I am not sure if any other author has experienced this—Recently I was invited to a book fair held at a local school, and an announcement was made that I was available to sign books. A few people did buy my books and bring them to me to sign, but many more brought me other authors’ books! At first I refused but they seemed so disappointed. A compromise was worked out. I would sign at the back of other authors’ books, and in the front for my own. Then there was someone who kept waiting, he said, for my signature, even after I had signed. He expected a fancy and complicated signature, not the simple way I sign.
One 12th class student announced, as she gave me another person’s books to sign, that she had finished with history as she was going to be an accountant. Can one ever finish with history? That may be the topic of my next talk. I had earlier spoken to them about sources in the context of Ashoka, his grand inscriptions, and his policy of dhamma. Could one ever forget him, and so much else of the past?
Recently I was part of a panel discussion at a literary festival, with the topic ‘Literature and history’. The topic generated a number of thoughts which we could not discuss because of the limited time available–Here are some random thoughts.
History and literature are closely connected, as most books are set in a time and place, which can provide a historical background. In addition there are categories of literature that are more closely related to history, biography, memoir, historical fiction. Some books deal with a particular event. Fiction generated by a historical event is usually based on some disastrous occurrences–for instance in India, Partition or the Emergency. Such fiction provides an intensity and a desire to discover more about an event that may be not known to too many. Fiction resulting from the World Wars and the Cold War is well known. These are just one or two examples of this vast genre of literature.
Apart from this, there is a huge body of historical literature, literature of the past, that includes within it all categories, i.e., poetry, drama, stories, religion, myths and legends, and everything else. Literature of the past exists in every country in the world, and can be looked at in two ways. It can be read for pleasure, just as we would read today’s works, or it can be used to analyse various aspects of earlier times. For India, I would include here not just very early works, but everything up to about 1945. This literature exists in numerous languages, beginning with early Sanskrit, classical Sanskrit, Prakrits, Pali, Apabhramsa, Tamil, and later all the regional languages and English.
I would like to post more on this theme, and perhaps we could have some guest posts too?