Top 100 Amitava Kumar Quotes

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“India allows you the luxury of a million inequalities. You can be a schoolboy selling tea to passengers sitting in a state transport bus, but you are royalty when compared to a shirtless, barefoot village boy, from what was traditionally considered an untouchable caste, living on snails and small fish – and sometimes rats.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Culture survives in smaller spaces – not in the history books that erect monuments to the nation’s grand history but in cafes and cinema houses, village squares, and half-forgotten libraries.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Each employed immigrant has his or her place of work. It is only the taxi driver, forever moving on wheels, who occupies no fixed space. He represents the immigrant condition.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Mistaken identity, of course, has been the province of much postcolonial fiction. An important feature of this writing is the manner in which misrecognition has haunted all cognition.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Hemingway’s short story ‘Hills Like White Elephants’ is a classic of its kind. It illustrates Hemingway’s ‘iceberg theory,’ which requires that a story find its effectiveness by hiding more than it reveals.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Muslim anger has, of course, been stoked by America’s war in Iraq and by Israel’s brutal policies toward Palestine and Lebanon.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I thought I’d be the first to introduce herbal tea to Patna. White tea, ginger tea, rooibos, camomile. No one touched it. On subsequent visits, I’d find the packets decorating the shelves in my parents’ dining room.”

― Amitava Kumar

“The writer will write in his or her words, but the readers, even when they are not reading you, will take it elsewhere entirely.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Imagination makes us shape better stories, sure, but it also allows us to multiply possibilities.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Long ago, when I was in higher secondary school in Delhi, I read an essay by George Orwell in which he said there was a voice in his head that put into words everything he was seeing. I realised I did that, too, or maybe I started doing it in imitation.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I think criticism is often so pallid, so tame. I wish it were more performative.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Even fake news tries to convince us of its reality, but it does so mostly by appealing to your preconceived notions, your shared biases, or your prejudice. How to do the opposite? To create a sense of the real and then challenge your biases. I think that is my favourite aspect of writing, and that is what I’ve tried to do in ‘The Lovers.’”

― Amitava Kumar

“It is clear from Salman Rushdie’s writing that politics and literature cannot be separated. Everything is political.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Criticism is, or ought to be, a judicious act.”

― Amitava Kumar

“A long, negative review I wrote of Rushdie’s novel ‘Fury’ earned me a rebuke from the writer: He told an administrator at the college where I teach, and who had invited Rushdie to come speak, that he wouldn’t share the stage with me.”

― Amitava Kumar

“For some members of the radical Left, particularly in the West, people in developing countries are an ideological abstraction, on whom fantasies of liberation are projected from a comfortable distance.”

― Amitava Kumar

“No civilization has a monopoly on tolerance; each is capable of bigotry.”

― Amitava Kumar

“In the way in which we are living in a much more explosive and more tension-filled society, a society that is driven with more and more contradictions, it is but unavoidable that some of this will also come into cinema. I would, in fact, argue that a part of it is borrowed from Hollywood. It’s as if Quentin Tarantino has come to Mumbai.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Indian writers in English are rank individualists. Even among the progressives, there is a strain of anti-leftism, or at least a suspicion of any organized politics.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Neither the writer nor the reader can save the world by themselves. Or escape it entirely.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I have to tell you, when I hear the song ‘Jiya ho Bihar ke Lala,’ I want to throw the history books out of the window and dance!”

― Amitava Kumar

“Hindi writing, as well as Hindi journalism, is a great gift to Indian writing.”

― Amitava Kumar

“My past makes me an insider, but my profession makes me an outsider. A writer always stands outside to report on reality.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I have always kept notes and have kept letters from my friends and mother, which is rather depressing, as it takes you to the past.”

― Amitava Kumar

“In fiction, you don’t invent the events. What is imaginative about it is the consciousness: how you think about the events and how you present them. And that changes the nature of everything, and that is the attraction of writing fiction.”

― Amitava Kumar

“My own personal conviction is that if I were writing without thinking about how images or how journalism is creating a world for us, I would not be happy about it.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I don’t think any writer is a friend to the reader if he or she is not funny.”

― Amitava Kumar

“The lives of the young are so tumultuous.”

― Amitava Kumar

“For years, in the wake of Rushdie, I had imagined magical realism to be the last refuge of the non-resident Indian.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Authenticity does matter, but only as it serves the novel’s more traditional literary demands: that the fault lines be drawn where the internal life and the larger world meet.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Such is the impurity of our enterprise, as writers or as critics, that even in the act of proclaiming our freedom from the demands of authenticity, we are never free from brandishing it.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I enjoy the inventive ways in which language is manipulated to make meaning.”

