviance, you can enrich your mind by being the possessor of a dangerous story. Words are powerful which means that words can also be fatal. Sounds a little dark for this occasion,” Atwood said.

She said there are two more optimistic things about this optimistic art.
“It is the primary way through which the unknown, the obscure can become known. Not much money is needed to write, only time and determination.

“All over the world, writing has been the means whereby light has been shed on darkness, whether it was the darkness of regimes, the darkness of poverty or the darkness of the discrimination of certain sections or atrocities against women. There have many darknesses, but there are also many voices.

“The second is that reading is increasing, though the platforms may be changing with the advent of Internet, people are able to access work which they couldn’t have earlier. In places where people can’t afford books, there is a cellphone.”

In a session that was filled with her characteristic humour, Atwood also recalled her last trip to India.

“The last time I came to India was 27 years ago. There were no (literary) festivals at that time. Amazing changes in short space of time,” she said.

Atwood, who won the Booker for “The Blind Assassin” in 2000, said JLF had an amazing achievement of starting off as a very small festival to become the “largest free book festival in the entire world”. Atwood, whose latest book has been described as a comically fearful dystopian fiction written in a serialised form for her digital publisher, spoke about writing as an “optimistic” act.

“If you have publication in mind, you are looking at the great unknown — sea, the ocean, the vast universal reader into which you plan to throw your tiny bottle of a book with your poetry or story enclosed within it. Will anyone ever find it, will anyone ever read it? Writing is a very optimistic act,” she said.

Atwood, who has also has published short stories and collections of unclassifiable short prose works, pointed out that due to multiple platforms, readership has increased and books have become more accessible to common people.