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About Amit Varma

Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. His current project is a non-fiction book about the lack of personal and economic freedoms in post-Independence India.

Bastiat Prize 2007 Winner

Recent entries

Two Villains

This is the 18th installment of Rhyme and Reason, my weekly set of limericks for the Sunday Times of India…

How This Nobel Has Redefined Literature

This piece was published today in the Times of India. It’s rare that when a prize is given to someone,…

To Defeat Pakistan’s Generals, Let’s Embrace Their Artists

This is a guest column published today in the Sunday Times of India edit page. I am a hawk when…

The Girl From Haryana

A slightly shorter version of this feature on Sakshi Malik was published in the October 2016 issue of Elle India.…

Hillary and Donald

This is the 17th installment of Rhyme and Reason, my weekly set of limericks for the Sunday Times of India…

28 May, 2007

Why are modern novels “so bloody boring?”

Julian Gough explains:

Well, let’s go back a bit first. Two and a half thousand years ago, at the time of Aristophanes, the Greeks believed that comedy was superior to tragedy: tragedy was the merely human view of life (we sicken, we die). But comedy was the gods’ view, from on high: our endless and repetitive cycle of suffering, our horror of it, our inability to escape it. The big, drunk, flawed, horny Greek gods watched us for entertainment, like a dirty, funny, violent, repetitive cartoon. And the best of the old Greek comedy tried to give us that relaxed, amused perspective on our flawed selves. We became as gods, laughing at our own follies.


Yet western culture since the middle ages has overvalued the tragic and undervalued the comic. We think of tragedy as major, and comedy as minor. Brilliant comedies never win the best film Oscar. The Booker prize leans toward the tragic. In 1984, Martin Amis reinvented Rabelais in his comic masterpiece Money. The best English novel of the 1980s, it didn’t even make the shortlist. Anita Brookner won that year, for Hotel du Lac, written, as the Observer put it, “with a beautiful grave formality.”

I agree, and wonder if it has to do with our taking ourselves too seriously. Wouldn’t that be funny?

(Link via PrufrockTwo.)

Posted by Amit Varma in Arts and entertainment

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