THE MULTITUDES OF RIPPLES. BLOG #7.

               METAPHYSICS IN FICTIONAL WRITING.

                  One normally associates metaphysics with arcane ( and perhaps esoteric) realm of philosophy. It is normally consigned to academic discourse with hardly any connections to our day to day living. However , on little reflection , one would realize that even in  our daily lives we implicitly adhere to some inchoate metaphysics. In that sense , this implicit metaphysics is part and parcel of our unconscious mind. Our religious beliefs , our views on death ,our notions about soul and our interpretation of death are in fact byproducts of our implicit metaphysics. These human constructs are universal and beyond any religious denominations. Of course , our beliefs in any particular religion would shape and influence our implicit metaphysics. However ,the important point is that our religious beliefs do not create this metaphysics they simply shape it. It must be kept in mind that even atheist would have some form of implicit metaphysics. The term metaphysics refers not just to transcendental realm but also to  hidden aspects of the universe that are captured and stored in our unconscious mind. Thus when someone believes in reincarnation ,in effect , one is assuming human soul is capable of existing in some hidden dimensions of spacetime. Thus when one professes one’s belief in reincarnation one is simply asserting one’s belief in higher dimensional nature of spacetime. One can similarly deconstruct the whole range of beliefs to demonstrate that each such belief is in fact assertion of some hidden aspect of the world we live in. The term metaphysics refers to sum total of such implicit assertions about the nature of the world we live in. Since these aspects are not integral to our theories of physics , they are rightfully part of metaphysics.

               If one were to accept this definition of metaphysics , it is easy to see that metaphysics is necessary component of our psyche. It is possible to utilize this implicit metaphysics to deconstruct our own cognitive faculty. It is possible to untwine our set of beliefs into separate strands and find out how our mind weaves tapestry of our knowledge from such disparate elements. Our mind does not weave just knowledge ( in the form of web of beliefs) but it also weaves all our unconscious explanations and justifications. Therefore metaphysics is always implicit in our reasoning. In fact , it is possible to unravel the whole range cognitive dissonance ( in form of simultaneously held beliefs in contradictory assertions) to demonstrate that these dissonances reflect a different metaphysics implicitly held by the individual.

           If the reasoning outlined above is true then it is axiomatically true that creative writing per se carries within itself a different metaphysics. I would like to summarize my own experience while writing this novel in light of metaphysics as described above.

        While creating the protagonist of the novel i. e. Manas ,I was keen that his psychopathologies should not be seen from outside. This is because I felt that such an external narrative of Manas would turn out to be judgemental. I genuinely believe that good literature is never judgemental. When one thinks of great works of art , it is immediately clear that the author does not pass any judgement and then create a narrative. The judgement , if any , lies in the mind of the reader. Great literature is intrinsically capable of offering multiple perspectives. It is the reader who selects any particular perspective ( depending on his/ her own sensibility) and passes the judgement. This is evident in our own epics.

              In order to provide multiple dimensions to the character of Manas , I chose to put each attribute of Manas in different character placed in different spacetimes . Just as each individual is a bundle of contradictions ,each incarnation of Manas  in the climax converge to create a composite and complex individual. It is not possible to pass any judgement on the totality of all incarnations of Manas ( Though it is possible to pass judgment on each incarnation of Manas using your own moral compass).

              When I look back , I think I reversed the creative process described above. I created metaphysics first and then I created a complex individual out of that metaphysics. I am not sure whether this novel qualifies to be a good literature or not  , but to the extent it is honest to our predicament and to the extent it correctly depicts angst of our times then it ought to be taken as a seriously. A good writer is the one who enables the readers to be in touch with these multiple sensibilities present within their own minds. If I have achieved this even in few readers minds , I  would like to think that I am a good writer.

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THE MULTITUDES OF RIPPLES. BLOG #6

                             METAPHOR AND METONYMY.         

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             I have discussed ways of deconstruction of fiction using psychoanalytical perspective in my earlier blog .In this blog , I would focus on deconstruction of fiction using linguistic perspective. Once again , I would restrict myself to my first novel and avoid any reference to various schools of literary criticism. For this blog I have chosen two linguistic devices viz. metaphor and metonymy.

            At the outset ,  I would like to admit that there is an element of psychoanalytical perspective in this linguistic deconstruction as well. While writing this novel ,I have chosen several metaphors to allow the narrative to achieve certain fluidity and certain lyricism. It is apparent that my choice of metaphor must have been dictated by my own unconscious mind. Therefore my attempt to deconstruct my novel by deconstruction of linguistic devices , in some sense , is another psychoanalytic deconstruction. However the key difference between these two approaches is the emphasis. While earlier blog tried to deconstruct my own unconscious mind , this attempt focuses on nature of narrative instinct that shapes our linguistic skills( including those involved in creative writing).

