Kunal Basu's Modest Interview with Oxford Bookstores
on The Yellow Emperor's Cure
Sutanuka: What has been your primary inspiration that gave birth to the story of The Yellow Emperor's Cure?
Kunal Basu: I thought of the story while strolling at a museum of traditional Chinese medicine in Beijing some years ago. The plot of a European doctor visiting China to find a local cure for syphilis caught my imagination and begged to be written.
Sutanuka: Your Novel is set on the backdrop of late 1800s, how far has the chosen setting been a challenge for you as a writer? What was it about this period in history that attracted you to set your novel on it?
Kunal Basu: I had already written a novel (The Opium Clerk) set in China during the 19th century. So researching a different decade within that general time frame didn’t pose serious methodological challenges to me. In fact, knowledge of the opium wars helped me to appreciate the prevalent sentiments among Chinese and foreigners during the Boxer rebellion which forms the backdrop to this current novel. The Boxer rebellion was interesting because it pitted outsiders against insiders, and added dimensions to the key themes of The Yellow Emperor’s Cure.
Sutanuka: Tell us something about the protagonist, Antonio. How have you shaped his character in the novel?
Kunal Basu: Antonio Maria is a brilliant doctor and an incorrigible playboy. He is ignorant of the complexities of love, and his journey to China along with the quest to find the cure for an incurable disease helps him to come to grips with his true self. In many ways, this novel depicts the transformation of Antonio Maria and his character is examined quite intensely through psychological lenses.
Sutanuka: As a reader how would you review The Yellow Emperor's Cure?
Kunal Basu: I rarely go back to read my books, and in any event it is nearly impossible to be read one’s own work with any degree of fairness.
Sutanuka: Name some of your all time favourite authors? Please tell us something about any particular author or book that prove to be inspirational in course of time?
Kunal Basu: There are too many to list, so I’ll mention some of the contemporary writers that I admire: John Coetzee, Michael Ondaatje, Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Amin Malouf. I consider Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians to be a modern day classic. It reveals the power to destroy as well as transcend that lies latent in all of us.
Sutanuka: How would you trace your journey as an author from The Opium Clerk to The Yellow Emperor's Cure?
Kunal Basu: Like most authors, I have wizened over the years, sharpened my craft and developed a deeper understanding of the relationship between plot and character.
Sutanuka: And this is one question which am sure all your fans including myself, would love to know the answer to, what are your plans for your next novel?
Kunal Basu: I am writing a new novel that is set in Kolkata at the present times.
Sutanuka: Here some rapid-fire questions for you: Your favorite past-time?
Kunal Basu: I love watching cricket
Sutanuka: Your Pet superstition?
Kunal Basu: None
Sutanuka: Your Favorite song?
Kunal Basu: Depends on the mood. Now I’m humming Rabindranath’s Tumi shondyaro meghamala…
Sutanuka: In the occasion of your success, what advice would you like to give to young budding writers?
Kunal Basu: Love writing like you’ve never loved anything in our life.