“Who are my readers?” was the third session of the second day at the Kolkata Literature Festival.
Denes Gazsi, a professor of Middle Eastern languages, being the only non author in the panel, became the moderator for the session.
Natalie Holborrow, being a poet, says, “It’s easier because I’m a poet, but for a novelist, you really need to know your reader.” Whether you are writing for adults or children, makes a big difference.
Vivek Shanbhag, began with elucidating about the relationship between the author and the language. “It is not just an author’s effort or talent, whatever he writes belongs to a larger community. Going deeper, the language, belongs to the entire community so its the authors duty to put in hard work and deliver his best job. Thus, the relationship between the author and the language is very deep and intrinsic.” He thinks, his readers are probably more intelligent than he his and doesn’t believe in the concept of “mass readers”. He assumes the readers to be as conversant in the language as he is. Once he has done this, he gets the ability to be as subtle as possible. That is how, the message is communicated easily and fluidly.
Khaled Alkhamissi, an Egyptian novelist, said that the reader finally is something, that is a part of the author’s imagination. A writer, according to him, should love his writing. The only criteria here is the “writer as a reader.” He went on to talk about the new readers in Egypt and the changing scenario of literature and books in his own country. “Readers are now seeking new horizons and reading new books. An interesting thing in Egypt is that people are now more interested in reading,” he said.
Nishi Chawla, an academician and writer, said, “As an academician, I think of reading as a meaning construction activity.” She thinks of the reader as an active agent who adds meaning and constructs a part of her texts. “The active role of the reader has now come to the forefront. The reader is the one fashioning the meaning while the writer uses his writing as a canvas. The reader adds his or her own interpretation” she said. The fashion changes from a novelist to a poet, but one does definitely thinks about the reader.
“I should write the sort of book that I would like to read,” began Lin Anderson, co-founder of Bloody Scotland Crime writing festival. “People have sometimes had arguments about my central character’s physical appearance, because I didn’t describe it. People add their own imagination to my writing. Theres also a rhythm about writing in Scotland, which tells you which place the author is in,” she said. The really loyal audience, according to her, starts in one’s own home area and then you gradually transcend borders.
The session also discussed the need to comply with current trends and what’s selling. The element of market also does play a huge role in today’s world. Another way of looking at it, is “the urge to understand something happening around us, through writing” and going very deep into it. Vivek Shanbhag talked about the delights when a reader goes deep and finds out something from the writing which the author might not have noticed. Nishi Chawla also read portions from her poetry about the Himalayas.
So we see, a writer and his/her readers are intrinsically bound. Lin Anderson summed up, “A writer creates new worlds and new stories just for the readers. Sometimes, the most moving bits have been when a reader has come up and told me how a book has affected her.”
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