               Before going into my own compulsions ( of course some of them were not known to me while writing the novel) of employing these linguistic devices , let me outline what , in my view , constitutes a metaphor and what constitutes a metonym.

A metaphor is a way of referring an object by another object. In simile there is a comparison while in metaphor , it is replacement. There are two yardsticks to judge the quality of metaphor. One is the extent of congruence between the original object and the object replacing it during metaphor. For instance  the most common metaphor would be referring a pretty face by calling it a moon. Since the extent of congruence is variable , the quality of metaphor varies in each case. For instance , in the example given earlier , the quality of metaphor of referring a pretty face as moon would depend on the beauty of the original face that was referred to in the metaphor. Thus the quality of metaphor is to be judged by the context of referent and reference. The second yardstick for judging the quality of metaphor is the degree of novelty. In the example given above , referring a pretty face as moon may be a good metaphor ( at least when employed to refer someone very pretty) , however it may not be deemed a good metaphor on the ground of novelty. The act of referring a pretty face as moon is so overused that it lacks novelty altogether. Therefore it’s invocation in our times is not a good metaphor.

      In that context ,how does a metaphor of Padma stand up ?  Let me begin by explaining origin of Padma. When I began the novel , I wanted Manas to represent the futility of human existence. So it was inevitable that the his search for meaning must be personified. To create a counter point and an alter ego , I felt that entity must be a woman. Thus Padma started as a personification. In fact I was not sure how to introduce her in the novel. In fact she appears only in part two. However , once she made an appearance , without my knowledge , she became a metaphor for unattainable creativity of human beings. This semantic abduction was surprising. I did not want it , but it came about just the same. In fact , I can confess that there are lot of things in the novel that have surfaced without my cognizance. I am not happy the way she disappears from narrative. ( which girl , given such a background , would renounce the world ?). However , that is how the narrative forced itself upon me. The question is whether Padma as a metaphor for unattainable creativity is  a good metaphor or not. I leave it to readers.

                  Let us look at metonymy. The traditional way of defining metonymy is that when the part replaces the whole in a figure of speech it becomes metonym for the original referent. The yardstick to judge a good metonymy is the attribute that defines both the referent and the metonym. It is possible that both entities may have more than one common attributes. In that case , there are several ways in which one can create metonymy. Thus there could be several ways in which metonym can represent the original referent depending on the context of the narrative. In such a scenario , same pair of metonym and original referent can have multiple metonymic relationships. A good metonymy is the one there are layers of such metonymic relationships between same metonym and referent. In popular literature the most common example would be that of heart of the individual representing that individual. Moreover , since the symbol of heart shares lots of attributes of the romantic person it represents ,this metonymy is also multilayered. In that sense this ought to be a good metonymy. However , overuse of this metonymy has robbed it of any novelty thereby making it a poor metonymy. Of course , it is possible that a new poet may still invent a new relationship between the heart and the romantic person whom that heart represents. In that case , that poet can conjure up a good metonymy using the same overused metonym and the referent. The question is where is metonymy in this novel and whether it is a good metonymy or not ?

                  In fact , I found an instance of metonymy in my novel while proof reading the book. I can assure the readers that I was not conscious of that metonymy while writing this novel. I realized that every character is , in fact , is a metonym of  my own self. I realized that creative writing in in essence a fragmentation of my own unconscious mind into mélange of characters. The novel in this case is a prism which separated my own complexities into different strands . Each of these strands was personified into a character. Thus all characters in the novel collectively represent my own unconscious self. This interpretation is is worrisome. Is there any Manubhai in my subconscious mind ? However , let me assure the readers that this is naive psychology at work. The above interpretation only means that my own subconscious mind has rather complex and interwoven positivities and negativities lying beneath my conscious self. These tendencies get distorted , magnified and highlighted during fictionalization. Therefore each character ( not just Manas or Manubhai) is a case of metonymy of my unconscious mind.

      This brings me to the final point of this blog. In creative writing the author employs several devices ,be it a metaphor or be it a metonymy because he/ she is trying to deconstruct his / her own self .  These devices are ways of achieving transference. This process of transference continues with the readers who find echoes of their lives in these novels. In fact I was a voracious reader in my younger days. There are several books which I have read twice ( some of them after a gap of ten years). Strangely , I found out that on both the occasions I found different meanings . The book was the same but I had changed during the intervening years. That convinced me I was reading my own life in these novels. The process of transference was same , only the context of transference had changed. I am also convinced that most of us have read , say , “Great Expectations “ but I can assure you that we have ended up reading different versions of that book ( each version reflecting our own inner life). I also realize , while writing  this blog , this plurality is natural. I am not sure how many readers are aware that when we watch a rainbow with our friends and family  each one of us is watching a separate ( and perhaps a private) rainbow because the optics of rainbow requires a particular angle of refraction and particular angle of reflection. These details vary even for two individuals standing few inches apart. Therefore each one in the group is watching a different rainbow. The good thing about rainbow is that it signifies same thing to all of us. The rainbows are separate but their cognition ( both literal and metaphorical) is universal. This is the secret of creative writing. It begins with a personal experience and achieves universality through transference.
This book is available on the following link :
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THE MULTITUDES OF RIPPLES. BLOG #5.

