Author interview – Debjani Chatterjee

Debjani Chatterjee, author, poet and storyteller, tells us about the attraction of writing about the cheeky character, Monkey King.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved listening to, and reading, poems and stories. It seemed natural that I should want to be a writer and storyteller myself. I was born in India but my earliest memories are of Japan. I attended seven schools, finishing in Hong Kong. I also lived in Bangladesh, Egypt and Morocco, before coming to Britain. In every country I enjoyed the myths, legends and folktales that colour the lives of the people and contain a wealth of wisdom. It is wonderful to see the many similarities between stories from different cultures. Even the differences are remarkable.

Monkey tales

Monkeys are among my favourite animals. Monkeys came regularly to my grandparents’ garden in Delhi when I was growing up. They still come to my mother’s house in Delhi and do naughty things like turning on the taps of the water tank on the roof and spilling all the water! From a young age I enjoyed writing stories and poems about them and about other animals and birds too.

Hanuman the Hindu monkey-god was my childhood hero and I have written many stories about him. When I was at King George V school in Hong Kong I spent much time in the library and there I discovered his Chinese counterpart in the great epic Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en. The story tells the adventures of Sūn Wùkōng, Monkey King. My parents took me to see Hong Kong-made movies about Monkey King’s adventures. The Monkey King story is so popular that there are many different version of it: films, plays, traditional opera, ballets, comics, cartoons and a rock musical.

In writing Monkey King’s Party, I indulged myself by presenting a character I have loved for most of my life. Like Monkey King, we are all on life’s journey and like him we have many lessons to learn. All good stories entertain, but they also teach us something and help us to grow. Monkey King’s Party teaches the virtues of inquisitiveness, sharing, generosity, honesty, innocence, courage and simple living.

A selection of Debjani’s Chatterjee’s books

Children’s fiction

The Most Beautiful Child (Cambridge University Press £5.95) The Elephant-Headed God and Other Hindu Tales (Lutterworth £5.95)
Nyamia and the Bag of Gold (Longman, sold as part of a pack)
The Monkey God (Rupa & Co, £3.50).

Animal Antics (Pennine Pens, £5.95)
Rainbow World: Poems from Many Cultures ed. with Bashabi Fraser (Hodder £5.99)
Masala: Poems from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (Macmillan £5.99)
Let’s Celebrate! Festival Poems from around the World ed. with Brian D’Arcy (Frances Lincoln £12.99 hb).



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