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Tue, 19 Feb 2013 12:49:43 GMT | By Christina Daniels

I think of myself as a writer rather than a 'woman writer'

Anjum Hasan has emerged as a significant voice amongst contemporary Indian woman writers, and she shares the confidence of the new generation who have moved beyond their gender. She speaks about her work and her perceptions of contemporary women’s writing in India.


I think of myself as a writer rather than a 'woman writer'

Anjum Hasan is a poet, novelist and Books Editor of The Caravan. Over the last decade, each of Anjum’s books have won her accolades. In 2006, her debut collection of poems was published by the Sahitya Akademi. Her debut novel 'Lunatic in my Head' was shortlisted for the Crossword Book Award 2007. Her second novel 'Neti' was on the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize longlist and shortlisted for The Hindu Best Fiction Award in 2010. Her most recent short fiction collection 'Difficult Pleasures' has also made a great beginning on The Hindu Best Fiction Award’s shortlist for 2013. Even as Anjum emerges as a significant voice amongst contemporary Indian woman writers, she shares the confidence of the new generation who have moved beyond their gender. She tells us, “I think of myself as a writer rather than a woman writer”. The world is clearly this writer’s playground.  

As a writer, where do you feel that your novels have found their resonance?

I've been lucky to find a readership for my novels and short stories, even if this readership is by no means huge. It always amazes and humbles me that there continue to be, despite our cynical and distracted times, people who will take the trouble to immerse themselves in an invented world for days or weeks on end. And when they're done, that some of them will seek out the writer to congratulate her or tell her what they thought. It takes a special kind of persistence and passion to do all this.

Who have been important influences in your journey as a writer?

My father because of his love for the English language, my husband because of his disciplined approach to writing, and every book I have read for teaching me how and how not to write.

As a woman author, are there any other woman writers who you have admired?

I think of myself as a writer rather than a 'woman writer'. And yes I do admire other writers, both men and women. Thinking of women writers particularly, I like Marguerite Duras, Mahasweta Devi, Kiran Desai and Arundhati Roy.

Who do you see as the most powerful female characters that you’ve created?

I think Sophie Das, the heroine of my second novel Neti, Neti, is a pretty intense character.

As the Books Editor of the Caravan and an author, how do you feel that women’s writing in India has evolved over the last decade?

I think the category "Women's writing" is getting complicated in this millennium because more women are writing and being published and they are writing about many more things. Or perhaps it was always an academic category rather than a ‘writerly’ one. Women writers do and have written about women's lives but they have also, in the case of such writers as Qurratulain Hyder and Mahasweta Devi, written about many other things.

You’ve been a poet, a novelist, a short story writer and an editor. Where do you feel that you belong? And where would you like to go from here?

The genres are not as important to me as the task of developing my sympathy as a writer. By which I mean being open to what is happening in the world and trying to find a way to bring it into my writing.

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