Asia+n writing in English

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Review: How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position by Tabish Khair

How-to-Fight-Islamist-TerrorFighting Islamist terror is not the book’s focus and, although both main characters have lively libidos, sex is not a particular concern either. In a Danish setting that seems to reflect Khair’s own role as a lecturer at Aarhus University, friends from the Indian subcontinent, one Indian, one Pakistani, move into the flat of an older Muslim, Karim. Continue reading

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Video: Prof. Vijay Prashad on the 2011 NATO bombing of Libya, the rise of ISIS and the crisis in Palestine

Vijay Prashad is professor of international studies at Trinity College. He is the author of several books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter and, most recently, The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South.

Watch the full video/read the transcript here

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Penguin Books revives novels by Raja Rao in its Modern Classics Series

Penguin Books has brought out three famous novels by iconic writer Raja Rao and a collection of his short stories under its Modern Classics series.

The four books – “Collected Stories”, “Kanthapura”, “The Cat and Shakespeare” and “The Serpent and the Rope” – have an introduction by poet-translator R Parthasarathy. Continue reading

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‘Spirituality united Gandhi and Ambedkar’: U R Ananthmurthy’s last interview

Earlier this year, Udipi Rajago­pa­la­charya Ananthamurthy (URA), the Jnanpith award-winning Kannada novelist, educationist and public intellectual, had declared that he would not live in an India run by Narendra Modi. This had provoked lacerating responses from right-wing Hindutva supporters. URA breathed his last on August 22, 2014, before the Modi government completed 100 days in office. Chandan Gowda of the Azim Premji University had interviewed the litterateur for an eight-part Doordarshan series, telecast in June and July. It is possibly URA’s last major interview. Excerpts:

UR AnanthamurthyWhat parts of the Gandhian legacy are important for you?

His suspicion of the modern world system is one. The modern world system will destroy the earth, will destroy the sky, will destroy the balance bet­ween nature and man because it is very greedy. Gandhi’s rejection was sometimes extreme. But extremes can open the gate of heaven, that’s what they have said. So Gandhi exaggerated at times, but in the main you know that. He used trains all the time. But he said we could live without trains. He rightly feared centralisation. Gandhi was also friendly towards nature. There are many valuable Gandhian ideas. The whole idea that small is beautiful comes from Gandhi. So he wanted such ideas to govern the whole country. He didn’t like big buildings. Continue reading

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Renowned Indian historian Dr Bipan Chandra passes away

Renowned Indian historian and writer Dr Bipan Chandra, author of India’s Struggle for Independence and India Since Independence, has passed away.

Bipin ChandraDr Chandra was born in Kangra Valley and completed his education from Stanford University in California and the University of Delhi. He worked as a Lecturer and then Reader at Hindu College, Delhi before becoming Professor of History at Jawaharlal Nehru UniversityNew Delhi.  He was a member of the university grants commission and was appointed Sectional President of the Indian History Congress.

He was appointed Chairman of the National Book Trust, New Delhi in 2004 and held the post until 2012.

A widely published author, Chandra was considered to be one of the foremost scholars on Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian independence movement, and was an expert on the economic and political history of modern India.  He was first published by Penguin over two decades ago and his works, India’s Struggle for Independence and India Since Independence, have remained perennial bestsellers ever since.

Chiki Sarkar, Publisher at Penguin Books India said in tribute, Bipan Chandra was one of Penguin India’s most respected authors and whose books on Indian history have been read by generations of readers. We mourn his passing”

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In Bihar, A Museum For Author George Orwell in Motihari

Orwell'shouseIndia on Thursday began work to restore the dilapidated house where “Animal Farm” and “1984” author George Orwell was born and turn it into a museum.

Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair on June 25, 1903 in Motihari, a tiny town in Bihar, near the border with Nepal.

His father, Richard W. Blair, worked at the time as an agent in the opium department of the Indian Civil Service during the height of British rule over the subcontinent.

