Asia+n writing in English

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Excerpts from Zafar Anjum’s ‘Iqbal': In the end, Pakistan champion Muhammad Iqbal had doubts about the Two-Nation theory

After advocating the idea of a separate country for Muslims, the poet began to have reservations about it:

iqbal frontIqbal is credited with creating the idea of Pakistan. In truth, the Two-Nation theory was already common currency when Iqbal became its most vocal proponent. Iqbal the patriot embraced the Two-Nation theory and devised the idea of a north-western Muslim province when he became convinced that Muslims faced extinction in India. He demanded the formation of a Muslim state in these words: ‘I demand the formation of a consolidated Muslim state in the best interests of India and Islam. For India, it means security and peace resulting from an internal balance of power; for Islam, an opportunity to rid itself of the stamp that Arabian imperialism was forced to give it, to mobilize its law, its education, its culture, and to bring them into closer contact with its own original spirit and with the spirit of modern times.’ Continue reading

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Azar Nafisi: ‘Books are representative of the most democratic way of living’

The Iranian author talks about the struggle for freedom in Iran and the west – and her distrust of the virtual life: The Guardian

Azar NafisiAzar Nafisi, 58, is an Iranian writer and professor of English literature. She lives in Washington DC and became an American citizen in 2008. In 1995 she quit her job as a university lecturer in Tehran and taught a small group of students at home, discussing works considered controversial in Iran at the time, such as Lolitaand Madame Bovary. Her 2003 book based on this experience, Reading Lolita in Tehran, was on the New York Times bestseller list for 117 weeks and won a string of literary awards. Nafisi’s latest non-fiction book, The Republic of Imagination (Viking), is described as “a passionate tribute to literature’s place in a free and enlightened society”.

Were you surprised by the success of Reading Lolita in Tehran?

I thought if it sold 9,000 copies that would be great. [It sold more than 1.5m.] Even friends and colleagues discouraged me: “People are focused on [the US invasion of] Iraq and you are writing about these dead writers that no one cares about?” But you write because you want to write. I wanted to talk about a time when I found myself voiceless and I found my voice and my connection to people through books.

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Tata Literature Live Festival: Not just for bookworms

Award-winning writers, poets and erudite panel members are synonymous with literary festivals. But there’s more to the Tata Literature Live Festival, which starts later this week. Marisha Karwa lists the events you should watch out for: dna

Just like there’s no standard ingredient for an epic piece of literature, there is no easy script for a great literary festival either. But with its intrepid baby steps, Mumbai’s very own literary event, the Tata Literature Live Festival, now in its fifth year, comes close. Continue reading

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There are stories everywhere: Playwright and novelist Ovidia Yu

Ovidya_ pictureOvidia Yu can surely be counted as one of Singapore’s most prolific writers. After writing more than 30 plays over 20 years, Ovidia Yu wrote her first children’s book, The Mudskipper, which was shortlisted for the Scholastic Asian Book Award and the Hedwig Anuar Book Award, and Aunty Lee’s Delights, a Singapore murder mystery published by William Morrow last September. The sequel, Aunty Lee’s Deadly Special, will be published in Fall 2014.

Ovidia spared some time for this Kitaab interview between edits:

Tell us about your early life. When did you get attracted to writing?

I fell in love with writing when I fell in love with reading. It was all part of the same thing. After finishing books I loved I would be writing sequels to continue the adventures I had enjoyed. I used to illustrate them too! Continue reading

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Relocating Iqbal in a contemporary idiom

Zafar Anjum’s book is a welcome addition to the corpus of Iqbal studies, writes Naresh ‘Nadeem’: Tehelka

iqbal frontThe volume says it is “an attempt to narrate Iqbal’s life once again for those who have forgotten him” and the author, Zafar Anjum, has succeeded quite well in the endeavour. The book is indeed a welcome addition to the corpus of Iqbal studies. The author acknowledges that it is not “a comprehensive account”, but he has done his best, and the volume, reasonably priced, may well spur curious readers “onto further reading” Continue reading

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Booker win saves Richard Flanagan from life down the mines

Australian author who pondered drastic career change sees sales soar £140,000 in a week after prize for The Narrow Road to the Deep North: The Guardian

The Australian author Richard Flanagan, who was so short of money after completing his most recent novel that he contemplated working in north Australia’s mines, sold books worth nearly £140,000 in only seven days following last week’s Booker prize win.

Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, set on the Burma Death Railway, beat titles by authors including Ali Smith and Howard Jacobson to land the Man Booker on 14 October. Praised by chair of judges AC Grayling as “an absolutely superb novel, a really outstanding work of literature”, it sold 10,242 print copies in the UK in the week following the win, according to book sales monitor Nielsen BookScan – something of an increase on the previous week, when it sold 316 copies. Continue reading

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Sufism: ‘a natural antidote to fanaticism’

Jason Webster on why the republication of Idries Shah book about Sufism – whose enthusiasts have included William Churchill, Ted Hughes and Doris Lessing – couldn’t be more timely:  The Guardian

Fifty years ago this autumn, Idries Shah published The Sufis, with an introduction by Robert Graves. The Washington Post declared it “a seminal book of the century”, while writers such as Doris Lessing, JD Salinger and Geoffrey Grigson were all drawn to it. Ted Hughes described it as “astonishing”. “The Sufis must be the biggest society of sensible men on Earth,” he wrote.

Now, the Idries Shah Foundation is bringing out new editions in English and commissioning translations of his work into Persian, Arabic and Urdu – the very cultures where much of his material originated. Continue reading

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Report: Panel discussion on “Conflict and Literature” held in India

Report by Jaya Bhattacharji Rose


On Thursday, 16 Oct 2014, H.E. Ambassador Feilim McLaughlin of Ireland hosted a literary soiree at his residence. It was organized to commemorate the centenary of World War I.  The event consisted of an exhibition on the Irish poet W.B. Yeats and a panel discussion on “Conflict and Literature”. The panelists were three Indian authors/journalists—Paro Anand, Samanth Subramanian and Amandeep Sandhu and the discussion was moderated by Ambassador McLaughlin. Ambassador of Ireland Feilim McLaughlin said the event was intended to explore the role of the writer in portraying or interpreting conflict, drawing parallels between the experience in Ireland and South Asia. The evening was curated by Jaya Bhattacharji Rose. Continue reading

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DSC Prize for South Asian Literature: Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘The Lowland’, Khaled Hosseini’s ‘And the Mountains Echoed’ among books in longlist

jhumpa_lahiri-620x412Four Indian authors including three poets are among ten writers longlisted for the US $50,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. Popular novelists Khaled Hosseini and Jhumpa Lahiri have also made to the longlist for their books And the Mountains Echoed and The Lowland. Continue reading

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Kitaab Review: Vinod Rai’s Not Just An Accountant—The Diary of the Nation’s Conscience Keeper

Readers will be left wondering if the story of Vinod Rai’s who at the apogee of his life with his vast background and experience is to be judged by the referred case studies alone or he will have a second take, let the unsaid unfold and another volume touching untouched or less touched areas of his life will soon be with them, writes K. K. Srivastava.

Vinod RaiNot Just An Accountant—The Diary of the Nation’s Conscience Keeper
by Vinod Rai
Rupa, New Delhi
Pages-267/ Hard-bound
Price-Rs 500/

Let an anecdote precede the beginning. “It is impossible to clean the kind of clothes we wear today!”  It is Franz Kafka writing from his Trip to Weimar and Junghorn dated 9th July 1912. On 10th February 2010, I communicated this line to a group of my literary friends telling them that I felt it was the crux of Kafka’s diaries and sought their interpretation. Much to my chagrin none responded. Two and half years later on 17th June 2012, one writer named dan zafir enlightened and this is what he says—‘Clothes, I think, are the psychic layers… They were made “pret a porter” by our parents, society, peers, etc…not necessarily in our ‘true size’ As about dirtying them, we got them already dirty, and it is one’s job to clean or change them with ‘clothes’ of one’s true size. Now I have a question for you! Who made the Emperor’s clothes?’ The answer has eluded me thus far. Continue reading


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