Asia+n writing in English

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‘Slumdog Millionaire’ author now a spokesperson for India’s MEA

The new spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs, Vikas Swarup, may be better known to the outside world as the author of Q&A which was turned into Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire. But he has very large shoes to fill in his new avatar and prove his worth to both, the government and to the ever-growing band of journalists covering the foreign ministry.

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Review: A Fistful of Earth by Siddhartha Gigoo

by Monica Arora

A fistful of Earth

  • Paperback: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Rupa Publications
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 8129135094
  • ISBN-13: 978-8129135094

By far, short stories have been amongst my favourite genres in prose. Capturing a brief anecdote, tale or fable, these pieces of fiction are usually defined by a beginning, climax and an end, and could be with or without a message. Recently, I have been indulging in the work of several Indian short story writers, and my journey continues with A Fistful of Earth and other stories.

Siddhartha Gigoo, the author, a Kashmiri born in Srinagar, sets his tales of poignancy and sadness in his birthplace. What struck me most was the innate sense of loss, despair, profound grief and sorrow that haunt each story. Such is the lilting quality of his mesmerizing prose that even misery appears ennobling and redeeming in these tales. The manner in which Siddhartha has adopted pain and heartache almost reflects a kind of yearning of an unrequited and unhappy soul. This is very relatable, considering that for long, Kashmir  has been a metaphor for the suffering and atrocities inflicted upon its paradisaical soil owing to terrorism, fundamentalism and mindless violence, bloodshed and killing of native Kashmiris. Continue reading

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Ross Adkin joins Kitaab as Editor-at-Large, Nepal

Ross AdkinKitaab is delighted to announce that Ross Adkin has joined the Team Kitaab as Editor-at-Large, Nepal.

Ross Adkin (@ross_adkin) grew up in the north of Scotland and studied South Asian history and languages at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, and Cambridge. He works as a freelance journalist in Kathmandu.

“Ross is a welcome addition to our network of editors who care about writing in Asia,” said Zafar Anjum, Kitaab’s Editor-in-Chief. “He will keep our readers updated with the latest news and views on Nepal’s writing scene.”

“Ross is part of a growing team of Kitaab’s editors,” he said. “We already have editors-at-large for Pakistan and Myanmar, and we are looking to appoint more editors from other Asian countries such as Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, etc. We want to have an editor for each Asian country.”

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Upcoming workshops in Singapore

Title: Characters through action

Synopsis: Workshop participants will learn ways and means to create more engaging and well-rounded characters when writing fiction.

Date: Saturday, 11 April  2015

Time: 9.30am -4.30pm

Venue: Seminar Room, Heritage Place, #02-08, 21 Tan Quee Lan Street, Singapore 188108

Workshop fee: $73

Registration Site:

Tel: 6848 8297 / 6848 8295 Continue reading

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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Jerrold Yam

By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

Jerrold Yam, poet, Singapore

Jerrold Yam, poet, Singapore

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

It’s my attempt to unknot distractions and find intrinsic value.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

For Intruder (Ethos Books, 2014) to intrude into bookshelves and have readers conclude for themselves.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

A one-night stand that unexpectedly leads to a serious relationship: brevity, tactility, emotion, surprise, continuity. Continue reading

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Akhil Sharma on his Folio Prize winner ‘Family Life': A triumph plucked from despair

Family_lifeFew authors, after receiving a prestigious literary prize, wish they had not written the winning book. But Akhil Sharma, newly crowned winner of the Folio Prize, is no ordinary author – and the traumatic 13-year process of writing his acclaimed novel, he said, has left him “damaged”.

Family Life, the prize-winning work, is an intensely personal novel which fictionalises his family’s move to the US – a move that was shattered by a devastating tragedy. He started writing at the age of 30, and now, at 43, and on the night of the award, said that the effort had “shattered my youth”.

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This Divided Island:Review: Stories from the Sri Lankan War by Samanth Subramanian

srilankaIn May 1991, long before he wrote The Divided Island, Samanth Subramanian and his mother were travelling to Madras when their train suddenly came to a halt. His mother leaned out of a window and was told that Rajiv Gandhi had been assassinated. Gandhi had sent peacekeeping troops to Sri Lanka thereby angering the terrorist organisation, the Tamil Tigers. The suicide bomber who had just killed him was a Tamil woman.

Growing up in Tamil Nadu, Subramanian had always been aware of Sri Lanka “joined like a tugboat” to the huge ocean liner that was mainland India. And so in 2004 he began a series of visits to the island to see for himself what the country was really like. He arrived with few preconceptions, one being that Sri Lanka was shaped like a teardrop. It was not long, however, before this perception changed and the teardrop became a “hand grenade”. Continue reading

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Indian writing: The changing tales of communal violence



At the recently concluded literary festival at Aligarh Muslim University, authors dwelt on the changing representation of communal violence in literature – many noticed the stark changes in the depiction of such violence, from the time of Partition to more recent instances. The raw power of Manto, for instance, has been replaced by writing for readers less shocked – communal violence has become almost part of the nation’s “common sense”. Fiction too now reaches out for answers and solutions.

While at the time of Partition, the Muslim was almost solely the communal “Other”, groups like the Pandits of Kashmir and tales from insurgency in Punjab have expanded the number of communities that have experienced such violence. Continue reading

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Iconic 65-year-old Hyderabad bookstore to shut down

As hundreds of rare books and classics are dusted and neatly placed on the shelves every day, 55-year-old Sharafuddin Ansari Javed looks on wistfully, knowing it to be one of the final acts before the grand clearance.

For, 65 years after throwing open its doors to book lovers in the city, AA Husain and Co. in Abids will shut shop within a week to make way for a swanky multi-storeyed shopping mall. The mall builders have already started tearing down the rear side of the Arastu Trust Complex, a Wakf property which houses the big store, while teary-eyed employees recall the glory days.

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A graveyard of books: Hurmat Majid

The lesson I learnt that day, the one I am trying to pass on to you is that it is all very well to visit literature festivals and go to bookstores in pursuit of the latest popular fiction novel. But does that really qualify you as a literary person? I think we owe a little more to literature than that. What literature wants from us is to be read, cherished and remembered. It is, therefore, a task for anyone who calls themselves an avid reader to visit libraries, revive the culture of sitting there and reading for hours on end and paying classic literature its due.

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