Anupama Raju’s first fiction book ‘C, A Novel’ is about a moody author and his close relationship with cities

When a poet writes a singular, verse and prose blend together, enriching the narrative and making the reader an integral part of it. So it is with Anupama Raju’s first novel, C, a novel.

Anupama says, “Mixing prose and poetry was something I wanted to try as an experiment. The idea was born around the same time. I never thought I would write a novel, but I wanted to make sure the poetry was part of the novel because I had always written poetry; that’s why I thought that poetry should have a legitimate place in the book. Anupama’s First Printed e-Book Once Upon A Time New, an anthology of poems.

His books include crisp titles. “People wondered why it was called New,” she provides. While she wasn’t sure if it would work as a method, she felt it would be great to create some suspense with regards to the e-book.

C, A Novel, written by Anupama Raju
| Photo credit: Special Association

VS an anonymous author is ready, brooding over her love, now anonymous again, healing many wounds and soaking up the moods of the city she has chosen to live in. However, the author is endlessly wandering in his ideas, in his travels or even in his wanderings around his brief home. She strikes across continents, cities, and centuries and encounters abnormal characters.

“It was an organic process and I just let my imagination run wild. It took me about three to four years to write VS,” she says.

Copies of Anupama Raju’s first fiction e-book, C, a novelat the Modern Book Center of Thiruvananthapuram

According to her, C can mean a city, because it is the most important character in her book. She explains that she didn’t need to give the real or fictional names of the towns, so it stayed as C. In truth, none of the main characters have reputations, neither the protagonist nor the person she claims repeatedly even assuming it is in all of them. Anupama says that she sought to present a path of universality to her main characters and for this reason she left them unnamed.

“Somehow I never felt the protagonist needed a name. I felt she was present as she is, even without a name. I felt that a name would be limiting in many ways; she tells the story, even the city itself tells a story and that’s just C.

Anupama takes the reader into a world inhabited by its protagonist – we breathe the air, smell the perfumes and feel the cold, biting wind on our skin. This story of 2 cities – C the place where she lives and C the place where she used to live, is painted in evocative prose.

“For me, travel is a spiritual experience. There are many things you can discover and many things can happen when you move to a new place, when you move away from the familiar. There are verses that describe places and cities,” says Anupama.

Pointing out that even assuming everyone says cities are about people and they give it a personality, there can be something unique about a place.

“I wanted to give the city, C, a voice and, not necessarily, a human voice. I wanted to see what it would be like if the city was the theme and watched people come and go and paid attention to passers-by, travelers, tourists…. I wanted to see how the city felt about it. That’s why I gave it a distinct voice,” she explains.

Continuing towards the city, she says: “It (the city) observes the storyteller, the people and the characters. It also speaks to the reader.

The turmoil the protagonist goes through is balanced by the balance and knowledge within the city. As the anonymous author is lost, impatient, and going through her ups and downs, the city seems to be keeping a protective eye on her.

“There are references to many cities – Chennai, places in Kerala, cities abroad…. Chennai is my hometown, so there are glimpses of the city. But it could be any Indian town. If you are a resident of a town, you learn to love it despite its problems. This is how the protagonist sees it too. There are people she doesn’t want to see but she still loves cities,” says Anupama.

She admits that the writing took time and perseverance to breathe life into her characters. “There were chapters flowing. But it wasn’t easy. I had to give it (the novel) a plot, a structure; I had to follow the rules of fiction and figure out how to break them. I wanted to do something with the narrative. As I was trying something new it took a while but I was in no rush to finish VS.”

The book ends with the image of a more assured protagonist, who turns out to have discovered herself, thanks to C. She appears to be more reassured, more in control of her emotions.

She recalls Ayyappa Paniker, one of her early mentors, used to advise her “keep writing no matter where or while you’re posting, when it’s in a post you’ll the knowledge”.

“I always keep that in mind. Many poems by New had been published in various publications. But I had to wait ten years to publish it as a collection. In the case of VS, I was writing and rewriting… I was throwing out entire paragraphs. I had to bring the characters to life. They had to speak naturally, speak like us…”, she says.

The e-book, printed via Aleph, was launched at Alliance Française de Trivandrum via Shashi Tharoor.

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