Monday, July 17, 2017

A Big Town Author

Anees Salim's fifth novel, 'The Small-Town Sea', hits the mark with its intense descriptions and authentic emotions 

Photo by Albin Mathew

By Shevlin Sebastian

One morning, at his third-floor apartment, at Kochi, author Anees Salim woke up feeling disturbed. He had just seen a dream of his son Omar being stranded at Anees' home-town of Varkala. “He was standing on the edge of a cliff and looked all alone,” says Anees. “I felt scared.”

The image remained in his mind. As he sipped a cup of tea, a thought cropped up, 'Maybe, I should write a novel. I could work my way backwards from this image'.

It was not an easy decision to make. Because he had already started work on a novel about a historical ruler. But the image of the boy proved to be compelling. Thus, he embarked on this story.

The end result is his fifth work of fiction called 'The Small Town Sea'. The 283-page work has just been published by Penguin Random House India.

The story is of a 13-year old boy, whose name is not revealed, who lives in a city, very similar to Kochi. But when his father, known as Vappa, is diagnosed with cancer, he takes the family back to the small town where he has a house on a cliff, so that he can die in peace. There, the boy becomes friends with an orphan Bilal and they explore the beach and the town together, even as Vappa edges closer to death.

Anees is an intense writer. The descriptions are so precise and accurate, that he ends up creating vivid images in the minds of the readers.

Here is an extract:

'Vappa had a chair dragged to the bathroom and placed it by a washbasin. Umma waited in a passage, thumbing through a magazine, while a tap ran in the bathroom, at first with a sharp metallic beat as the water hit the bottom of the empty aluminium bucket, then it smoothened out as the bucket filled up, and finally fell silent when the bucket started to brim over.'

With these type of descriptions, it is difficult to read the book quickly. The pace is slow but steady. But whether he can get a mass audience and be a popular best-selling writer are open to question.

Which is why he is called a writer's writer. But Anees is unfazed by all these descriptions. “I don't think of the audience when I write,” he says. “I write for myself. The reward of writing is writing itself. I don't need anything else.”

Nevertheless, his books have gone down very well with critics and discerning readers. So, it is no surprise that in 2013 he won the The Hindu Literary Prize for 'Vanity Bagh' as well as the Crossword Book Award for Indian Fiction (2015) for the 'Blind Lady's Descendants'. His other novels include 'The Vicks Mango Tree' and 'Tales from a Vending Machine'.

This is a growing and impressive oeuvre. “Without sounding pompous, I am proud of the work I have done so far,” says Anees. “When one book is finished, unlike most writers, I don't feel relieved. Instead, my immediate concern is what is going to be my next work. That's because I want to write all the time.” 

(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi) 

No comments:

Post a Comment