The Word Vancouver festival is set for its 2016 edition with a massively inclusive lineup of authors, appearing at venues around town from September 21 to 25.
We asked a group of these much-admired writers to tell us about their finest reading experiences. Which books put a stamp on their imaginations early on? Which ones revealed to them the full powers of the written word?
Here’s what Vancouver novelist and playwright Anosh Irani told us. Irani is the author of such celebrated works as Dahanu Road, Bombay Black and My Granny the Goldfish, and in February will see his play The Men in White produced by the Arts Club. He’ll read from his work at 11:40 a.m. on September 25, on the fest’s Lions stage at the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.
I was in my early 20s when I first read A Fine Balance. The 800-plus pages seemed daunting, but I was already familiar with Rohinton Mistry’s work. His first book, a collection of stories, was set in a Parsi colony, and I lived in a real-life version of “Firozsha Baag” in Bombay.
It was the ease of the writing, the simplicity and gentleness of the prose, that allowed me to enter the story. Before I knew it, I simply could not put the book down. I was tense and anxious because the characters I was reading about weren’t just characters in a novel anymore; they felt so damn real. I cared about them deeply. I had no control over their fates, but wished, with an almost religious fervor, that I did.
By the end of the novel, I felt someone had punched me in the gut: it was beautiful.
I remember thinking, “So this is what literature can do.”
A Fine Balance was perhaps my first encounter with the awesome power of literature—its ability to disturb, to move, to find inspiration in the most ordinary of lives.