Sunday, October 21, 2007

M.G. Vassanji

M. G. Vassanji is the author of the acclaimed novels: The Gunny Sack, which won a regional Commonwealth Writers’ Prize; No New Land; The Book of Secrets, which won the very first Giller Prize; Amriika; The In-Between World of Vikram Lall, which also received the Giller Prize; and The Assassin's Song.

From a Q & A at the publisher's website:

Q: Please talk a bit about the horrible violence that shook western India in 2002?

A: The violence took place in the state of Gujarat in early 2002. It followed an incident in which a train compartment carrying Hindu Nationalist activist-pilgrims caught fire and some 60 people were literally burned alive. The activist pilgrims were returning from the site of the 16th-century Babru Mosque, which had been demolished in 1993 by activists claiming it to have been an ancient Hindu site.

Following the burning of the train compartment, attributed to Muslims but never actually proved, a pogrom took place in Gujarat in which Muslim households were targetted and attacked in various places, goaded on by the right-wing Gujarat government, and encouraged by the police. The worst kind of violence imaginable took place, against women especially.

Following this violence (euphemistically called "riots") and basing its decision on the Indian Human Rights Commission, the US State department refused a visitor's visa to the Gujarat Chief Minister, Mody.

Q: How did you decide to write about this period?

A: I used this violence and its terrible destruction as a point from which to bring out the history of a shrine up to its destruction.
Read the entire Q & A and learn more about the novel.

Read Ray Taras' review of The Assassin's Song.

--Marshal Zeringue