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The world is becoming a shopping centre: Jeffrey Archer

New Delhi, March 18, 2013 (IANS) 9:49 IST
India remains an inspiration for acclaimed British novelist and short story writer Jeffrey Archer with its "manic pace, more than 50 million readers and warm hospitality".

The writer, in India to launch his new book, "Best Kept Secret", the third in the Clifton Chronicles series, says India is growing like any other emerging world capital - high on consumerism and the culture of brands.

"I came to India 30 years ago on a political trip. Every year, I come to the country, the pace of change looks tremendous. Even the young are changing. They have become homogenous (like the rest of the world), Archer told IANS in an interview.

"The whole world is becoming a shopping centre - and this homogenization of culture is getting worse everyday. You can't turn the clock back," Archer said.

Explaining with an example, he said, "Women stopped wearing kimonos in Japan 30 years ago. They began to wear western clothes. Now, the young are wearing designer jeans.

That is the influence of television channels and magazines. When I landed at the airport in the capital, I looked at the shopping arcade and it could have been any country on earth," mused the British novelist, one of a growing tribe of foreign writers who have included India on their book tour and launch maps.

Does Archer have a favourite city in India? Given a choice, he would rather not live in Mumbai, but in Chennai and Bangalore - "two of India's most important cities," he says, adding, "But I find Mumbai fascinating".

Archer's new autobiographical fictional serial - "The Clifton Chronicles" - begins in 1940, the year Archer was born, and spans the transforming decades of the 1950s, 60s and thereafter to end roughly around 2014, in a series of seven books.

It looks at the struggle of the middle-of-the-rung, through the life-stories of the Clifton and Barringtons - two families at the opposite end of the social spectrum.

"Best Kept Secret" chronicles 20 years of hero Harry Clifton's life from 1940s to 1960s. Harry is now a best selling novelist and has built a new life with Emma Barrington and their son Sebastian, but threat looms on the horizon not only from the Barrington family, but from a shady figure from Harry's past.

"The series is autobiographical is nature. It is about the west country of England where I had spent all my life. I am Harry, my wife is Emma and my mother is Macey. It is my life... What I perceived as a young person writing for the first time. The beginning was a tough, hard battle. I captured the feel of the era through the language my mother used," Archer told IANS.

It stops short at the swinging 1960s: "The next book will have the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, when the writer was in Oxford", Archer says.

There were fads and phases in literary movements, the novelist says.
"We went through erotica, we have different phases. I had stuck to telling a simple story - I did not do violence, but gave good tales with beginning, middle and end. If you give people a simple story, they can become involved with it," Archer says.

Archer should know, being among the best-selling novelists in the world, having sold 250 million copies worldwide and published in 97 countries in 37 languages.

"I wonder if there is going to be a day when people will stop reading. More than 1,000 people came to my launch in Bangalore, of which 60 percent were women. Kids climbed up the racks to hear me," Archer said.

The tradition of story-telling will survive in India, the writer says. "Indians love stories. You have a great tradition of story-telling with writers like R.K. Narayan. But the young do have a very short attention span," he said.

Archer, known also for short story anthologies like the "Quiver Full of Arrows" and a "Twist in the Tale", is inspired by "incidents he comes across".

And among his literary forebears are H.H. Munro, O'Henry and F. Scott Fitzgerald: the writers from whom he has drawn inspiration.

Archer is working on a new volume of 12 short stories and plotting a bigger enterprise than "Kane And Abel", his literary milestone.

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