Introduction: Meta-Narrative in My Autobiography; A Note

The late Prof. Virgil Lokke, who taught me Metafiction at Purdue was the first to tell me:


I had stumbled on The Autobiography of Anaïs Nin where a woman called Anaïs Nin makes up, in words, an elaborate character called Anaïs Nin who is The Diary’s protagonist. The force of narcissism operating between reader and writer made me think of myself as Anaïs Nin. (A gay is in the no man’s land between masculinity and femininity, hence the autobiography’s title: No Man’s Land.) I learnt from gay friends in California that there were many gay Anaïs Nins running round there. I was the only one among them who took up the pen to become “a male Anaï s Nin”! (Madness, Nin defines as “a literalisation of a metaphor”). Since life is short and art is long a presentation of a “presentable” self is essential to the autobiography. I note in my Ph.D. thesis on Nin (In-discretions: Anaïs Nin, Calcutta: Writer’s Workshop, 1989) that in Western drama we have “representation,” e.g., Garbo becomes Queen Christine etc. But in the Oriental dance-drama the actor is (presents) Rama or Sita. That is, we become a thing we want to be in autobiographies. So it’s no use calling an autobiographer “a liar”! What is “there” may not be a “fact.”

For their part, the boys I bed act like Salman Khan or Shahrukh or Aamir or Saif, the reigning Bombay film heroes. To them I’m the den-mother; Ana s Nin again! What diaries I can write now! Just as my suffering mother was the Indian tragedienne of 1940's films, I, in love, once imitated the ‘60's gamines! Gay sex in bed too becomes a performance just as role-playing outside the bed is a performance. I once read, “What you do in bed is what you think of yourself outside bed.” The suffering Madonna / queen is “martyred” in and out of bed! The Performance Theory Department at New York University propagates the theory that queer sex is a performance, and by extension, all “personality” is a performance, a role-playing. There is no difference between “real” and “reel” life as India’s film-journalists remind us.

Of course it was Oscar Wilde many decades ago who reminded us in his Decay of Lying that “life imitates art” and not the other way around.

Before dying Virgil told me: “Hoshang, you’re mad!” It is because I write out my fantasies after living them out that I am fully sane.

My diary’s first sentence, of course, echoes Mishima’s first line in his Confessions of a Mask: “I remember my mother moving around my sickroom.” This is another kind of meta-narrative: of book quoting book, text echoing text. The motif of malady versus health is established early. Writing is a kind of spiritual debugging, a fumigation. The Sufis called it “perfuming” and they used “attars.” After all, it is the poem makes poets.

Next: Why I Write

Home | Contents | Webmaster