Literati swept off their feet by Jeffrey Archer

Literati swept off their feet by Jeffrey Archer

As I entered Landmark bookstore to hear Jeffrey Archer, who was in Chennai to Literati1Jtalk about his latest book ‘A Prisoner of Birth’, I could only see a sea of humanity on all sides listening raptly, and interspersing it with rounds of applause. Managing to get a foothold in one of the corners, not being able to catch a glimpse of the speaker because of the distance, I had to satisfy myself with the figure that appeared on the monitor.Jeffrey Archer began his address by saying how he got to writing his first book which was to avoid bankruptcy as he had lost his money in a fraudulent investment scheme. “Actually, I had it stolen from me, that’s what gave me the idea for ‘Not a Penny More not a Penny Less’,” he said.He was under the impression that it would be published immediately but to his surprise it got turned down by 18 of them. “That’s the only record I have that’s longer than J K Rowling’s .She was turned down by only 16 publishers,” he said and the audience broke into peals of laughter.He continued in the same vein, his speech alternating between seriousness and lightheartedness during the half-an-hour he spoke. There was a repeated mention of his book ‘Cane and Abel’, his most popular book which is still in demand all over the world even after decades of its publication.But he says ‘The Prisoner of Birth’, his present book, is by far the best for which he wrote 17 drafts (involving 1,000 hours of work) before finalising it. He took a dig at Indian politicians, saying he found traffic coming to a standstill to give way to Minister’s car, adding, “Traffic here would make the Italians to be cautious,” referring to the chaotic situation on our roads.He stopped exactly at the 30th minute and said he would take questions for the rest 20 minutes.Literati2JThe eager audience shot off questions ranging from his writing schedule, his themes for the future, what was his inspiration – whether people or books by other authors provided it, his favourite novels/authors, why the characters in his novels were mostly American and so on.

Talking about his writing schedule, he said he gets up at 5.30 in the morning, hand writes(he doesn’t believe in hammering away on the keys) from 6-8 o’clock, rests for two hours, then continues writing for another two hours and so it goes on till eight in the night and he goes to bed at 9.30 p.m.

He draws inspiration from real life and people he comes across during his travels. His favourite authors – Alexander Dumas (he liked ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ and his present book is inspired by it), Vikram Seth, R K Narayan who he says turns ordinary people into giants which he thinks is the work of a genius.

He liked the US and, hence, his characters too belong there .Writing, he concluded, is a God-given Gift and he is thankful to God for giving it to him. Soon the audience dispersed only to pick up a few copies from the various titles written by Jeffrey Archer displayed on the shelves.

I didn’t grudge the time taken (another half-an-hour) to snake in theLiterati3J queue to get my copies signed by the world’s bestseller. Archer promised to visit Chennai again in December this year by which time another novel of his will be ready for promotion.

I only hope the literati of Chennai will be accommodated in greater comfort then.


N. Meera Raghavendra Rao  

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