Updike said, “Life might be pointless but the novel might not be.” I don’t agree with that. I feel life is pointless and, by that logic, the novel is too. People often hold on to one thing, hoping it is precious, but there are those among us who can see pointlessness very clearly: a child does not do anything to them, love does not do anything to them. I don’t say a lot of these things directly in the book, because that would make for a very bad novel. But that was the chief driver.
Ultimately boredom plays a big part too. Strip away everything and it’s just boredom. And especially when you’re young and growing up in Madras: you can’t touch girls, you can’t go out with girls, it’s a s**t city; all the f****rs are doing entrance exams. But if depression is a condition, I would argue that inexplicable happiness is also a mental condition. Cartoonists often deal in diametrical opposites. I had moments of inexplicable happiness.
To me, the opposite of style is Coetzee. If Marquez is one end of the spectrum — I’m only talking about the good stuff now — Coetzee would be the other end, and what we call good literature would fall between those two poles. I’m also influenced a lot by cinema; I use melodrama when I have to use it. As an Indian I’m not afraid of it. That’s another thing about the corruption of western publishers — that’s a society that doesn’t comprehend melodrama like we do. They don’t even cry at funerals, I don’t know what the f**k is wrong with them. I told someone in England recently, “Hysteria is a dialect of Tamil.” When I see too much sensitivity and elegance and sophistication, I get impatient.
Jai Arjun Singh interviews Manu Joseph about his second novel, etc.