An Immigrant Weaves His Love Stories Between Fact and Fiction

Jabari Asim in the New York Times:

Amitava Kumar

In his consistently entertaining new book, “Immigrant, Montana,” Amitava Kumar, an Indian-born writer and scholar, recalls the youthful romantic adventures of Kailash, an Indian-born writer and scholar. The fuzzy distinctions between the author’s life and that of his fictional protagonist are multiple and intentional. “This is a work of fiction as well as nonfiction,” Kumar explains in an author’s note, “an in-between novel by an in-between writer.”

The relationship between fact and fiction provides an animating tension throughout Kailash’s recollection of his salad days. While pursuing graduate study at a university that sounds a lot like Columbia, he researched the life and career of Agnes Smedley, a real-life American writer, best known for her book “Daughter of Earth.” Kailash describes it as “neither a memoir nor simply a novel. And when I read it, I thought Smedley offered us a model for writing.” He found a similar example in a charismatic professor named Ehsaan Ali. “From Ehsaan we wanted narrative,” Kailash recalls. “We didn’t always care how much of it was nonfiction or fiction. Ehsaan lived — and narrated — his life along the blurry Line of Control between the two genres.”

More here.