The family’s simple white colonial bungalow had been left to fall into ruins until the Bihar authorities decided to renovate it in a 6 million rupees ($100,000) project.

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Indian environmentalist Dr. Vandana Shiva tears into misleading New Yorker article

VShivaIn her response to the article ‘Seeds of Doubt’ by Michael Specter in The New Yorker, Indian environmentalist Dr. Vandana Shiva has taken to task the writer of the piece, Mr. Specter, for misleading the readers of the esteemed magazine with ‘many fraudulent assertions and deliberate attempts to skew reality’.

In a long piece on her own website, she says:

“I wonder why a journalist who has been Bureau Chief in Moscow for The New York Times and Bureau Chief in New York for the Washington Post, and clearly is an experienced reporter, would submit such a misleading piece. Or why The New Yorker would allow it to be published as honest reporting, with so many fraudulent assertions and deliberate attempts to skew reality. ‘Seeds of Doubt’ contains many lies and inaccuracies that range from the mundane (we never met in a café but in the lobby of my hotel where I had just arrived from India to attend a High Level Round Table for the post 2015 SDGs of the UN) to grave fallacies that affect people’s lives. The piece has now become fodder for the social media supporting the Biotech Industry. Could it be that rather than serious journalism, the article was intended as a means to strengthen the biotechnology industry’s push to ‘engage consumers’? Although creative license is part of the art of writing, Michael Specter cleverly takes it to another level, by assuming a very clear position without spelling it out.”

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This is what wannabe Jihadists order on Amazon before leaving for Syria

Can you guess which books the wannabe jihadists Yusuf Sarwar and Mohammed Ahmed ordered online from Amazon before they set out from Birmingham to fight in Syria last May? A copy of Milestones by the Egyptian Islamist Sayyid Qutb? No. How about Messages to the World: the Statements of Osama Bin Laden? Guess again. Wait, The Anarchist Cookbook, right? Wrong. Continue reading

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Occupy the Novel: Review of ‘The Gypsy Goddess’ by Meena Kandasamy

There are some rough patches in Meena Kandasamy’s novel The Gypsy Goddess (Atlantic Books, 2014, pp 283) but the author’s spontaneity, coupled with a radiant wit makes this a memorable novel. Beyond the hard-hitting storyline, the variety of experiments with form would keep one engaged, marking out this book as an important debut of the year, says Rajat Chaudhuri.  

Gypsy GoddessThe Wikipedia entry on the Kilvenmani massacre is a mere 800 words long while the Economic and Political Weekly article that pops up in a JSTOR search, at two and half pages, offers a slightly better word count. A couple of documentaries on YouTube, a few stray newspaper reports from the past, is about all that Google manages to throw up about this barbaric killing of poor unarmed Dalit villagers of Kilvenmani in Tamil Nadu, southern India that happened on Christmas day, 1968. Now that someone has written a fictionalised account in English about this half forgotten incident, buried deep in the annals of peoples’ struggles, was reason enough to get hold of a copy of The Gypsy Goddess. Hardbound, with a brilliant crimson cover with gold lettering and wrapped up in a beautifully designed dust jacket, it appeared in my mailbox exuding vintage chic.

The story is about the cold-blooded massacre of forty two people of Kilvenmani village by caste Hindu landlords and their goons just as Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 was about the mindless bombing of Dresden by the allied forces. And obviously it is an immensely difficult story to tell because wanton killing doesn’t lend itself well to traditional forms of storytelling. Continue reading

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S. Korean poet Ko Un wins Golden Wreath Award

Renowned South Korean poet Ko Un has won this year’s Golden Wreath, one of the world’s most authoritative awards for poets, the Korean National Commission for UNESCO said Monday.

Ko received the award at the end of an annual poetry festival in the southern Macedonian town of Struga on Sunday for his overall ody of work, the commission said.

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