‘Everybody has the right to get excited by writing or reading pornography, but not to pretend it is literature!’

Born and educated in France, Kenize Mourad worked as a journalist with the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur. She has also written Regards from the Dead Princess and Our Sacred Land: Voices of the Palestine-Israeli Conflict. Her novel In the City of Gold and Silver, on Begum Hazrat Mahal, has been published recently.

  • QDescribe your favourite writing space.

    I cannot write in a town, I need to be around beauty and nature, with total calm and my cats.
  • QDo you have a writing schedule?

    I always tried but never could… I am very undisciplined; it can be morning, afternoon or night.
  • QEver struggled with writer’s block?

    Of course! In fact, very often. The best is to let go, take long walks in the countryside or along the sea. Another way for me is to spend time in a hot bath — I relax and ideas come...
  • QWhat inspires you to write? Do you have a secret trick, or a book/author that helps?

    No secret trick but often I reread a very poetic book called Le Grand Vizir de la Nuit by Catherine Hermary-Vieille. Or I listen to Western classical music to help me with the rhythm of my writing, as writing should have rhythm, like music.
  • QCoffee/tea/cigarettes — numbers please — while you are writing?

    A big cup of black coffee without sugar in the morning. Later during the day, tea. Until recently cigarettes (10 to 15), but as I had a very bad case of bronchitis last year I stopped smoking. I am not sure how I’ll manage when I’ll start writing again. What I have tried and is working rather well is to suck the pit of a prune or an apricot. Like cigarettes it calms down my anxiety.
  • QWhich books are you reading at present?

    Presently Les Cerfs-volants se Kaboul (The Kite Runner) by Khaled Hosseini.
  • QWho are your favourite authors?

    Amin Maalouf, Borges, Cervantes, Garcia Marquez. But also the mystics like Ibn Arabi, Rumi, parts of the Bhagvad Gita.
  • QWhich book/author should be banned on grounds of bad taste?

    As I don’t know much about Anglo-Saxon literature, I can only think of a few French books whose name I can’t even remember... I suppose I have chosen to forget.
  • QWhich are your favourite children’s books?

    As a child I loved The Jungle Book and all other books about adventure in far-away countries.
  • QWhich classics do you want to read?

    I like the great Russian classics of Dostoyevsky. And French writer Honoré de Balzac who describes characters and society so well.


In my childhood, one of the most cherished films was by top Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. His Rashomon was something we all saw — it was a mark of our literacy and our cosmopolitanism.

The quarter-century from 1971 to 1996 witnessed some of the most transformational events in Indian history that changed the socio-political discourse and led to a tectonic shift in the Indian polity.