My family have not always supported me as a writer. But my relationship with my novelist daughter Kiran is peaceful compared to those described in a new bookby Anita Desai / January 25, 2012 / Leave a comment
Published in February 2012 issue of Prospect Magazine
WB Yeats and his wife George in 1923: she bought him a tower in which to write and tolerated his mistresses
Colm Tóibín’s new book is called New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and their Families (Penguin) but the key is in the subtitle. This collection of essays is by no means restricted to mothers. It is the entire family that needs to be destroyed, it seems, if an artist is to realise his vision.
In India that has been the tradition through the ages. The soul demands the abandonment of family and society in order to achieve another level of being. Hence the Sufi artistic tradition: poets such as Rumi and Hafiz had to retreat into their own worlds to hear the music of another. Such iconoclasts acquired respect, reverence, even awe, not only because of their spiritual transcendence but for their artistic achievements, which are loved because they have no link to society or family, but take one to another realm.
It is something of that secular transcendence one might experience in reading a book: an escape, brief and fleeting but all the more intense and poignant for that, into another life, extinguishing the boredom, failure and despair of one’s own.