          NOVEL AS A PSYCHOANALYTICAL    TOOL.

  

          The  creative writing , in general , is a very complex process from psychological perspective. This is all the more true for writing of fiction. By and large , this process is opaque. In fact , purely from cognitive perspective , we do not even know how our brain processes human languages ( let alone fiction writing) in great detail. However , in spite of this ignorance , there is a consensus amongst literary critics that creative writing can be deconstructed to arrive at some insights into how creativity operates in the mind of a given author of fiction. This psychoanalytical approach has been very fruitful in English literature and has been extended to deconstruct not just individual authors but also to deconstruct society’s psyche in general.

                 I would like to look at this paradigm of psychoanalytic deconstruction from a very limited perspective of my own creative writing. There is an inherent risk of subjectivity when one seeks to deconstruct one’s own creativity. However , the risk of subjectivity exists in any literary criticism and that has not diminished literary utility of such criticisms. The question is not whether such deconstruction is subjective or not. The question is whether , in spite of its subjectivity , such a criticism provides any meaningful insights into the process of creative writing or not.

              With these provisos in mind , let me articulate my own experience with self deconstruction of my own creative writing. As mentioned in the epilogue of my novel , I had set out to write a novel with the hope that I would be able to analyze my own creative impulses while they actuated into the novel.I was under the impression that , being trained as a scientist , I would be better equipped to employ my own analytical skills to observe the very act of creative writing on real time basis. I thought , rather foolishly, that my training as a scientist would enable me to observe my own self in the process of writing. I was wrong. The separation of one’s conscious and unconscious mind ,if it exists  at all , is not complete. In my opinion ( and I am saying this after having watched my own creative impulses from inside) ,the labels of conscious and unconscious mind are merely convenient handles that one employs in thinking about about our mind. The human mind is far more complex than any such divisions suggest. The concept of modular mind is rather popular amongst cognitive scientists. However , they have discovered that such a description is simplistic and in some sense misleading. If one can not separate the conscious mind from its unconscious counterpart , how valid any psychoanalytic deconstruction can be ? ( this question is not restricted to just psychoanalytic deconstruction  of creative writing but is valid for all psychoanalytical theories because the very foundation of psychoanalysis lies in assumption that our critical faculty supervenes our psyche and that the therapy consists of enabling patients to view their psychopathologies from their own conscious selves. This self cognition of their own psychopathologies by patients ensures a dissolution of these pathologies. ) Surprisingly ,such deconstructions are valid for different reasons. I have discovered ,while writing this novel , that in spite of this opacity of our cognitive processes ,such psychoanalytic deconstructions are partially valid. While one can not observe ( and deconstruct) the processes involved in creative writing in action , it is possible to deconstruct the final product after it has been completed. This post facto amenability of creative writing to psychoanalytic deconstruction may sound counterintuitive but it is not. This is because there is a misconception about the basis on which such deconstructions are carried out. The psychoanalytic paradigm has been dominated by Freudian principles. ( just think of H. D. Lawrence and “SONS AND LOVERS” )  However ,it is possible to deconstruct creativity using different principles.

           While attempting to deconstruct my own writing ,I found that in addition to emotional drives( which is what Freudian principles try to deconstruct from the narrow prism of sexuality) there is another additional foundation from which our creative thoughts arise. This foundation consists of semantics. While struggling to develop the plot of my novel further ,I realized that , I was searching for correct nuance of meaning of words and concepts I was using. It is while searching for implicit meaning of words in that particular context that my unconscious mind would throw up not just alternate synonyms but also alternate scenarios of the plot. In fact I can confess that magical realism  in the form of multiple ( sometimes parallel) narratives that appear in the novel are result of my inability to select only one of the options offered by my unconscious mind. I have come to conclusion that our unconscious mind operates on the semantics and our emotions simply influence the direction of that semantic processing. Thus psychoanalytic paradigm can work post facto but only when it is based on more complex foundation than merely on emotional paradigm ( including Freudian principles).

