Asia+n writing in English

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Adil Jussawalla wins Sahitya Akademi Award 2014

adil.jussawalaPoet and critic Adil Jussawall’s “Trying to Say Goodbye” is among eight books of poetry conferred the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award 2014, it was announced here Friday.

Apart from this, five novels, three books of essays, three of short stories, one of literary criticism and an autobiography have also won the award that recognises premier works in 22 Indian languages. Continue reading

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China establishes database on classic Chinese literature

A database of Chinese poems and classics of literature will soon be open to viewers at home and abroad.

The database, still in its first phase, is made up of about 500 hours of video on the 100 most popular classic of Chinese poetry and short essays, said a press release from the People’s Education Press, the database’s publisher, on Wednesday.

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Taj city to host SAARC Literature festival in February

The three-day annual festival of literature for writers and culture activists from the South-Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) countries will begin here from February 13, next year.

Writers and poets from the SAARC countries will deliberate on trends and literary issues at Hotel Grand, while artists from these countries will present programmes at the Soor Sadan auditorium, Ajeet Cour, President, Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature(FOSWAL).

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Suneetha Balakrishnan’s Kindle novella The Guest available for free download for three days

‘The Guest’, a Kindle novella by Suneetha Balakrishnan, is on offer for free download for 3 days from 21 December.
The Guest is a day in the life of three people of an Indian family and the dynamics of Indian family life is not quite what we watch on TV, Balakrishnan told Kitaab. “The Guest can be downloaded into your Kindle or the free app Kindle on PC on amazon,  and its a free download for three days from 21st December 2014 (Pacific Time),” she said.

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Jaipur Literature Festival expects record crowd

Organizers of the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival have unveiled the final lineup of speakers at the 2015 festival, which is scheduled take place in Jaipur from Jan. 21 to 25.

On deck for South Asia’s best-known literary jamboree: Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul, author of “A House for Mr. Biswas” and other novels; travel writers Paul Theroux and Elizabeth Gilbert, the latter of “Eat Pray Love” fame; British screenwriter and novelist Hanif Kureishi; Indian author Chetan Bhagat; Vijay Seshadri, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for poetry; Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton; statistician and risk scholar Nicholas Nassim Taleb; Columbia University economist Arvind Panagariya; and more than 200 others. Continue reading

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Paul Theroux, VS Naipaul to grace Zee Jaipur Literature Fest

NaipaulZee Jaipur Literature Festival 2015 will see a coup of sorts. It has got Paul Theroux and VS Naipaul to attend, making this the first time (barring one very public shaking of hands nearly three years ago) that the two writers, friends before a very acrimonious falling out in 1996, will share the same platform. Continue reading

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Iqbal – A largely misunderstood philosopher, poet, politician and visionary

Indeewara Thilakarathne reviews Iqbal: The Life of a Poet, Philosopher and Politician in the Ceylon Today

“But the universe, as a collection of finite things, presents itself as a kind of island situated in a pure vacuity to which time, regarded as a series of mutually exclusive moments, is nothing and does nothing.” – Muhammad Iqbal

iqbal frontMeticulously researched and brilliantly written biography of Allama Mohammad Iqbal by Zafar Anjum sheds light on the hitherto-unexplored areas in the life of a great intellectual, philosopher, poet and politician and his enduring vision for Pakistan and India. Although Sarojini Naidu acclaimed Inqbal in his life time as ‘Poet laureate of Asia’ and considered on par with Tagore, Iqbal is, now, a largely misunderstood and ignored poet in India. His role as a politician and philosopher in the independence of India and the subsequent creation of Pakistan was unique. Iqbal is considered as the national poet of Pakistan and ‘Spiritual Father of Pakistan’.

However, Zafar Anjum has noted with dismay that Iqbal’s vision for a peaceful and prosperous Pakistan has turned out to be a nightmare ‘Closer home, Iqbal’s dream of a separate state for Muslims in the north-western province was realised. But, unfortunately, that dream has turned into a nightmare. Today, Iqbal’s Pakistan is on the verge of collapse, ridden with violence, terrorism, corruption, and mismanagement. Not only Pakistan, India too continues to fail Iqbal’s expectations. As far as India is concerned, going forward, the onus of proving Iqbal right or wrong lies with the majority community. If Muslims are allowed to prosper in India as equal citizens in a peaceful and non-violent environment, with their cultural identity intact, then Iqbal will be proved wrong.’ Continue reading

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In between slashes: Iqbal

A misnomer persists amongst the academics that after Allama Mohammed Iqbal was nominated the “the national poet of Pakistan”, he was relegated to pages of the sub-continent’s unwritten history and ignored in India: The Deccan Herald

iqbal frontWhile that may be true of his place of birth, it’s certainly untrue as he continues to be read, recited, referred to, and his poetry frequently quoted and musical compositions of many of his verses listened to reverentially.

And his role as the harbinger of Islamic revivalism debated. At the same time, any revival of his life, philosophy and politics is bound to raise questions, especially with regards to his relevance in the sub-continental life. Any attempt to relive the life of a controversial public figure is to raise doubts. Continue reading

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The Columbia Anthology of Japanese Essays

Not exactly essays, not exactly poems, zuihitsu — a uniquely Japanese genre of literature — may be hard to define, but they are delightfully easy to read. “The Columbia Anthology of Japanese Essays,” edited and translated by Steven D. Carter, presents a definitive collection of this genre, written between the 10th and 21st century. Each section of the collection is prefaced by a brief introduction, and thus provides excellent context for both the serious student unpacking Japanese literature and the couch-reader, languidly dipping into the wonderfully meandering style of the zuihitsu. Fittingly, Carter opens the collection with Sei Shonagon and Yoshida Kenko, who together “provided the foundation for a literary form that would live on until the present.”

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Crafting words with Osamu Dazai’s translator Allison Markin Powell

Two of the most successful Japanese novels of the past few years that have been translated into English are Hiromi Kawakami’s “The Briefcase” and Fuminori Nakamura’s “Last Winter, We Parted.” Both were translated by Allison Markin Powell, a literary translator and editor based in New York: The Japan Times

Translating, like writing, is a solitary job and interaction with the writer is limited. “For “Last Winter, We Parted” I had a handful of questions for Nakamura after the editing process, questions about the language or specific items that appear in the book that I may not understand or recognize,” she says. “But I’ve translated books by people such as Osamu Dazai. You can’t ask Dazai any questions. To be honest I don’t really see the author as more or less of an authority on their book from a translation perspective.”

Some writers would disagree. Continue reading


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