'Pico Iyer made me reassess how I see success'
Talking books with Dubai-based writer Binu Sivan
What are you reading right now?
I am usually reading two to three books at a time - one heavy and the others lighter. I have just started Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. The lighter ones are usually Agatha Christies or P.D. James or a thriller.
A book that changed your life.
I don't think I could name only one. The Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer made me reassess my definition of success. I value The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, because it showed me that something grand can be told in simple, beautiful English. The third book is Beloved by Toni Morrison. This story about survival through something as vicious as slavery made my heart stop.
Name an underrated book.
Right now, I would recommend two books. One is The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker, a gentle love story set in Burma. The other is The Liberation of Sita by P. Lalitha Kumari (pen name Volga). It gives the reader a very interesting insight into Sita's evolution as a truly liberated woman.
Favourite literary character.
This is truly a tough question to answer. I really loved Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, Sethe from Beloved, Swami from Malgudi Days and Miss Marple and Jeeves. I think Lizzy Bennet stands out because I first read Pride and Prejudice as a teen and the intelligent heroine with a mind of her own made a huge impact.
A memorable book quote.
"We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves." This quote from The English Patient is so lyrical and picturesque, it is almost a poem.
- As told to Supreeta Balasubramanian