― Amitava Kumar

“A writer can be subjective, even digressive, or introspective and certainly judgmental. This is a simplification, of course, but as a general rule, it holds true.”

― Amitava Kumar

“To my mind, a journalist needs to espouse objectivity and distance, while a writer practises an art that is more free.”

― Amitava Kumar

“The thing about good art is that it makes you look at things in a new way.”

― Amitava Kumar

“For me to say that all novels in English written by Indians are all alike would be a bit like saying that all the cows in India look the same and have identical horns.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Ideally, I’d like to write poetry for public performances and prose for a different, more contemplative kind of consumption.”

― Amitava Kumar

“In ‘Bombay-London-New York,’ I speak of the ways in which the ‘soft’ emotion of nostalgia is turned into the ‘hard’ emotion of fundamentalism.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Capitalism might everywhere be spreading havoc, but it is also triumphant everywhere.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Why does the American cyberindustry have a thing for Indians?”

― Amitava Kumar

“Does the entry of Indian H-1B worker augur a change in the relations of production in the world of cybertechnology? No, but the presence of such workers – their skills and their histories – introduce contradictions into the system that are not always easily absorbed or dissolved.”

― Amitava Kumar

“What is said by the person holding a megaphone inciting a crowd, or what is said by someone who incites a rumour? And what is the difference between that person and me, sitting in my room imagining something, telling a story?”

― Amitava Kumar

“What is the difference between the novelist and the liar? At some moments, I have often wondered.”

― Amitava Kumar

“If the 20th century was marked by travel – planes in flight – then the events of 9/11 ushered in the age of the burning aftermath.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I should not romanticize the simplicity of a village. For instance, the place from where I used to buy a packet of glucose biscuits in my village is now selling cellphones.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I was pretty aimless as a youth, especially in Patna. I think reading saved me.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Writing gives me the license to go, explore, and learn about the world.”

― Amitava Kumar

“My favourite writer is John Maxwell Coetzee.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Much of what we regard as truth in the war on terror is actually rather suspect.”

― Amitava Kumar

“In the U.S., the FBI or the people I met from the Department of Justice might be ignorant about Islam or about the East more generally, but I felt they were less willing to make blanket judgments about Muslims. This caution was less evident with some of the authorities I met in India.”

― Amitava Kumar

“You ask a politician a question, like, why they ran in an election, and you’ll hear, I assume, something about wanting to contribute to the community or bring about social justice. I had no such high goals.”

― Amitava Kumar

“A character takes shape in the act of writing. You start with something, and you add or subtract.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I identify in some measure with each of my characters.”

― Amitava Kumar

“With non-fiction, there is the struggle to be accurate. With fiction, it is a bit different: the desire to let imagination take you to new places.”

― Amitava Kumar

“We take literature too seriously.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Bad writing as a conscious goal is liberating for students: They are freed to be creative in a new and different way.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I’m generalizing wildly, but academic books find safety in explanations that reduce the chaos of social life.”

― Amitava Kumar

“To write what is not dead on the page, one has to be open to all kinds of disturbances and challenges and confusion.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I like listening to Garrison Keillor’s ‘The Writer’s Almanac’ with my daughter.”

― Amitava Kumar

“The radio stations will happily recycle a badly worded statement by a politician all day but will steer clear of broadcasting more than once or twice a poem by Tomas Transtromer or Rita Dove.”

― Amitava Kumar

“In 1997, Alain de Botton published his book ‘How Proust Can Change Your Life.’ I was charmed by it. I remember using it in a course on cultural criticism for a graduate class that had a mix of theorists and creative writers.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Like every other self-respecting academic, I’m distrustful of self-help books.”

― Amitava Kumar

“In academe, we ought to temper our criticism of the idea of self-help because, in a more complex way, it is precisely what we offer our students through our teaching.”

― Amitava Kumar

“While I ridicule books of self-help, I’m also quite susceptible to them. They help simplify things.”

― Amitava Kumar

“A wonderful innovation of the Occupy Wall Street movement was the use of the human microphone – the name given to the body of the audience repeating, amplifying, each statement made by the speaker.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Everything in American public life, when it comes to race relations, serves as a frame for a history of violence and degrading humiliation.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I didn’t know V. S. Naipaul very well, and to a large extent, my acquaintance with him was limited to meetings at literary festivals.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I arrived in the U.S. for graduate study in literature in the fall of 1986. I was twenty-three. After a year, I began to paint, even though I had come to the U.S. intending to become a writer.”

