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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Ghayath Almadhoun

By Aminah Sheikh

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

To survive.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

I just finished my new Arabic poetry collection Adrenaline. As I say, I try to survive, like Shahrazad in One Thousand and One Nights, who keeps telling the king stories to not get killed.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

I don’t know really, but I can feel it have a strong effect on people.

Who are your favorite authors?

From the thinkers: Edward Said.

From the short story writer: the Iraqi Hassan Blasim.

In poetry: Amjad Nasser, Ghassan Zaqtan, Saadi Yousef and Salah Faik.

What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.

My poem “Schizophrenia”, which I wrote after Assad’s chemical attack on Syrian civilians. I got the chance to stay for two weeks in the city of Ypres, invited by “deBuren” and “citybooks”. The visit coincided with the centenary of the first chemical attack in history, which occurred in Flanders Fields during the First World War. I remember that I visited most of the 170 cemeteries that surround the city of Ypres and hold the bodies of 600,000 soldiers that were killed there. I was listening to The Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate which is held every evening at Menin Gate for the past 89 years, and after that I wrote Schizophrenia, moving between Ypres (the past), Damascus (the present), Stockholm (the peace that I enjoy) and Palestine (the dream).

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Islamic romance novels set hearts aflutter in Bangladesh

Abubakar was inspired to take up the pen in the late 1970s, when as a bookseller he lamented that most novels obsessed with the cosmopolitan lifestyles of modern, elite Bangladeshis

Kasem bin Abubakar was told nobody would buy his chaste romance novels about devout young Muslims finding love within the strict moral confines of Bangladeshi society.

And yet his tales of lovers whispering sweet nothings between calls to prayer sold millions in the 1980s and proved a huge hit among young girls from Bangladesh’s rural, conservative heartland.

Now his work is undergoing something of a renaissance as Bangladesh slides from the moderate Islam worshipped for generations to a more conservative interpretation of the scriptures.

“Girls write me love letters with ink dipped in their own blood. Some were desperate to marry me” Abubakar told AFP, recounting his surprise at young women making a traditional gesture of intense devotion to a greying author. Read more

Source: Dhaka Tribune


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Abu Dhabi Book Fair 2017: Catching up with award-winning Egyptian writer Mohammad Rabie

By Ben East

It was one of the most memorable book reviews of last year. As our critic pondered the English translation of Mohammad Rabie’s award-winning tale of a futuristic Egyptian dystopia, she concluded by saying that “reading Otared is, by and large, like having a hand grasping the back of your head, forcing you to look through photos from hell”.

Seven months later, Rabie is not only familiar with the quote, he also seems to quite like it.

“That was the intention of the book,” he says. “Part of what I wanted to do is draw a painting of a modern hell to the reader.”

He certainly does that. Otared begins with a horrific murder in contemporary Egypt. It then moves forward to an incredibly bleak 2025, with Cairo split into areas occupied by the Knights of Malta and a resistance led by the Egyptian police. But the police are corrupt and their hero is the titular Otared, a sniper shockingly ambivalent about his targets.

The book deservedly earned Rabie a spot on the International Prize for Arabic Fiction shortlist last year, which means the 38-year-old Egyptian will be one of the major draws at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, which starts on April 26 and continues until May 2 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. Read more
Source: The National


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Chinese bookstores adapt to social changes

By Xinhua

For Gao Hengrui, 20, going to a bookstore is no longer only about buying books, rather, it is a “culture hunt.”

Wine tasting, photo exhibitions, themed lectures — cultural events like these have made bookstores a “must-go” for young Chinese.

“Bookstores today are not just stores, but public spaces where people can relax,” Gao said.

As China’s consumer spending on culture grows, the country’s bookstores are reinventing themselves. Redefining themselves as “knowledge centers” or “cultural hubs,” physical bookstores are reviving an industry in a downturn.

CITIC Books, the book chain owned by Chinese conglomerate CITIC Group, for example, offers value-added services to meet the demand of a niche market.

CITIC Books targets a group of customers it calls “the rising class,” offering them new products in its bookstores, such as drones and 3D-enabled phones. Read more

Source: China Daily


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Two Israelis make it to Booker list

The selected novels spans the epic and the everyday, says judging chair.

Two Israeli authors are among six writers shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker International Prize, organisers announced on Thursday. Three European writers and one from Argentina are also vying for the prize, awarded to a work of fiction translated into English and published in Britain.

One of the novelists, Amos Oz, makes the shortlist for the second time.

Fellow Israeli writer David Grossman is another of the finalists, while Argentina’s Samanta Schweblin is the only other non-European picked by the five judges.

France’s Mathias Enard, Denmark’s Dorthe Nors and Norwegian Roy Jacobsen complete the shortlist.

The finalists are competing for a £50,000 prize, which is divided equally between the author and their translator. Read more

Source: The Hindu


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Excerpts: Jaffna Street by Mir Khalid

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As I have mentioned earlier, prior to the branding of Jaffna Street, our area was notorious, constantly attracting search operations. In the summer of 1992 the security apparatus launched ‘Operation Tiger’, which achieved notoriety for allegedly bumping off insurgents rather than capturing them. The operation  was initiated from our Noor Bagh area and its first casualty was a local lad, a big fish, a much-wanted insurgent leader of the Al Umar insurgent group that controlled the entire downtown area. Earlier that same night, our next-door neighbour, Yusuf, an affable and mild-mannered artisan, died in a concomitant raid   by the Indian armed forces to trap a group of armed insurgents. Giving no heed to his or his parent’s protestations, the militants had forcibly entered his home to stay the night.

