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Author Amitava Kumar takes us on a tour of his workspace

The writer and artist, whose new book A Time Outside This Time is out next month, speaks about his work environment, eureka moments, and daily rituals

Amitava Kumar.
Amitava Kumar. (Imrul Islam)

Amitava Kumar straddles multiple roles—of a teacher, writer and artist—with effortless ease. Currently the Helen D. Lockwood Professor of English at Vassar College, the acclaimed author of several books of fiction and non-fiction lives in Poughkeepsie, in upstate New York, with his family. We asked him for a virtual walk through his workspace and to tell us about his relationship with it. Edited excerpts: 

Describe your current workspace to us.

The computer on a desk, showing that six England wickets have fallen in the second innings at the Oval so far.

Next to it a coffee mug with a quote from Hannah Arendt. Another coffee mug with a quote from my friend Cheryl Strayed ("Write like a Motherfucker"). Small pictures of my children. On the shelves in this study are the books I currently need. You can see the green outside, which is nice. But what is even better is that in the winter, when the leaves are gone, I can see the creek that flows at the back. I find that enormously soothing.

Has it always been this way? Or has it evolved over the years?

For the past couple of years, there has been one important change. I took up painting. And if you look carefully at the left hand corner, there is a small side-table there. That's where I keep my drawing materials and tubes of gouache and a few brushes.

Amitava Kumar's creative corner, where he writes and paints, in his New York home.
Amitava Kumar's creative corner, where he writes and paints, in his New York home. (Courtesy: Amitava Kumar)

How would you define your daily relationship with this space?

When my kids have left for school, I step into my study with a mug of coffee and write. I also paint here. A year ago I bought a portable DVD player. I sometimes watch films here too. The last film I watched on it was [Satyajit] Ray's Ganashatru.

Tell us about some of the eureka moments you have had and major works that you have done from here.

You know, the pandemic meant that you couldn't go anywhere. So, a lot of my novel A Time Outside This Time, which will be published next month, was written in this room. The same goes for a lot of the text in the book of drawings, The Blue Book, which will come out early next year.

If you were to trade in this place for another, what would it be?

I have been lucky to be awarded writing residencies at places like Yaddo and MacDowell. And I have also, twice now, gone to Marfa, Texas on a writing fellowship. All beautiful places and productive spaces for me. But I also feel guilty being away from my family. My wife and I spent a few idyllic weeks in Bellagio on Lake Como when I had a fellowship there. I'd like to go back there with my wife, free of guilt and full of plans.

Creative corner is a series about writers, artists, musicians, founders and other creative individuals and their relationships with their workspaces.

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