Anakana Schofield – Award Winning Author of Bina, Martin John and Malarky

The peril of Aunts: Mrs Desai gettin’ it in the ear

Well Kiran Desai is going to need that humility I mentioned: God help writers when the ever noble medja phones up your Aunt.

Residents of the Himalayan town featured in Kiran Desai’s Booker Prize-winning novel The Inheritance of Loss are upset over her portrayal of them.

Desai’s aunt recently told a magazine in India that she has not told people in the town of Kalimpong about her niece because “the book contains many insensitive things.”

Now the curious thing is where exactly can a writer write about without the inhabitants taking umbrage? Will we have to invent ungeographically placeable (forgive appalling grammar) cities, towns, humps in the road. A generic lego-town where no beggar (meaning general person, not person  clutching a bowl) can get offended. To say nothing of the peril of having to write only inoffensive characters who do nothing wrong or perhaps do nothing at all. Is it the onset of the blank page in publishing…

 In the meantime be careful what you say to your Aunt when she’s beside you at next years Christmas dinner, birthday, family get together, if you run into her when collecting your contraceptive prescription, buying a shoelace. They’re powerful creatures … they don’t mince words.

I once had a conversation with my Aunt while watching telly (I had a broken jaw at the time so perhaps conversation is an exaggeration) in which I professed an interest in watching a video nation piece about this mad looking Morris dancer who worked for the Council that was three minutes long. Rubbish, she said, it’s Saturday night, I want to watch a quiz show. I’m will be glad I had a broken jaw if the papers ever phone her for a quote.

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