Subhash’s top tip for aspiring authors: Don’t be afraid to experiment; to experiment not for the sake for experimenting but for finding new ways of storytelling. It is always easy to follow the formula which works for you; be ready to break the formula.
Subhash Jaireth was born in Punjab, India. Between 1969 and 1978 he spent nine years in Russia studying geology and Russian literature. In 1986 he migrated to Australia. He has published poetry in Hindi, English and Russian. His published works include Yashodhara: Six Seasons Without You (Wild Peony, 2003), Unfinished Poems for Your Violin (Penguin Australia, 1996), Golee Lagne Se Pahle (Before the Bullet Hit Me) (Vani Prakashan, 1994), To Silence: Three Autobiographies (Puncher & Wattmann, 2011), After Love (Transit Lounge, 2012), Moments (Puncher & Wattmann, 2014) and Incantations (Recent Work Press, 2016). A Catalan translation of the novel After Love was published in October 2018 in Valencia. He has also published English translations of Russian, Japanese and Persian poetry, and has translated poems of Indigenous Australian poets into Hindi.
Why do you write? I write for aesthetic pleasure: the pleasure for my readers and for me. But most of all I write to learn about the world unknown to me. Writing provides me a chance to explore, examine and understand.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I am a geologist. For over forty years I have researched and taught geology. I am pretty sure instead of novels, short stories and poetry I would have written imaginatively about the planet Earth, its evolution and well-being.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? To convince mainstream publishers to take on books that don’t easily fit in the straitjacket of known genres. Perhaps that is why I value small presses like Transit Lounge, Puncher & Wattmann, and Recent Work Press who are ready to take risks.
How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the covers? I trust my publishers and editors and we often reach consensus that works for the book.
What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Reading, translating and conversing with people.
—the worst? Inability to find empathetic readers who can read early drafts and talk about it. Dialogues like these are immensely useful. To write in complete isolation is impossible.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? To travel more and to learn more languages.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Not to lose focus; not to procrastinate; not to get lost in endless research for the book.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? Read, read, and read.
How important is social media to you as an author? It’s important for creating a community of writers and readers. A book becomes a book only when it is read. Social media can help open new doors.
Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Not really. The main obstacle is to find time to work on new ideas and projects. Perhaps that is why I prefer to work on more than one project at the same time.
How do you deal with rejection? Rejections bring disappointment and frustration. Solace comes from talking to people who know my work; their feedback helps me to remain focused on my project.
In three words, how would you describe your writing? Poetic, meditative and multi-voiced.
If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? Russian writer and poet, Marina Tsvetaeva. I am inspired by her tenacity and courage to keep on writing poems and plays overcoming adversities, personal and historical. I would also love to meet German writer and poet WG Sebald. I love his books, his narrative voice, poetic and melancholic. Like a Persian carpet weaver, he can weave threads of memories and landscape together: intricate and vibrant.
‘It starts to rain as I step out of my hotel ….’ So begins
Subhash Jaireth’s striking collection of essays on
the writers, and their writing, that have enriched his
own life. The works of Franz Kafka, Marina Tsvetaeva,
Mikhail Bulgakov, Paul Celan, Hiromi Ito, Dutch
philosopher Baruch Spinoza and others ignite in him
the urge to travel (both physically and in spirit), almost
like a pilgrim, to the places where such writers were
born or died or wrote. In each essay a new emotional
plane is reached revealing enticing connections. As
a novelist, poet, essayist and translator born into a
multilingual environment, Jaireth truly understands
the power of words across languages and their integral
connections to life of the body and the spirit. Drawing
on years of research, translation and travel Spinoza’s
Overcoat – and its illuminations of loss, mortality and
the reverie of writing – will linger with readers.
The book is available here.