An author who seeks to preserve a disappearing world,18 April 2010


An author who seeks to preserve a disappearing world
Sun, Apr 18 01:11 PM

Wasfia Jalali New Delhi, Apr 18 (PTI) His native Newfoundland has seen an unbelievable transformation over a generation, and Canadian author Michael Crummey is restless about penning down its centuries-old folklore that he fears might get lost in transition. Known for his writings that are inseparable from his land, Crummey though not wary of change, is apprehensive that the sweeping changes being witnessed by his society might wipe out the traditions that were till a generation back were being passed on orally.

“The move in one generation from a primarily oral culture, which had not gone through much change in 300-400 years, to a literate culture has meant that a lot of that world is disappearing,” says Crummey, the author of bestselling books like ”The Wreckage” and ”Galore”. “The kinds of things that were passed on orally are not being passed on anymore, so I see my parents living next to an ancient world that has just about finished.

Hence, my obsession with writing about that world is trying to get it down on paper,” he told PTI in an interview. Crummey”s latest book ”Galore” was adjudged the best book in the Canada and Caribbean region before he lost out to Rana Dasgupta”s ”Solo” at the Commonwealth Writer”s Prize finale.

The three-book old Crummey, who was in the capital recently for the final ceremony of the Commonwealth Writer”s Prize, is uncomfortable with his popularity and still finds it difficult to visualise himself as a writer. He confesses that he wrote in secrecy for a long while.

“I have a lot of trouble seeing me as a winner. I guess it has something to do with the place I come from.

I come from a very small town, from a culture that a generation ago had very little literacy, so even the notion that I consider myself as a writer seems very ridiculous,” he said. Still struggling with the notion of being recognised by many as one of Canada”s finest present-day authors, Crummey is however gratified by the fact that his writings, though about a very specific culture, find acceptability in cultures that are much beyond his native place.

Also wary of the classification as a ”historical fiction writer”, Crummey says for him writing about the past is not about relating an event, but a way to figure out ”who we are” by exploring ”from whom we have come”. “I am interested in figuring out why am I the way I am, and I don”t think I can know that without figuring out who I have come from.

We repeat and repeat the same patterns that are passed on generation to generation, the stories that are told are created by the people who live in that culture but then the stories as they are passed on create the people,” he says.