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On Storytelling with Raghu Karnad

Raghu Karnad recounted what it means to tell stories that are both an attempt to rewrite history and to understand the world that he comes from. ‘Farthest Field’, then becomes an exercise in literary studies that retains its uniqueness. It makes the most of the ambiguity and allows one to play with the categorisations especially the way one has to place certain narrative types in certain boxes. In the course of an hour long discussion which was mainly centred around the research methodology of the book he has written, there were certain interesting questions that he raised. Fiction and non fiction have often been categorised as two distinct boxes; boxes that are filled with stories that are told in a certain style and written in a manner that cater a specific audience. Every so often, however, you come across stories that fit neither box and the ambiguity in that makes for a slightly different way of storytelling.  Raghu karnad definitely did not have an answer to how this conundrum can be solved but he did tell us how the book helped him understand that there was actually very less difference in this world of fiction and non fiction.

The book uses veterans as sources and as Raghu comments, often there is incoherence in the stories that they tell primarily because of memory or illnesses. The book written captures a living memory of the people who told their stories but passed away before the book was released. The stories that were often started by one member of the family would be completed by the other and, therefore, the story would be told and retold several times. In this exercise of telling and retelling, often one would blur the lines between these otherwise black and white categories. The way that he looks at it, the book is classified under ‘forensic non-fiction’, but it could easily have been in either category. The only difference is that a piece of non fiction would be studied and understood and piece of fiction, read and felt.

Prerna Vij is a second year student pursuing political science and literature in Ashoka University

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