Dostoevsky, Rushdie helped me battle cancer, says Lisa Ray

The Indian-Canadian actor said that Dostoevsky continues to inspire and enlighten generations and remains relevant even today

Lisa Ray, cancer, multiple myeloma, Salman Rushdie, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Russian writer, battle cancer, books
Lisa Ray, an Indian-Canadian actor, was diagnosed in 2009 with multiple myeloma, which is considered incurable and fatal. Photo: Facebook

Fyodor Dostoevsky may have died nearly two centuries ago, but the peerless Russian literary titan’s powerful words continue to revitalise and help bring back to life even those having a close shave with death. Supermodel-actor Lisa Ray is a case in point.

The Indian-Canadian actor was diagnosed in 2009 with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the white blood cells, which is considered incurable and fatal.

A year later, the 47-year-old actor declared she was free from the deadly disease.

“Books have played a very big role in bringing me out of the darkest period of my life,” she said in response to a question on what helped her overcome the disease. “I read copiously and indiscriminately. I read Russian writers like Dostoevsky,” Ray said on the sidelines of the Jaipur Literature Festival on Friday (January 24).

She said the 19th-century Russian writer continues to inspire and enlighten generations and remains relevant even today because his work deals with universal themes.

Also read: Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood in 2019 Booker longlist

“I also read a lot of Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood,” she added.

Ray said when she was at the height of her desirability and fame in India, she cut herself off from the outside world in order to read. “I actually disappeared, stopped taking calls, stopped accepting modelling offers and cocooned myself in my house and I read. It’s a true story. I spent three to four months locked inside my house with a pile of books,” she said.

“For me, books are borderless, transcendental. The best author to me is one who writes about things which we have experienced but may not have expressed,” she said.

The actor also talked about her book titled “Close to the Bone”, which chronicles her fight against cancer. Ray said she would like to describe her book not as a memoir, but as a travelogue with a soul.

Deliberating on her fight against cancer, she said it taught her a lot about the meaning of success. “There is absolutely no use in money and fame when you are suffering inside and are broken, you are experiencing trauma and not heading towards healing. That was the biggest lesson I learnt,” she said.

Also read: Booker Prize awarded jointly to Atwood and Evaristo; Rushdie misses out

“I also learnt an interesting word that I never came across, its called coddiwomple. It essentially means a purposeful trip towards a yet unforeseen and unknown destination. This word describes me, my book and my life. I love it and think I have coddiwompled my entire life,” she said.

Ray also said she had signed a three-book deal with her publisher and will write more. “Writing is the most important thing in my life,” she said.

Earlier, speaking at a session on her book, the actor said she only wanted to be a writer and that is the reason she wrote “Close to the Bone”. “I wanted to tell my story on my own terms. There are certain aspects of my life which are unusual,” she said.

“I owe my literary compulsions and passion to my Bengali bloodline. We can’t help it. It’s in the blood. My father is a Bengali and my mother is a Polish,” she said.