Bringing to light... the human side
SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY in conversation with well-known Australian author Kate Grenville whose award-winning novel "The Idea of Perfection" is now available in Indian bookstores.
Photo: Sandeep Saxena.
Spreading `The Idea Of Perfection'... Kate Grenville In New Delhi.
IT IS not Kate Grenville's first trip to India. But the second `Eastward Ho!' for this well-known Australian author just recently is certainly more momentous. Published by Penguin, her fifth novel "The Idea of Perfection" has just hit the Indian market.
All excited about it, Grenville, on a promotional tour to New Delhi, hopes to rope in "the vast Indian population of book readers" with the thread of commonality that binds all souls to one pole after all.
"To elaborate my point, while we read American novels with words like sidewalk and faucet, we try to find out their meanings and then realise that we call them footpath and tap. Similarly, in Australian books, you find words like chooks, waggas, dunnies and devon, etc. Also, in Indian novels in English, we come across typically Indian words. But by different names, they do exist in every society. So, in the `otherness' of it, you actually find a commonality and it is this essence that I am trying to bring in not only through `The Idea of Perfection' alone but through my pen generally," Grenville underlines. And in "The Idea of Perfection", she brings in more the "humanness" of her main characters - Doughlas Cheeseman and Harley Savage - that one can identify with across hemispheres.
But in contrast with history.
"I generally don't want to dispute with history while narrating a story. But distorting it a bit also gives readers an idea which is quite interesting. Ultimately though, in this book, I tried to look at how an idea of perfection is not a viable idea but that of humanness is," explains the author of critically acclaimed works like "Lilian's Story", "Joan Makes History", "Dreamhouse" and "Bearded Ladies: Stories."
In "The Idea of Perfection", this Sydney resident characterises Douglas as a divorced middle-aged man "you'd never glance at twice" and Harley as an "uncompromising" woman who "has gone through three husbands." Both meet in a dying country town Karakarook. Over the fate of old Bent Bridge, they come closer not only to make a choice between history and modernity along with other town residents but also to decide as whether to leave behind their personal baggage and sew up a working relationship between them.
Grenville, meanwhile, fleshes the tale with a rather out-of-the-ordinary narrative, using a symbol here, a word play there, picking up thus many rave reviews across Europe, healthy royalty and also the highest British literary award Orange Prize for Fiction in 2001. One of the interesting narrative techniques she employs in the book is the use of italics in her characters' conversations. Responding to it, the lady says, "I wanted to highlight the point how people in the novel are all hiding their real selves from each other, and even possibly from themselves. I wanted the readers to know this. Also, since italics is a way to draw attention to words, with a light touch though, I wanted to put a bit of feeling of irony around them, the job done by the tone of voice in a conversation."
With so much thought gone to inject life into dead words, no wonder then, she is now Australian's one of the finest writers with a wide worldwide readership. With an interesting professional background, which spans from working as a film critic to teaching to being a typist and a journalist and then to become a writer in 1985 with the release of "Lilian's Story", Grenville has also picked on her way the Vogel/Australian Award and was shortlisted for Miles Franklin Award besides of course, her novels including "The Idea of Perfection" translated into many European languages. With the halo of her short, frizzy, amber hued hair, a ready smile on her bespectacled face radiant in the Delhi afternoon sun, Grenville says, "Both India and Australia have taken the English language and have infused the smell of their own freshness. Lets hope we find a thicker thread binding us together." An appealing possibility we say.
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