“But I think if you make life viable where people are, and develop strong local economies, that’s a lot more sustainable.”

Joanna Chiu:

Mishra was in the city to discuss his book From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia, at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival in October. The Economist named the book one of the best of 2012 – describing Mishra as “the heir to Edward Said” and having a “surprising new perspective”.

In person there is only a hint of the caustic, mischievous wit he expresses with full force in his writing. He has a knack for taking people down a notch.

In 1999, when fellow Indian novelist Salman Rushdie was already an established member of the global literary elite, Mishra wrote a review describing the former’s novel The Ground Beneath her Feet as “an alarming new kind of anti-literature”. More recently, Mishra criticised Rushdie for calling Nobel laureate Mo Yan a “patsy” for refusing to sign a petition calling for the release of writer/human rights activist Liu Xiaobo. In an article for The Guardian newspaper, he accused Rushdie of being guilty of accepting the “unexamined assumption lurking in the Western scorn for Mo Yan’s proximity to the Chinese regime: that Anglo-American writers, naturally possessed of loftier virtue, stand along with their governments on the right side of history”.