In May 1993 I started to plan a novel that would help me to express (in a thinly-veiled fictional form) my thoughts and feelings about... well, almost everything, as it turned out. The resulting rites-of-passage saga remained an (albeit well-planned) unfulfilled aspiration until November 1994 when Geeta’s work took her and Arjun (aged six) to India for six months. The day they left I began to write the novel, and, keeping rigidly to my plan and writing to a strict schedule of a thousand words a day, the first draft of The Seven Vales was completed just before their return the following May. In the months and years that followed I continued to tinker with the text, ending up with version 4 in November 1997.
Looking at The Seven Vales now, I remain deeply ambivalent about its worth and significance. On the one hand, I cannot read it without shying away in embarrassment at many points. I now feel that it is a juvenile text which contains a number of (failed) experiments in frame-breaking, stream-of-consciousness introspection, serial quotation (clearly influenced by The Waste Land), philosophical theorising, and amateur psychology. The many detailed references to real people, places, dates, events, works and institutions (the Bahai Faith, in particular) belie my claim that it is a work of fiction. Even when I was writing this book I was in two minds about the worth (to me or anyone else) of all this soul-searching. As much as I admire the work of authors such as Hanif Kureishi, my experience with The Seven Vales convinces me that literary self-discovery is a highly-overrated exercise in intellectual onanism. On the other hand... there are some good bits... and it was a long time ago... and it never happened, anyway. To save my blushes I am withholding all but chapter 1. Make of it what you will.
Download chapter 1 of The Seven Vales (pdf 273kB)
One of the (negative) findings from the experience of writing The Seven Vales is that while my detailed preparatory planning was in itself a satisfying theoretical exercise, it effectively killed all the joy that can come from just creating a piece of writing directly from the imagination. With this in mind, and with time on my hands, in March 2012 I wrote the first chapter of The Thinking Machine without any planning whatsoever. It was a very happy experience and on re-reading I remain satisfied (uplifted, even) with the result. Maybe one day I will write chapter 2!
Download chapter 1 of The Thinking Machine (pdf 32kB)
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