Asia+n writing in English

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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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From Occupy Wall Street to Occupy Central: The Case of Hong Kong by David Graeber & Yuk Hui

From the LARB

Sometimes it seems as if every time Occupy has been declared dead in one place, it crops up somewhere else. From Nigeria to Turkey, Brazil to Bosnia, and most recently, now, Hong Kong, where a sudden and unexpected revival of “Occupy Central” — the movement that set up camp on the ground floor of the HSBC headquarter in Central in 2011 in solidarity with the occupation of Zuccotti Park in New York — has paralyzed the city for over a week.

This is not just a change of language or tactics by those engaged in social protest. 2011 marked a moment where the very notion of what it means to organize a democratic revolution permanently changed. Continue reading

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Mike Meginnis’ ‘Fat Man and Little Boy': If you’d nuked a city, you’d feel guilty too

Fat manThe author T.C. Boyle in the preface to his book “Stories II” published last year made a convincing argument that runs counter to the conventional wisdom to “write what you know.” Boyle said: “A story is an exercise of imagination — or, as Flannery O’Connor has it, an act of discovery.”

Enter Mike Meginnis and his novel “Fat Man and Little Boy,” which takes the bombings of Hirsohima and Nagasaki as the nexus for an oddly impressive debut novel. The book follows the two bombs — the eponymous brothers who have been made flesh — as they grapple with the enormity of what they did, their earthly forms and what is to come.

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Why Indian English literature owes a lot to Raja Rao’s Kanthapura

kanthapuraIf you were to ask the average Indian reader today whom they consider the pioneer of Indian writing in English, most answers would point to an author with the initials ‘CB’. If you were to ask a student of Indian English Literature, chances are that Raja Rao’s name would never come up as an answer. In fact, even for those who have heard of him, their engagement with his work is usually limited to hearing a passing mention in a ‘History of Indian English Literature’ class. It was the case with me. Continue reading

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Chen Xiwo: Author provocateur

Chen Xiwo, whose works often tend to be interpreted as erotic and violent, might actually be a closet romantic, as Chitralekha Basu and Sun Li discover.

Chen XiwoEven as he looks to get feedback on The Book of Sins, a collection of seven novellas (translated into English by Nicky Harman and recently published by Forty-six Books in the United Kingdom and in Hong Kong), Chen Xiwo is equally keen to talk about being a writer in present-day China.

Chen, 52, is the first Chinese writer to become a part of Leeds University’s Writing Chinese project that attempts to showcase distinguished Chinese literary voices in the UK.

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