The Literary City

The Insatiable Feminism Of The Fabulous Shobhaa De

April 12, 2023 Explocity Podcasts Season 3 Episode 55
The Literary City
The Insatiable Feminism Of The Fabulous Shobhaa De
Show Notes Chapter Markers

That was my guest today, the incomparable Shobhaa De.

Shobhaa is one of the most famous writers in India and her reputation has travelled everywhere, but it behooves me to talk about the realpolitik of Shobhaa De’s literature.

Let me tell you why Shobhaa De is so significant to English writing in India. Not only was her great success as an author inspiring, but to my mind, the most significant thing I can say about Shobhaa is that she kicked down the doors for generations of women writers who followed her.

Uniquely, she gave women a voice. At the risk of reduction, I’ll venture that her novels explore the lives and loves of Indian women who embrace their sensuality without apology.  

Despite, simply living their lives is often a patriarchy-fostered challenge, her protagonists are never sad victims. They follow their dreams rather than fit into society's expectations. At the fount of their sentience, they will not be marginalised.

I imagine that such a narrative is even possible only because Shobhaa’s prose is an honest prose, without artifice.

And funny. But the lightness she brings to this prose often belies the dark realities that she is addressing. While most literature of this genre tends to be disconsolate… even self-pitying— the humour I speak of, in Shobhaa’s narratives, is a testament to her skill as a writer.

For this reason, I am sure, her writing has been the subject of almost one hundred academic dissertations—of researchers and scholars in universities around the world—studying feminist literature—and I imagine this number is only growing.

Recently, Shobhaa launched her latest book titled “Insatiable”, and it is a memoir filled with anecdotes and personal experiences—told interestingly from the perspective of food. Artfully, Shobhaa De crafts a narrative using food as the conduit for descriptions of events in her life that happened around it.

In literature, eating and not-eating are always symbolic, and food always means something other than mere food. Food is a fun metaphor in literature. Ernest Hemingway used it as did Shobhaa’s favourites, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald.

And now, here she is, joining me from her home in Bombay to talk about her life and literature.

Shobhaa Dé, voted by Reader's Digest as one of 'India's Most Trusted People' and by Daily News and Analysis as one of the '50 Most Powerful Women in India', is a bestselling author and a popular social commentator. Her works, both fiction and non-fiction, have been featured in comparative literature courses at universities in India and abroad. Her writing has been translated into many languages including Hindi, Marathi, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish, among others. Shobhaa lives in Mumbai with her family.

Buy Insatiable:

Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the origin of the phrase, "SHIT HIT THE FAN".

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