Tarun Tejpal, author and journalist, is 46 years, one of the most influential media and political landscape of India. He founded the information site Tehelka.com, and the magazine of the same name, which are the best investigative tools of the Indian press. In 2001, Tehelka had revealed a corruption scandal brought down the defense minister, George Fernandes, and undermined the whole government. It had earned its founding three years of death threats, harassment, moral and economic.
Tarun Tejpal was also editor, he published twelve years ago the God of small things Arundhati Roy. In 2005, his magnificent novel Far from Chandigarh has been published in French by Buchet-Chastel. This week spell in France's second novel.
History of my assassins, who tells the story of a journalist threatened with death and especially that of its five potential assassins, Tejpal is a portrait of the impoverished country, violent and corrupt behind the Indian economic miracle. Great, warm and speed, he came to Paris to be our guest editor.
Q: Your previous novel, "Far from Chandigarh, spoke of love and desire. "History of my killers" is a novel of violence.
A: True. I think that basically, the violence is an emotion as powerful as love. These are probably the two most powerful emotions that may exist. This book describes all kinds of violence, emotional, physical, psychological. History speaks of my assassins underclass, it happens in India, but it could be in any country.
These killers, these five men were born the wrong side. Basically, prior to the victims, they have themselves been victims. There is a tendency in India in particular, to imagine that the sub-proletarians have no real emotional life rich and complex, they are just animals that eat and die. But everybody has a complex emotional life, assassins too. What I wanted to do here is to both capture and restore the dignity and complexity of these lives by going back to the childhood of each of the assassins. In childhood, we are all innocent.
It is also a reflection on power. This book is an exploration of power, including state power, which is huge. In my own life these last ten years, it became a dominant theme: the power, its fundamental lack of nobility, and his ruthlessness too. Again, this story could happen anywhere. Part of what happens to the narrator think of Kafka's Castle. In real life, the authority operates in a highly opaque, it is his nature, nothing is ever completely clear.
This novel is an exploration of power, and also violence. These themes are universal, but they are particularly important in India. So very strange, India has an image of tolerant and non-violent, but there is absolutely no truth in it: we are one of the most cruel and violent societies that exist in the world. We practice all kinds of violence: religious, gender, caste, household, their children and animals ...
But because of men like Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, we had the idea of a non-violent India. Yet if you look in history, there is no sign that she was not violent, however. In fact, curiously, why incredible thinkers and reformers like Buddha and Gandhi have emerged, it is precisely to counter this great violence.
Hindus themselves, and I'm Hindu, swap stories and imagine they have a non-violent religion, look, all their gods are armed!
This story tackles still two or three things about India that are accepted by the pub and some media. The "India Shining" for example, India's dazzling success, prosperous India ... In fact, the truth of India is that there are nearly 400 million people living with less' one dollar a day. This book goes against this stupid story of the "India Shining".
To me, a great and good novel must enter commonplaces accepted by all and question them, subvert. In Chandigarh, I worked on other things, love, desire, trying to subvert the cliches. The work of the novelist is not to embellish reality, but to subvert it, wondering what kind of things their raison d'etre.
A great and good story should also, to some extent, put you uncomfortable. Even as he makes you good, even if you warm up and reassure you, it should also force you to think and question your beliefs. They are not supposed to be sleeping, they are supposed to wake you up.
Q: How long have you think in power?
A: Long time but of course, these last ten years I have been deeply immersed in it because I was opposed to the state, and it allowed me to examine the nature of power. In a sense, people in my class in India are on the right side of power. In some ways, "we are" power. But it does not function as a demonic power that works in our favor.
In fact, only when it is opposed to power, they begin to measure it. In my case, because of Tehelka, I am opposed to power again and again, and it gave me a fabulous opportunity to see how it worked.
I believe deeply that the heart of any human endeavor, there is power. If you do not understand it, that either French or American or Indian, you do not understand how people shape society. Take the power to exercise, keep it the big thing. And for me, as a writer, is the most important issue. This is not to write the pretty prose, with nice characters. It is to understand the brutality of power. And that's what the great books. For me, the greatest book in the history of literature, the Mahabharata, well, the whole effort of this novel of a million words, is to understand what the power and how men should behave. What is good and what is evil.
In the novel, one of my characters says: "power is the engine. Sex and money are the lubricants of power. " But obviously, we all know. Including your president, including Berlusconi. For 5 000 years since the dawn of civilization, the power went hand in hand with the lubricant of money and sex, or pleasure.
Q: What is the role of journalism in a democracy?
A: I always said that, ideally, journalism should work for the public good. Democracy has three main structures: money, political power and media. Money and power are always together for the benefit of each other.
In modern democracies, journalism is supposed to be the joker in the back. In Tehelka, we believe that the work of a journalist is to control the power and money. This is not to attack them or destroy them, but be aware that power and money, because their metabolism is intrinsically coded in the excesses and abuses. This is true for all cultures and eras, since time immemorial. The journalist's job is to make sure they behave properly, they keep well. As such, the journalists were the votes and public representatives.
Q: A few months ago you wrote an open letter to Sonia Gandhi ( "Dear Sonia Gandhi, I beg you ..." Release, dated June 11). What do you think of her?
A: Despite me, year after year, I started to admire more and more. India is the country of the world's most difficult and most complex to administer: a democracy of 1.2 billion people, a mosaic of peoples and religions, the second largest Muslim community, 250 million dalits (untouchables ), 30 dominant languages, 500 dialects ... In these conditions, the risk of doing stupid things is extremely high. Well, it's remarkable this woman managed not to ridicule, to behave wisely and stay for the poor and destitute. I think all the people in power in India should be plenty of time for the poor because we are absolutely heartbreaking and so a country of poverty, the poverty level is alarming, we can feed our children, or give them education, they are hundreds of millions on the roads. And some speak of the "India Shining"! Sonia Gandhi, she understands what is fundamentally important. In a country like India, political power must remain engaged.
When I see the path it did, a young Italian girl arriving in India, through personal tragedy, the murder of his stepmother and her husband, fearing for her life and her children, when I see she managed to get where she is the most powerful politician in the subcontinent, is extraordinary. There must be an amazing strength of character behind it. And she has raised her children. Rahul Gandhi, 39, is very good. Consistently, he showed that he pushed for the poor. For me, India, the rich can take care of themselves, people in my class too, but the job of those in power is to take care of the destitute.
Q: How do you assess the state of India sixty years after independence?
A: It is a nation that is still evolving and remains a very difficult and complex. It has survived as an electoral democracy. Many promises have been kept, and many promises were not kept. There is still a very poor country. We had great successes and great failures. It is a unfinished project. The good news is we have not failed. The bad news is we did not succeed. Our greatest asset is the fact that the founding vision was spectacular. Men like Gandhi and Nehru were amazing. The founding vision was pure, it was exhilarating, especially when compared with the vision of other post-colonial countries, which have long since collapsed. The only difference between India and the rest of the postcolonial world, is the founding vision. And this vision of an India liberal, secular, democratic republic, committed to the poorest, we have much damaged, but it is still sudden. This is the original idea that has allowed us to survive.