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Book Review: The Girl who Ran Away in a Washing Machine by Anu Kumar

By Rajat Chaudhuri

washing-machine

Short stories? Who writes short stories these days? Aren’t we reminded time and again that publishers are no more interested in this form? But then, isn’t the novel too going to give up its ghost in a couple of hours as grey haired Cassandras predict with the regularity of automatons? Aren’t we advised that narrative nonfiction and its close cousin the diary or even the memoir, is the go-to form for the author who doesn’t want to be put on an artificial respirator? And just when this cumulonimbus of bad news bears down upon you, the fiction author (or the reviewer) you chance upon a book which simply says the “genre” is in safe hands and that this oldest of storytelling arts still has a lot to offer.

The Girl Who Ran Away in a Washing Machine and Other Stories is a collection of stories by Anu Kumar, published by Kitaab. The stories in this slim volume travel the distance from tony upper class neighbourhoods of Singapore to back of beyond villages of India, from futuristic urban settings with robot newsreaders to the ruins of the Indus Valley civilisation, taking the reader on a journey of discoveries that she will cherish for long. But what is definitely the strength of this book is the range of subjects and themes in which Kumar engages, without overburdening her audience.

Here you will find a wonderful story of love lost and found, a magical adventure with a ghost among the ruins of an ancient civilisation, a couple of tales where you chance upon men with weird eyebrows, a sprinkling of magic everywhere, a dash of the absurd sometimes and a wink and a nod towards science fiction. Elsewhere social evils like dowry, corruption, religious intolerance or the crisis of farmer suicides are spun into the narrative with an expert hand, imbuing those tales with a sense of urgency, without being stilted or preachy.

In the eponymous story set in rural Punjab, we meet Neha, newly married to Manjit, finding solace and a hiding place from her in-laws inside the symbolic space of a washing machine that was part of her dowry. “Washing Machine” and indeed a few other stories have an alluring quality that gives the reader the sense of drifting on a calm current as she gets engrossed by the storytelling. Delectable prose coupled with a narrative that slowly circles inwards, curling towards the beating heart of the plot, perhaps imparts this quality to Kumar’s stories. But this is not to say that there are no surprises here, no spindrift or maelstrom, no intrusions of the fantastic or the absurd. In fact, surprises are aplenty and some of these stories wear the edginess on their sleeves.

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China: Nobel winner launches prize

By Liu Zhihua

China’s first Nobel Prize winner in physiology or medicine, Tu Youyou, celebrated her 86th birthday by signing an official agreement to donate 1 million yuan ($144,900) to establish the Peking University Tu Youyou Talent Award Foundation.

The initiative will provide financial support and incentives to the university’s students and young teachers of medicine.

Han Qide, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference-a legislative body-and Hao Ping, China’s vice-minister of education, also Party secretary of Peking University, witnessed the signing at Tu’s residence on Dec 25, a few days before her birthday on Dec 30. Read more

Source: China Daily 


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Heading to JLF 2017? Writers and poets pick sessions you must attend

By Aruveetil Mariyam Alavi and Supriya Sharma

Five days of literature. The most read authors and poets. The most fascinating discussions. Indian literature’s mammoth mela, the Jaipur Literature Festival, is never short of excitement. The festival, which will run from January 19 to January 23 this year, creates a problem of plenty for its eager visitors: there is too much to do, too many authors to hear, too many discussions to attend.

So before you make your must-attend-at-JLF lists, take a look at what authors, poets and other participants are looking forward to the most this year.

Namita Gokhale is one of the forces that has kept the Jaipur Literature Festival running smoothly over the years. As a writer and publisher, who is also one of the founder directors of JLF, she has some fond memories of the festival over the years.