            In summary , I can say that any such psychoanalytic deconstruction of creative writing may be feasible , but only post facto. It can not be employed while the creative writing is in progress. In addition , it must be kept in mind that that there is an element of subjectivity in all such deconstructions. This subjectivity ensures that there are always multiple deconstructions possible with each deconstruction being equally valid.

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THE MULTITUDES OF RIPPLES. BLOG#4.

      INDIAN WRITING IN ENGLISH.

                         The topic of Indian writing , particularly fiction writing , has been a subject matter of many academic debates. There exists a corpus of critical and analytical writings on this subject. I have no wish to add anything substantive to that. I do not think that I am even qualified to do that. This blog merely discusses my own problems while writing this novel.

There are three aspects of Indian writing in English that would be briefly discussed in this blog. I am going to analyze the reasons Why did I choose to write in English

       1. Is it because I am comfortable with the language?
       2.    Is it because my sensibility has been shaped by
             English literature?
      3.   Is English language ,with all its idioms ,suitable medium for  
            what is essentially an Indian experience ?

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       Let me begin with my own exposure to English. I have studied in Gujarati medium school. Therefore my own exposure to English language is restricted to an academic level. During my school days , I used English language only for my examinations and very rarely for day to day conversations. However I was an avid reader of English literature from my teens. Strangely ,I have not read children’s literature in English while growing up. My exposure to English literature lacked stories of Cinderella , Jack and the beanstalk , the famous five etc. It began with Verne and Doyle . Thanks to my father ,I graduated from these books to serious literature directly. From Gardener to Greene is a quantum leap , but I did it without much difficulty. In retrospect , I think this has resulted in my English being more formal than conversational. On serious reflection , I feel that I have imbibed English literary sensibility during my growing up years that makes me comfortable with creative writing in English ( albeit with more formal language).

              Let me turn to the second question. The choice of language for a person writing his first novel is the most critical. So the question is why did I choose English language for my first novel ? It might sound little strange but I am very comfortable ( in fact very proficient) Gujarati language. In spite of the fact that I have not written anything in Gujarati for a very long time , I can write perceptive prose in Gujarati language on the topics of science and literature. I take pride in my proficiency in Gujarati literature ( both fiction and nonfiction). My sensibility has been shaped by Gujarati literature as much as by foreign literature. So the question is why did I choose English language for my first novel ?

       The answer to this question is not easy to articulate. However , I will try to answer that as best as I can. As mentioned above , I have stopped writing in Gujarati language since my schooling. My intellectual growth ( for whatever it is worth) has been during my college years. In those years , I mainly studied in English. Therefore I have learnt to think in English. Some of the seminal influence on me has come from reading English books of  T. S. Eliot , Albert Camus ,Eugene O’Neil , Ezra Pound , Jose Luis  Borges , Garcia Marquez. Their writings have all entered my sensibility through English language. Therefore , when I decided to write novel ,English language was my default setting. If I had to write in Gujarati , I would have been compelled to think in English and then translate it into Gujarati. Therefore English became my natural choice. I believe that all Indian writers writing in English have this Janus faced sensibilities. It is not easy to choose. For instance , If I choose to write poetry in future , I am sure I would choose to write in Gujarati language. Strangely , my introduction to English poetry ( particularly those of Eliot and Pound ) came from Gujarati writings of Prof Niranjan Bhagat. In that sense , mother tongue of poetry for me is Gujarati. In short , my choice of English language for my first novel is not easy  to explain. I think in future I would write in both the languages.

        This dichotomy in my literary development ( i. e. English language for prose and Gujarati language for poetry) brings me to the third question. If cultural sensibilities are shaped by language of that culture, how fruitful it would be to write about Indian sensibility in English language ? Is our Indian sensibility really language specific ? Alternatively , can any language fail to describe particular sensibility of culture that has not grown up in that language ? These questions are discussed threadbare in literary criticism and I have no wish ( or no caliber) to enter into that debate. I am happy to share my own experience about writing this novel. While writing this novel , I found out that it is very difficult to communicate flavors of Indian literature in English. Readers who know Indian languages would easily notice how bad my translations of Indian quotes are. However ,I think human experience , in the ultimate analysis is universal. The job of literature is to depict that human experience in most universal terms. If I have been able to internalize J. Alfred Prufock  ,it is because Eliot had that genius which could translate his predicament to the level of universal angst. The same logic applies to Kalidasa’s Shakuntala. There are two aspects to literature being independent of the language. Firstly , the human experience in its purest form transcends language barrier. Secondly , every language finds great writers who manage to express this purest form of human experience in that language. Therefore as a writer , I am not worried about which language is right for me , but I am worried more about my ability to convert my experiences into that purest form of human experience. Whether I have succeeded in doing that in this novel is for readers to decide.
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http://dogearsetc.com/dogears/book_details?resourceID