Thursday, October 6, 2011

As a literary critic and novelist, Chandrahas Choudhury appreciates the world of words. From a young age, Choudhury knew he was meant to be a writer because it was through literature that his “best self is realized.”

In 2010, Choudhury was among 38 international writers from 32 countries who spent three months in the University of Iowa International Writing Program. Since 1967, the program has helped writers such as Choudhury to be enlightened by different approaches to writing and literature.

“There were a few writers whose dedication and commitment to literature were quite independent of the idea of financial reward. They were a big inspiration for me,” he said. “In India, novelists can sometimes be quite marginal to the culture, so it was fantastic to be someplace where everyone read novels seriously and knew all the things novels were capable of doing.”

Choudhury lives in bustling Bombay, India, where he wrote his first novel, Arzee the Dwarf. The novel follows Arzee through his adventures in Bombay, and was shortlisted for the 2010 Commonwealth First Book Award.

Choudhury’s writing talents are varied, from fiction writing with Arzee to his literary blog, The Middle Stage. Choudhury’s interest in both writing and literary criticism helps him preserve good literary works.

“Indian literature doesn't have many literary critics writing for a general audience rather than for an academic audience, so I feel that, as someone who's also a novelist, my perceptions of what is going on around me are likely to be of some value,” he said.

Choudhury had never been to the United States before joining the International Writing Program.

“Going to America for nearly three months and meeting all of these amazing writers from around the world was like a big explosion inside my head,” he said.

As both a critic and writer, Choudhury has a unique view of the world that others believe is an important asset.

“Chandrahas was both a great person and a great writer,” said Hugh Ferrer, associate director of the program. “Being a literary critic gives him this ability to really think about words and their meaning.”

Being able to communicate verbally in English was a different experience that helped Choudhury improve his own approach to English writing.

Many of his works have appeared in various newspapers, magazines, and journals across the globe. He is the editor of "India: A Traveler’s Literary Companion” and  he also writes for the Indian newspaper Mint Lounge.

Choudhury attended Hindu college in Delhi for his undergraduate education and Trinity and Cambridge for his master’s. The two educational experiences, as well as being involved in the International Writing Program, were important to his growth as a writer.

“A university teaches you to become your own teacher, and in this way, you always remain a student,” Choudhury said.