“So many memories, layered and imprinted in my mind and heart. The keynote addresses from some of the greatest Indian writers, including Mahasweta Devi, UR Ananthamurthy, Girish Karnad, Nayantara Sahgal and so many others. The years when it rained and poured and the festival just continued calmly despite the mud and sludge. Gloria Steinem drinking chai in a kulhad, listening in to the front lawn sessions. Margaret Atwood and her sparkling mind,” she remembers. Read more

Source: Hindustan Times


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India: Crossword enters cluttered publishing space

Leading organised bookseller Crossword Bookstores has entered the already cluttered publishing domain with The Write Place, which will focus only on Indian authors.

According to market research agency Nielsen, the domestic publishing market had as many as 9,000 publishers and over 21,000 book retailers in 2015.

On the move to enter the publishing platform, Crossword Bookstores chief executive Kinjal Shah said, “The Write Place is committed to publishing Indian authors.” Read more

Source: Business Standard


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Sudeep Sen joins the Advisory Board of Kitaab

sudeepWell-known Indian poet and author Sudeep Sen has joined Kitaab’s Editorial Advisory Board.

Sudeep Sen’s prize-winning books include Postmarked India: New & Selected Poems (HarperCollins), Rain, Aria (A. K. Ramanujan Translation Award), The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry (editor), Fractals: New & Selected Poems | Translations 1980-2015 (London Magazine Editions) and EroText (Vintage: Penguin Random House). Blue Nude: New Poems & Ekphrasis (Jorge Zalamea International Poetry Prize) is forthcoming. Sen’s works have been translated into over 25 languages.

“It is a delight to be part of Kitaab, a venture that has already done impressive work to bring together the literatures of the region to a discerning audience. I hope to help its publishing programme become even more far-reaching, cutting-edge and international,” he said.

Sen’s words have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, Newsweek, Guardian, Observer, Independent, Telegraph, Financial Times, Herald, Poetry Review, Literary Review, Harvard Review, Hindu, Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, Outlook, India Today, and broadcast on bbc, pbs, cnn ibn, ndtv, air & Doordarshan. Sen’s newer work appears in New Writing 15 (Granta), Language for a New Century (Norton), Leela: An Erotic Play of Verse and Art (Collins), Indian Love Poems (Knopf/Random House/Everyman), Out of Bounds (Bloodaxe), and Initiate: Oxford New Writing (Blackwell). He is the editorial director of AARK ARTS and the editor of Atlas. Sen is the first Asian honoured to speak and read at the Nobel Laureate Festival. The Government of India awarded him the senior fellowship for “outstanding persons in the field of culture/literature.”


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Book Review: Managing the Journey through Rough Terrain by Gouranga P. Chattopadhyay

By Debakanya Haldar

journey

The advent of autumn always brings with it an innate sense of solitude and the smell of the approaching winter. Such is the idea present in the autumnal season of the human life as well. This is the prevalent emotion in Gouranga P. Chattopadhyay’s second collection of poems, Managing the Journey through Rough Terrain. What is most interesting about this collection is that even though it dwells mostly on the sentiments of loss and longing that become the inevitable part and parcel of old age, this collection of poems promises to appeal to the emotional recesses of the mind, irrespective of the reader’s age.

The collection opens with a poem entitled, “Old Age Should Rave and Burn at Close of Day”, which allows the poet to make his position clear in front of his audience — he is not afraid to “rage against the dying of the light.” Thus begins the reader’s journey into a world seen through the spectacles of a matured poet enriched with experiences. The poet skillfully strikes a balance between the nostalgia of the past – “Images of those whom I loved flashed by” (“A Glass of Margarita at Hand”) –and the anticipation for an unknown future – “How many more do I have to overtake before my remains go up in smoke?!” (“Yet Another Gmail”) The poet weaves lucid and rich description of the mundane aspects of nature, thus supplementing his own personal experiences with a myriad of vivid images. My favourite of these have to be the description of the old laburnum tree in the poem “The Laburnum Tree in Madhuwanti” –

“It stands like a sentinel on the parade ground, ramrod straight,
Displaying the many coloured ribbons pinned to its chest,
Witness to past glory of years of braving Santiniketan’s
summer:”

Mr. Chattopadhyay’s journey in his second collection of poems is unabashedly personal and yet, he never fails to include the reader in this “journey through the rough terrain”, to allow the reader to make it his or her own.

