Asia+n writing in English

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Review: Kevin Kwan’s ‘China Rich Girlfriend’ Skewers Vulgar Wealth in Asia

kevinKevin Kwan’s brand of giddy wealth porn arrived in 2013 with “Crazy Rich Asians,” not a moment too soon to rescue a worn-out and useless genre. The vulgar rich had taken over reality TV, fictionalized TV (which seemed tepid by comparison), the occasional freakish documentary (like “The Queen of Versailles”) and the kind of fiction that heard its sell-by knell when “Bergdorf Blondes” and all its copycats came along. There was nothing new to be said about crass New Yorkers, Texans, Hollywood types or even tech billionaires, whose excesses weren’t usually that showy. A whole money-wasting continent had been milked dry. Continue reading

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Indonesia: Pallavi Aiyer speaks at Makassar International Writers Festival (MIWF)

pallaviThe MIWF—held at Fort Rotterdam, a well-preserved collection of 16th-century harbour-front buildings—is the brainchild of local writer-feminist Lily Yulianty Farid. She founded the festival five years ago with nothing more than a prayer and a handful of sponsors. It is now the highlight of the city’s cultural calendar. Throngs of Makassarese, most of whom rarely read or buy books, gather at Fort Rotterdam to listen to authors from diverse countries—the Netherlands, Australia, Japan and India. Most writers, however, are from Indonesia, many from the periphery of the archipelago, places like Papua. They rarely get a platform to talk about their work.

In vibe and setting, the MIWF is as imaginably opposite as can be to Indonesia’s other big litfest, organised in Udub, Bali, by a fashionable Australian restaurateur. The Udub festival lures big-ticket authors with sumptuous meals and stays at luxury resorts. Tickets sell for hundreds of dollars; there are pricey special events promising a chance to canoodle with favourite writers over aperitifs and canapes. The audience is largely of expats. Continue reading

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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Sudha Menon

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

I write to keep my sanity in a world that is so chaotic. I have always had this retreat from life. I remember, as a child I was a misfit in every sense of the word. I was that painfully shy, awkward, mousy girl with no friends. I tried to fight that by being aggressive and picking up fights but that resulted in even lesser acceptance. In the end I simply turned inwards, started writing on bits and scraps of paper and retreated from the world. I found great joy in the little world I had created for myself. I told no one about my writing. Not even my family because I did not want to be laughed at. I did not want to be judged anymore.

To this day I write to keep my sanity. I love the act  of sitting down with a pen and paper or at my laptop and being by myself. The act of writing calms me, quietens me and takes away the stresses and strains of having to deal with the mundanities of everyday life. I write when I am angry, when I am sad, when I am restless…And when I am done writing, there is a feeling of lightness, a high that carries me for the rest of the day.   Continue reading

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Kitaab Review: The Upstairs Wife by Rafia Zakaria

rafia_zakariaThe Upstairs Wife is an important testament to Pakistan’s political and individual family histories, says Mantra Roy in this review.

The Upstairs Wife by Rafia Zakaria. Beacon Press, 2015.

“Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated in Rawalpindi,” whispers the narrator’s father into the phone, while the family is waiting for a relative’s health status at hospital. The Upstairs Wife (Beacon Press, 2015) takes readers on a swift journey through Pakistan’s political and social history via a personal, family history. Rafia Zakaria’s school-going Pakistani girl’s perspective provides a mysterious narrative voice. She observes her aunt’s marriage crumbling because of a Pakistani law that permitted Pakistani men to take legal second wives in the 1980s. Continue reading

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Bhutan to host 6th edition of literature fest

The happiest country in the world Bhutan is set to hold the 6th edition of its annual Mountain Echoes literary festival in capital Thimphu.
An initiative of the India-Bhutan Foundation in association with Siyahi, a literary agency, the festival is being powered by the Rajasthan government.
The festival is scheduled to be held from August 19 to August 22 and will coincide with the year-long celebrations of the fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck’s 60th birthday in Bhutan.
Every year, the festival hosts writers, poets, visual artists, curators, film critics and commentators from the world over, who engage in cultural dialogue and interactions on myriad subjects, in scenic Thimphu for three days.
Some of the names to watch out during the festival are author and entrepreneur Ashwin Sanghi, journalist Bahar Dutt, Mayor of London Boris Johnson, authors Chetan Bhagat, Dasho Sherub Gyeltshen, Yonten Dargye and health and Well being author Josephine Chia.

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India: Sahitya Akademi announces winners of Bhasha Samman

The Bhasha Samman carries a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh, an inscribed copper plaque and a citation: The Indian Express 

Entrusted with the task of promoting literature in the different languages of India, the Sahitya Akademi has announced the winners of the prestigious Bhasha Samman, which is awarded for contribution to literature in various Indian languages. To be presented in the coming months, the recipients of the award are K Meenakshi Sundaram for contribution to Classical and Medieval Literature (Southern) for 2013 and Munishwar Jha for Classical and Medieval Literature (Eastern) for 2014. Charu Chandra Pande and Mathura Dutt Mathpal have also been jointly recognised for their work towards the enrichment of Kumauni, a language reportedly not recognised by the Akademi till now.

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Man Asian literary prize winner apologises after plagiarism row

Shin Kyung-sook had earlier denied using material by Yukio Mishima, but has now apologised, saying ‘I can’t believe my own memory’: The Guardian

Shin Kyung-sook, an internationally renowned South Korean novelist who won the $30,000 (£19,000) Man Asian literary prize four years ago, has apologised to her readers and admitted that “everything is my fault” after being accused of plagiarism.

Shin had earlier denied allegations that she had plagiarised passages in her 1996 short story Legend from the Japanese author Yukio Mishima’s Patriotism. The accusation was made by the poet and novelist Lee Eung-jun in the Huffington Post; Lee cited lines from both pieces, calling it “a clear case of plagiarism, a dishonest act of a literary work which cannot be acceptable to any professional literature writer”.

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The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota review – a brilliant political novel about migrant workers in Sheffield

A story about the lives of three Indian men and a British-Indian woman in the city puts the most urgent questions of the day in a human context: Kamila Shamsie in The Guardian

There’s a strange whiff of mistrust in these British isles around the description “political novel”; it’s a term sometimes confused with polemic, and an absence of nuance and subtlety. Sunjeev Sahota’s second novel makes a nonsense of common assumptions about what it means to write a political novel.

His debut, Ours Are the Streets, looked into the mind of a would-be suicide bomber in Sheffield and won him a place on the 2013 Granta Best of Young British Novelists list. The new novel centres around the lives of three Indian men and one British-Indian woman. The three men – Tochi, Randeep and Avtar – live together with other migrant workers in a house in Sheffield; the woman, Narindar, is married to Randeep but barely knows, or wants to know, him and lives separately in a flat.

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Modern Romance review – a refreshing male take on sex

Aziz Ansari entertains and illuminates as he observes how technology complicates relationships: The Guardian

azizI’ve thought before that if I were single today I’d probably forgo dating sites and the swiping Tinder malarkey and just concentrate on finding myself a nice strong noose. Obviously I’m joking, but comedian and Parks and Recreation actor Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance serves both to reinforce and undermine this notion. On the cover, Ansari has hearts for eyes and a mobile phone in his hand, encapsulating the aim of the book – to decipher how love, sex and romance have become thrillingly liberated, yet also complicated and distorted by modern times and changing technology.

Ansari writes: “A century ago people would find a decent person who lived in their neighbourhood. Their families would meet and, after they decided neither party was a murderer, the couple would get married and have a kid, all by the time they were 22. Today, people spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.”

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