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    pankaj mishra Quotes

    Once you get past the grand normative claims made in the West for literature, especially the novel, in the post-Christian era - that it is a secular substitute for religion, hallmark of modern civilization, a priori liberal and cosmopolitan, with authors appearing to implicitly embody such pious ideals - you encounter a less agreeable reality: parochialism, blinkered views, even racial prejudices of the kind the bourgeoisie have held everywhere.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    I think overtly political novels - those that never transcend or contest their author's conscious intentions and prejudices - are problematic. This is not just true of the innumerable unread books in the socialist realist tradition, but also of novels that carry the burden of conservative ideologies, like Guerrillas, Naipaul's worst book, where the author's disgust for a certain kind of black activist and white liberal is overpowering.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    A sustained engagement with the world, a sense of how it was and how it ought to be, and what has been lost, is imperative to good writing - I just don't know how you can be a serious writer without it.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    tags: world  lost  writing 
     
    I feel the responsibility of the novelist is to create a very complex world populated by very complex individuals and to deepen that as much as possible. I don't think the responsibility of the reporter or journalist is fundamentally different.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    In India, love often follows marriage. I know many people who are still very deeply in love with their wives, who they barely knew before they were married. In America there's this idea that "how could someone get married without being deeply in love with each other?" but in a lot of these cases feelings of love and affection actually grow after they've been legally and formally brought together.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    I don't feel any great need to subscribe to a certain notion of Buddhism that says "You have to do this" or "You have to do that." Buddhism does not prescribe rituals or prohibitions in the way many religions do.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    tags: buddhism 
     
    I feel very privileged to get to read and write and not to have to do things that I don't like, and I don't want to give that up. Everything else is just a bonus and often a distraction from the writing, reading, and traveling that gives me the most pleasure.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    The act of writing should not be accompanied by the sense of an audience, someone peering over your shoulder, but in nonfiction I think it's almost imperative that you identify an audience so you can confirm or challenge or undermine whatever ideas or prejudices they might have about your subject.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    Buddhism doesn't really have much time for political mass-movements. We are so trained to think of politics in terms of acting collectively, acting as part of mass-movements, that it's become hard for us to imagine a form of politics that is based on a high degree of introspection and self-examination.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    The idea that human beings can make history, that is something quite unique to the modern West.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    tags: human  ideas 
     
    There is this idea of history as something you make, as a meaningful narrative with a beginning and an end, the end being a utopia of happiness that we'll reach through socialism or free trade or democracy, and then it will all be wonderful.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    You need to work yourself up into some kind of a state every morning and believe that you are doing something terribly important upon which the future of literature, if not the world, depends. Buddhism tells you that this is just a foolish fantasy. So, I try not to think too much about Buddhism early in the morning. From noon on, I think about it.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    The whole idea of mindfulness is all about having a second-level monitoring of your thoughts and being able to recognize them as being negative or harmful before they become a part of your being, before they become some kind of action like writing an angry letter to someone or speaking too strongly to someone.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    I feel that I already have the life I love and I don't see how it could be improved radically by any greater material success I might have - bigger advances, more prizes. It's a kind of madness. And the culture of prize-giving is so corrupt.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    The people who encouraged me weren't necessarily writers or readers themselves. They were people who were just pleased to see me devote my life to reading and writing.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    tags: people  writing  reading 
     
    So much of writing is fed by vanity and the feeling that what you are doing is the most important thing in the world and it has not been done before and only you can do it. Without these feelings, many writers would not be able to write anything at all.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    tags: world  writing  write 
     
    In America, you don't even have proper holidays. It's really one of the most prosperous slave societies in history. People work their asses off all year long and get two weeks off! It's incredible.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    tags: people  work  society  america  year 
     
    As a novelist, your impulse is toward multiplicity: multiple voices, multiple perceptions, multiple nuances, the ambiguity in human communication. Fiction really is the ultimate home for that sense of ambiguity.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    Gandhi saw how people have to re-think their own individuality before engaging in political activity. Otherwise they're just playing the game that the adversary has set out.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    We have so few unaffiliated public intellectuals now - people who are not beholden to a think tank, corporate-owned media, or academic department - and even many literary writers look and behave like young urban professionals and canny careerists.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    tags: people  young  urban  media 
     