― Amitava Kumar

“In the poetry of immigrants, nostalgia is as common as confetti at parades or platitudes at political conventions.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I haven’t reported in grand detail on rituals of American life, road journeys or malls or the death of steel-manufacturing towns. I think this is because I feel a degree of alienation that I cannot combat.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I’ve immersed myself in reading more and more of American literature, but no editor has asked me to comment on Jonathan Franzen or Jennifer Egan. It is assumed I’m an expert on writers who need a little less suntan lotion at the beach.”

― Amitava Kumar

“There is a great deal of freshness and charm in ‘400 Blows.’ There is also a great deal of visual poetry in the way in which Truffaut’s camera looks at his beloved city.”

― Amitava Kumar

“All good works of art must ask this question: ‘You want to breathe free, yes, but do you know how to kiss?’”

― Amitava Kumar

“I have long held that many of the writers and artists working in the aftermath of 9/11 have presented a faux familiarity with the so-called terrorist mind.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Our public culture is one in which only the young and the beautiful will succeed. If you’re forty, you’re finished.”

― Amitava Kumar

“If India breaks your heart with untold inequalities, it also surprises you with the unheralded achievements of its most humble citizens.”

― Amitava Kumar

“An essay is not an op-ed that tells its reader what to think. An essay is a complicated working-out of one’s own contradictions and complicities.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I’m not ashamed to confess that I often note down many of the crazy things my children say.”

― Amitava Kumar

“It’s so easy for folks to normalize their opinions, to engage in a groupthink that is damaging.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Most writers censor themselves in awful ways. I do, too.”

― Amitava Kumar

“When I close my eyes and think of a writer, I don’t imagine him or her as someone who is sitting above me on a pedestal, blindfolded, holding the scales of justice in one hand! No, I see sentences.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Writers interest me for their style, their obsessions, the ways in which they approach the world.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Any real piece of writing is an act of courage.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I grew up in India during the 1960s and ’70s in a meat-eating Hindu family. Only my mother and my grandparents were vegetarians. The rest of us enjoyed eating – on special occasions – chicken or fish or mutton.”

― Amitava Kumar

“A postcolonial writer who has often been credited with mixing the mundane with the magical, and history with fiction, is Salman Rushdie.”

― Amitava Kumar

“We learn that our lives find narrative form neither in the tired, familiar slogans of our captains nor in the symmetries of ideological camps, but in the differences that thrive behind settled, more clear-cut divisions.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I am an artless serf of Cupid.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Inequality reigns in horrifying ways, and not everyone can even read, but the world of media and advertising withholds very little from the imagination of the dispossessed.”

― Amitava Kumar

“India’s nuclear-test blasts have pretty much put to rest the myth of Indians being peace-loving Gandhians.”

― Amitava Kumar

“One of my earliest lessons in guilt was imparted in childhood through the story of the death of Mahatma Gandhi’s father.”

― Amitava Kumar

“’An Obedient Father’ is perhaps the novel that, some might say, Arundhati Roy had wanted to write when she wrote ‘The God of Small Things.’”

― Amitava Kumar

“Novels describe what it means to be alive at a given moment.”

― Amitava Kumar

“When we were getting married the Hindu way in Arrah, we had an old guest who asked my wife what her ‘good name’ was. I think she’d heard that I had married a Muslim. When my wife said, ‘Mona Ahmed Ali,’ the lady looked at me and exclaimed, ‘Oh, so you’ve married a terrorist.’”

― Amitava Kumar

“The recurring question that anyone from Bihar gets is whether Patna has improved. I’m not interested in answering that question.”

― Amitava Kumar

“Governance in India comes in the iron-clad armour of bureaucracy. Anyone in uniform considers it his or her right that we regard them as some sort of deity.”

― Amitava Kumar

“We live in a cynical system where the powerful are able to exploit the demand of the aggressive few, from whichever religion or group, to bargain for more power or cynical advantage.”

― Amitava Kumar

“In the early 1990s, my relatives in Patna, even those who had no interest in reading or writing, wanted Parker fountain pens.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I like to write about real people, real crimes. But what has increasingly come to interest me, and also appear to me as a challenge, is the idea of doing strange things with what is real. Take what is real and make it more or less real.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I have a couple of thick files about things that have gone wrong between people; I ought to write about them in the manner of a thriller. It would finally convince me that I was a real writer.”

― Amitava Kumar

“I was seen as a traitor for marrying a Muslim – a Pakistani at that.”

― Amitava Kumar
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