Aruni Kashyap is a writer, translator, and editor. His writing is guided by a strong curiosity of how human rights and storytelling work together to achieve social justice. As he says in his Tribune interview, "I am a political writer. I am interested in the many ways in which human rights intersect with literature and storytelling. My fiction is shaped by Assamese politics, aesthetics and literary traditions — both oral and textual. I use these to write about fundamental aspects of contemporary Indian reality that have been ignored by Indian English fiction for a long time." According to The Mid-Day, Kashyap is “one of the most honest and original voices in the country". The Deccan Chronicle calls him “one of the brightest literary sparks from the northeast (of India)". And The Sunday Guardian terms him "one of Assam’s most original and compelling voices."
Kashyap’s first novel, The House with a Thousand Stories (2013) was published by Viking, Penguin, to high critical acclaim. The Telegraph described it as a, “captivating narrative of a family set against the backdrop of insurgency… The House with a Thousand Stories is an affirmation of Aruni Kashyap’s creative genius and the emergence of a powerful storyteller.” In India, the publication of the novel was followed by a wide public discussion around the ‘secret killings’, a series of extrajudicial killings allegedly conducted by the Indian government, against which the novel is set. The book "broke the long national silence regarding human rights violations by security forces in India." Kashyap says he wrote this novel because, “I was interested in the different ways in which fear percolates into the minds of people living under terror and what kind of choices they make due to this fear.”
Kashyap explores underrepresented and silenced chapters of South Asia in his work as an editor too. In the forthcoming edited anthology of short stories, How to Tell A Story About an Insurgency (HarperCollins), he has put together fifteen short stories by various authors, stories that narrate life under militancy in Assam in a variety of styles, voices, and themes.
As one of the best known translators from Assamese language, Kashyap has translated Indira Goswami’s novel The Bronze Sword of Thengphakhri Tehsildar. His current translation projects include Anuradha Sharma Pujari’s novel Hriday Ek Bigyapan (The Heart’s an Advertisement), and a collection of short stories by Yeshe Dorje Thongchi: a writer from the Serdukpen tribe, from the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.
In addition to his English work, Kashyap writes regularly in his native Assamese language. His novel Noikhon Etia Duroit (July 2018) follows the life of an Indian immigrant student called Rajeev in the United States. The novel appeared periodically in the popular monthly magazine Satsori between January 2015 and January 2018 and found a wide readership much before its publication in book form. Four other novellas, Nodimukhee (2018), Horokanto Bejor Montro Puthibur, and Samironor Pasot (2015) have appeared in various periodicals.
COURSES REGULARLY TAUGHT
ENGL6800 Forms and Craft : Graduate Fiction Workshop: Is it possible to write the first draft of a book in a few weeks? Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying in six weeks. Kazuo Ishiguro wrote the first draft of Remains of the Day in four weeks, and revised it extensively before publication. John Boyne wrote the initial draft of his widely popular novel The Boy in Striped Pajamas in just two and a half days. This is a fiction workshop. The objective of this course is to finish a book length project. If you have an idea that you have been thinking about for a while, you will aim to finish a rough first draft. If you have a manuscript that is at an advanced stage of completion, you should aim towards polishing that project. If you are writing a novel, novella, a collection of short stories, this workshop is for you. How will we do this? Well, that’s the challenge and the most exciting part : by the end of the semester, everyone will be required to produce at least 40,000 original words of either the first draft of a new work or extensive re-writing of an earlier rough draft. At this stage in the writing process we will not be overly concerned with the quality, rather quantity. Perfection is not our goal during this semester. Our concerns are creating plausible characters, the plot turns, conflicts, how to create an outline, develop a writing regime, etc. Creating a book-length piece of fiction is a challenging prospect. My hope is that at the end of the semester, you will not be mystified by the word “prolific”, you will see how it is possible to finish a book length project within a period of time by remaining loyal to a writing regime, and discover the thrill of typing “THE END” after finishing your final chapter. Though we will not worry about perfection, we will think about the social impact of writing by reading a set of essays. This is after all 2018. As writers, many of us are worried or encouraged to re-examine what we write, how we write and its impact. However, these will be short excursions, only to provoke our thoughts and think about themes such as writing and social responsibility, fiction and its relationship to power, writing under authoritarianism, so on. Our focus will remain on the manuscript-in-progress and these concerns may or may not be apparent.
ENGL4800W Advanced Creative Writing: This workshop is like a studio for fiction writers. It is designed for students who have a serious interest in fiction writing and have some workshop experience. Students will have to successfully complete “Introduction to Creative Writing” to enroll since this course demands a higher degree of commitment and standard than the gateway course in creative writing. This is a fiction workshop, so the students bring their work to the class to receive feedback from their peers. The goal of this course is to produce a body of polished and publishable fiction by the end of the semester. Students will also be expected to write detailed critiques of the work of their peers. I aim to assist you in finishing four short stories (3000 to 4000 words each) by the end of the semester. I also welcome writers working on novels and novellas.
ENGL4695 Topics in Postcolonial Lit : Postcolonial literature refers to the literature of the countries that were previously colonized, especially by European nations. Since independence, these new countries have produced some exciting body or work that has led to provocative and enduring discussions in academia. This course is designed to introduce you to the various aspects of this fascinating, yet highly contested field. To understand the themes and concerns of postcolonial literature, we will look closely at novels about the family. With short visits to the themes in postcolonial literature, we will examine the relationship between family stories and the nation. We will discuss why writers repeatedly narrate the family saga, what are the different ways contemporary postcolonial writers have depicted the family—sometimes even spanning generations—in their novels? If the family is a lens to understand and critique the nation-state, why do writers adopt this lens? During the semester we will read Indian writer Ashapurna Debi’s family saga The First Promise: dramatic and riveting, it depicts the life of the child bride Satya in rural Bengal when India was under British colonial rule. The Harmony Silk Factory by Malaysian author Tash Aw explores a secret in the family through three voices in a gripping Faulknerian novel. In The Golden Age we will see the bloody birth of a new nation called Bangladesh through the lens of Rehana, with the horrific Liberation War of 1971 as backdrop and in Half of a Yellow Sun, we will discuss the lives of twin sisters Olanna and Kainene during the Nigerian civil war, also known as the Biafran War. Eka Kurniawan’s humorous, magical novel will take us in a journey through the history of Indonesia from the Japanese occupation (1942) to the modern day through the eyes of a woman called Devi Ayu who returns from her grave. Finally, in Allende’s The House of the Spirits, four generations of women exorcist the ghosts of the Pinochet Dictatorship and taking through a magical journey through postcolonial Chile. Course Objectives : By the end of the semester, students would be able to : · frame arguments about novels and write papers. · identify and debate themes in postcolonial literature and understand a range of issues about colonialism.
Edited Anthology :
How to Tell a Story of an Insurgency, HarperCollins India, Delhi 2018.
Assamese Novel :
Noikhon Etia Duroit, Panchajanya Publishers, Assam, India, July 2018.
Khaleej Times, Dubai “I only know how to make sense of the world through stories.”
Metta Center for Nonviolence, Petaluma, California: “Storytelling and Politics” (Page 11), California, USA.