    Politics now is really only about self-interest, which means it has violence built into it because your self-interest is going to collide with the self-interest of the rest of the world. That's inevitable.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    tags: world  violence  politics 
     
    If you belong to a small country that is geopolitically not that important, or strategically not that important, you have no place among nations. Those countries are neglected and left to fend for themselves.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    The whole Hollywood conception of Tibet as this peace-loving country denies the complex humanity of the Tibetan people. Their ideas exist in a high degree of tension with impulses toward corruption, toward violence, toward all sorts of things. The Dalai Lama himself would say that he has to fight these impulses himself on a daily basis.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    I think the Buddha presents an image of someone who believes in self-control. I think he's offering, perhaps, a critique of the romantic idea of the passions being this wonderful source of life or vitality that define you or your writing.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    Nietzsche's vision of the superman is of someone who's able to control and tame his passions and turn them into something richer than raw emotion and raw feeling. I think the best writing does that too. Untamed passion basically results in bad writing or bad polemics, which so many writers and public intellectuals are vulnerable to.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    Modernity has created more problems than it is capable of solving. Millions of people are now condemned to wait endlessly for their redemption through modernity.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    tags: people  problem 
     
    The internet has spawned people for whom knowingness is more important than knowledge. It equips you with the illusion of offering knowledge instantly - and quite easily - so you can read a few articles on a few subjects and feel well informed but not actually know any of those subjects in any depth.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    Despite all the boosterish talk of globalization breaking down barriers, most writers in Anglo-America are still working within the nationalist assumptions of their traditionally powerful societies.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    tags: society  powerful 
     
    I think that Indian writing in English is a really peculiar beast. I can't think of any literature - perhaps Russian literature in the nineteenth century comes close - so exclusively produced by and closely identified with a tiny but powerful ruling elite, the upper-caste, Anglophone upper middle class, and dependent for so long on book buyers and readers elsewhere.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    Whether you are in the West, the East, the North, or the South, we should all feel pressured to attempt more, find new ways of outwitting ourselves, in our writing and thinking.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    tags: thinking  writing 
     
    No one is obliged to take a position on the urgent issues of the day, but there are times when our impoverished public sphere could do with some occasional assertions of literary and moral authority.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    tags: time  authority  morals 
     
    Dickens didn't have access to any other epistemologies other than those prevailing in Britain. But a novelist today cannot plausibly claim ignorance of his society's manifold connections with the wider world, the fact that prosperity and security at home, for instance, often depend on extensive violence and exploitation abroad.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    I think our conception of literature should accommodate not only apolitical writers but also those whose political opinions we find unpalatable. Fiction after all comes from a different, less rationally manipulable side of the brain. I am personally very attached to reactionary figures like Dostoyevsky, Hamsun, and Céline.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    The asymmetries of power that have shaped relations between the West and the rest of the world also exist in the realm of literary criticism.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    tags: criticism  power  world 
     
    Today, practically every country outside the West is undergoing an intellectual, political, and cultural churning, from China to Bolivia, Egypt to Indonesia, but we haven't really had, after the 1960s, a major oppositional culture in Western Europe and America. The Occupy movement was so startling and welcome partly because it was the first such eruption of mass protests in decades.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    We, especially those of us in depoliticized and pacified societies, need to cast a colder eye at our self-perceptions, now and in the past, as sentinels and embodiments of Enlightenment virtues of reason, dissent, and skepticism.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    Our tolerance of the intolerable found a low threshold as early as the late 1950s with the grotesque excesses of McCarthyism, which destroyed so many honest lives, and then with the insane nuclear arms race and confrontations.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    tags: live  tolerance  nuclear  race 
     
    In the end, of course, all novelists will be judged by their novels, but let's not forget that we will also need new ways of assessing the latter. There are people who will continue to write nineteenth-century novels in the early twenty-first, and even win major prizes for them, but that's not very interesting, intellectually or emotionally.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    tags: people  novel  write 
     
    Freedom of speech doesn't guarantee great literature.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    I am happy to accept that badge of ambivalence if that means some progress in dismantling this false opposition: writers boldly using their privileges of free speech in the morally superior West versus pathetic wimps in repressive countries we don't like.
    — Pankaj Mishra
    tags: progress  speech 
     
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