Siddhartha Deb returns to fiction after over a decade with The Light at the End of the World (Context/Westland). Like a hall of distorted mirrors, the book reflects in intriguing, unsettling ways the contemporary reality of India – and traces it back to many moments of apocalypse in the nation’s history.
In a conversation with Scroll, Deb, who teaches journalism for a living, spoke of arriving at the form of the novel, what fiction allows him to do, and his ambivalent relationship with the news. Excerpts from the interview:
What was the original impulse for writing this novel? How long did it take you?
I wanted to read a big South Asian novel that engaged with the strangeness of our times in a formally inventive manner. I did not think that the realism dominating literary fiction was capable of quite handling this. I wanted something weird, something crossing over from literary fiction to genre fiction and back, something that moved between past, present, and future, and because this book didn’t seem to exist, I just began writing it.
It took seven years, but the writing was mostly done during my summer breaks from a full-time teaching job, in between parenting and journalism. It was finished, with a terrible sense of timing, just…