By Utpal Borpujari
Who is John MacLithon? That is the question Delhi’s literary circles and foreign correspondents are trying to find out after his Hinduvta, Sex and Adventure has been accused of being an attack on former BBC correspondent and much-respected scribe Mark Tully.
With Roli Books, the book’s publishers, refusing to identify the author who has written the book with the nom de plume, and India based French journalist Francois Gautier rebutting claims that he wrote it, the guessing game has got bigger.
The novel’s protagonist Andrew Luyt is clearly modelled on Tully and the author gives enough hints towards this. What has set tongues wagging is that the character has been shown as a supporter of Sangh Parivar’s brand of Hinduvta, a womanizer and a critic of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Pramod Kapoor of Roli Books refutes the allegation that Luyt’s character is based on Tully or any one single person. He told Deccan Herald, “The protagonist has traits of four, five foreign correspondents.”
The author, he said, had approached them with the idea of writing several books with a pseudonym, and this was the first one. “We have not decided on the subject of the second book yet,” Kapoor said.
“We thought it was a good manuscript to publish, which is why we published it. No publisher knows beforehand whether any book will lead to a controversy,” he said.
Luyt, like Tully, is a radio journalist based in Delhi, and is the author of No Commas in
South Asia, a play of words on the latter’s much-acclaimed No Full Stops in India.
Like Tully, Luyt too was born in Kolkata, returns later to India on assignment, resigns from his organisation alleging management interference, and goes on to live in a tony South Delhi locality with his partner.
Tully, in a statement, has lambasted the book and said, “”The book is clearly modelled on my career, even down to the name of the main character. That character’s journalism is abysmal, and his views on Hindutva and Hinduism do not in any way reflect mine. I would disagree with them profoundly.”
He further says, “I am amazed that Roli Books should publish such thinly disguised plagiarism, and allow the author to hide in a cavalier manner behind a nom-de-plume.”
Roli, in the author introduction in the book, says that “John MacLithon, who writes under a pseudonym, is a foreign correspondent who has covered South Asia for many decades”. It says that “whether it was dodging bullets on the India-Pakistan border, covering the Mumbai riots, or interviewing six Indian prime ministers, he has given a unique insight into the life of the subcontinent”.
Gautier, known to be a Hinduvta ideologue, has in a statement listed five foreign correspondents, including himself and Tully, who could have authored the book, but denies that he is the author. The other three named by him are Swiss journalist Bernard Imhasly, who has covered South Asia for two decades, John Elliot, who has spent three decades in India and David Housego, also in India since three decades. In fact, he names Tully as the most likely author.