Writers, those wonderful beings who change our lives and transform our societies. While reading a book it must have occurred to you at some point that a specific thing is specially written for you. You wished you were that character in that place. But have you thought, what writers actually think of readers? Do they have a specific audience in mind while they write or do they create readers along the process? Well the answer to this is both yes and no. It is as transient as the concept of writing and reading – the most dynamic part of literature. The Kolkata Literature Festival session titled “Who are my readers?” sought to explore this aspect.
The panel was a versatile one, with writers from 5 different regions and languages. There was Khaled AlKhamissi, Egyptian writer and columnist. According to him, they key aspect of writing is to be in time that is to be conversant with the audience. Like Shakespeare who didn’t write for a specific audience but is still relevant after a century. Khaled also believes it has to be a mixture of both the world that is, a writer should write for his readers as well as himself. In his words, “It is selfish to think of yourself and don’t care about your readers” Similarly it is essential to enjoy writing. He also upheld the cyber publishing phenomenon and regards it as a wonderful opportunity for exchange of culture.
Nishi Chawla, academician and author of the celebrated book “In Search of Sita” put forward an academician perspective as well that of an writer. As an academician she upheld the reader’s review system which provides more interaction with the author and subsequently greater knowledge of readers by writers. She read out a poem from her book “A Himalayan Poem” and asked the audience to retrospect this journey of the relationship.
Vivek Shanbhag, playwright and novelist, an acclaimed Kannada writer cited the indian tradition of writer being part of the system. “A lucky privileged member” who had access and knowledge of things that others don’t and thus his role is to make the masses aware of situations. He regards readers on per as the writers whose book they read. According to him, writers aren’t superior to their readers but equal to them. They are as knowledgeable as their readers.
Lin Anderson, the Scottish crime thriller writer draws inspiration from her childhood and says that she writes about stories she wants to read. That is how she started writing. She acknowledges it is indeed while talking to readers that you gather new insights about your stories. She recollects an incident when a young Spanish lady came upto her and said “Your writings changed my life”. Lin also spoke about the difficulty of articulating things to non-native speakers. For example, when she used some Scottish or Gaelic terms in her novel publishers wanted it to be changed to English words. In order to do so the essence is lost as some expressions are untranslatable.
Natalie Ann Holborow, the youngest of them all and the winner of the Robin Reeves award says she generally doesn’t have any particular reader groups in mind while writing. Readers select her as they relate and reciprocate to her writings. She also pointed as her writing genre is primarily poetry hence it difficult to set a particular base audience. But, yes she points out as she attends events and interacts with readers it has made her aware of her niche audience.
Thus, from this discourser we got the idea of who actually are “The Readers”. They are the future writers. Readers make writers and writers make readers. That is the essence of this unique relationship. There are no fixed rules, no guidelines – just characters that relate and stories that speak. Like the French novelist Honoré de Balzac who was asked by his publisher to follow the writing style of a particular author. In the end, after 200 years that best-seller author remains unknown but Balzac is revered throughout the world.