Weeks before, my sibling and I had finagled our way out of another army cordon using our exam slips. Allowed at first to leave, we were then detained along with a host of others at the Noor Bagh chowk. An autorickshaw driver who had inadvertently walked into the cordon had been forced to sit under a horse cart. Irate soldiers playfully made our release from the cordoned area  conditional on our setting the range plates of  their  AK 47  rifles to the correct measure; a sure way of self-implicating. In  the afternoon sun we watched in trepidation as the soldiers cursed and accused us of studying during the day and fighting them at night.

But afterwards, with the changing contours, even as foreign fighters started pouring into the Kashmir theatre of operations and Srinagar itself, the assassinations of former militants and people accused of snitching were regularly carried  out  by  a new insurgent crop. Ironically, though, the spate of extortions and carjacking that had been the norm ceased. The racketeer insurgent lot steered clear of our area for fear of being shot in broad daylight.

The increase in insurgent activity again led to an increased level of cordon and search operations and arrests by the paramilitaries and the military. Their lack of hard intelligence  led to indiscriminate and random arrests; many of my own friends and acquaintances were also taken in and had to weather vicious interrogation techniques in makeshift detention centres during the two- to three-day mopping operations. Many had to be carried home, so broken and battered, unable to even  stand. Many a times I thanked my stars for never having to go through these ordeals.

In June 1995, I stood in the large crowd in the main square on Nalamaar Road. My previous attendances in the cordon and search operations had left me with a sunburnt face and arms so    I was trying to find a place to perch and protect myself from    the summer sun, which in a few hours would attain a furious face, enough to melt the surface of the tarmac road.

What  I  hadn’t  considered  was  that  my  dandyish  though worn-out attire, complete with Lacoste and Levi’s components, would mark me out in the crowd. Within moments, a young officer in cammies wigwagged his fingers, signalling me to come forward. Ever the cocky person I was in those days, I blurted, ‘What am I supposed to do,’ in English. The officer retorted in   a serious tone, ‘I will let you  know.’

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Indian university mulls adding Facebook post writing in English literature course

The Delhi University (DU) in the Indian capital is contemplating to include “Facebook post writing” as part of its English literature course, officials said Wednesday.

A core committee in the English department has recommended the addition as a skill enhancement course.

“Now social media is part of our lives. Therefore, it was deemed necessary to train students in the new genre to help them convey their thoughts clearly,” said an official at DU’s English department. “The writings on social media need to be properly written as it is becoming part of literature.”

The university’s English department has already sent a proposal containing recommendations to all its affiliated colleges teaching the undergraduate courses in literature studies and sought their feedback. Read more

Source: Xinhua


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Ipaf winner Mohammed Hasan Alwan’s A Small Death set to be a life-changer

By Saeed Saeed

Mohammed Hasan Alwan looks slightly worried as he holds a buzzing mobile phone.

“I think it is going to explode,” he says. Such is the concern when you have just been announced as the winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

The Saudi Arabian author triumphed at the landmark 10th edition of the awards, held in the capital on Tuesday evening.

The success – for his dazzling and meditative novel A Small Death – firmly positions the 38-year-old as one of the leading lights of Arabic literature.

It comes after years of being on the cusp of greatness. This was his second time on the Ipaf shortlist; his novel The Beaver made it to the last six in 2015, and was named the best Arabic novel translated into French that year.

Alwan was also selected as one of the 39 best Arabic writers by the Hay Festival and Beirut World Book Capital, with his work published in the long-running Beirut39 anthology series. Read more

Source: The National


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Oxford poet wins prestigious award

By Lucy Enderby

Poet and director of Oxford Business College Dr Padmesh Gupta is to receive the Padmabhushan Moturi Satyanarayan Award for his poems written in Hindi.

Dr Gupta said: “It was a great honour when I found out. My poetry touches base with simpler life and smaller incidents, which I pick up on. Every day inspires me.

I feel that people living outside India, when they write in Indian languages, bring that culture and literature to so many people.”

The award is similar to the Order of the British Empire, and recognises exceptional contribution to Indian literature. It is part of the Hindi Sevi Samman Awards which are given for the promotion of Hindi abroad. Read more

Source: Cherwell.org

 


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Author Punam Chadha Joseph Presented Women Entrepreneurship Award at 3rd Asiad Literature Festival by Bharat Nirman

Punam Chadha Joseph, the renowned author of “The Soulful Seeker” was felicitated at the 3rd edition of the Asiad Literature Festival by Bharat Nirman, with the prestigious ‘Women Entrepreneurship Award’. The third edition of The Asiad Literature Festival event was held on Sunday, 23rd April at The Nehru Centre, Mumbai by Bharat Nirman to reward and empower women and promote the beauty of Indian Literature.

The Asiad Literature Festival seeks to felicitate individuals who have made an outstanding contribution in their field of expertise. The noted author was bestowed with the award for her work and her contribution as a pioneer amongst women writers. She won the prestigious award along with other renowned authors like Divya Dutta, Meghna Pant mong other talented personalities.

Bharat Nirman the organizer of this lit fest was founded in 1980 by Late CA Sri M.C.Bhandari and has been an active participant in the India growth story through its advocacy role for policy makers and regulators of the country. With a large membership base of more than 25,000 direct and indirect members, Bharat Nirman has forged ahead leveraging its legacy with its concern over making India most powerful country across the globe. Read more

Source: Business World