 

The reviewer is a final year M.A. English student at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. She appears as a guest author with the short story “The Last Meeting” in the collection of short stories, Wrinkles in Memory, published by LiFi Publications in 2016. Debakanya is originally from Kolkata and currently lives in Delhi.


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Zhou Youguang, Who Made Writing Chinese as Simple as ABC, Dies at 111

By Margalit Fox

zhou-youguangZhou Youguang, known as the father of Pinyin for creating the system of Romanized Chinese writing that has become the international standard since its introduction some 60 years ago, died on Saturday in Beijing, Chinese state media reported. He was 111.

In recent decades, with the comparative invincibility that he felt great age bestowed on him, Mr. Zhou was also an outspoken critic of the Chinese government.

“What are they going to do,” he asked bluntly in an interview with the BBC in 2012. “Come and take me away?”

In fact, they had already done that once before, long ago. Read more

Source: The New York Times


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Rammala Library: A Lighthouse of Undivided India

By Emran Mahfuz

After its founding, Dr Rashmohan Chakravarty and Mahesh Chandra Bhattacharya himself worked to expand it further. Many of the manuscripts were donated by local families who gave up their home libraries on the eve of the British colonial period for the sake of preserving them.

This Rammala Library is enriched with 12,000 printed books and 8,500 hand-written books on literature, culture, history, geography, philosophy, religion and other branches of knowledge. The collection of hand-written books (manuscript) is mostly the literature of Medieval Period and from the early modern period (roughly 1700-1900 AD).

Furthermore, this library preserves rare Bangla magazines. One can find here the issues of Prabasi, Shanibarer Chithi, Mauchak, Purbasha and the like that are not available in any other libraries. There is an incomparable collection of books on comparative religious theories here. Read more

Source: The Daily Star

 


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Oiling The Stars: A poem by Pijush Kanti Deb

Oiling The Stars

pijushPijush Kanti Deb is a Professor of Economics and a new Indian poet. Nearly 300 of his poems and haikus have been accepted/ published in magazines (national and international), journals, and online platforms. His first poetry collection, Beneath The Shadow Of A White Pigeon is available on Amazon. He is now working on his second poetry book, The Divine Face Of Smile.


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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Two Books About Muslim Identity

By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

LETTERS TO A YOUNG MUSLIM
By Omar Saif Ghobash
244 pp. Picador. $22.

THE ATHEIST MUSLIM
A Journey From Religion to Reason
By Ali A. Rizvi
247 pp. St. Martin’s Press. $26.99.

In 1776, Thomas Jefferson’s friend Senator Richard Henry Lee expressed both of their opinions when he asserted in Congress, referring to Muslims and Hindus, that “true freedom embraces the Mahometan and the Gentoo as well as the Christian religion.” In 1777, the Muslim kingdom of Morocco became the first country in the world to formally accept the United States as a sovereign nation. In 1786, when the United States needed protection from North African pirates who were stealing ships and enslaving crews, it signed the Treaty of Tripoli, which stated that “the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquillity of Musselmen.” In 1785, George Washington declared that he would welcome Muslim workers at Mount Vernon. In 1786, Jefferson triumphed in his Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia, by persuading the Legislature to overwhelmingly reject attempts to include Jesus Christ as the religious authority in the bill. Jefferson later declared that this was one of his three greatest accomplishments.

Clearly, some of our founding fathers were very comfortable extending religious freedom to include Islam. They should have been. Islam didn’t just show up in America one day like an excited tourist. America imported it when we brought slaves over from Africa, an estimated 20 percent of whom were Muslim. This is not to suggest our colonial founders urged Islam’s spread. No one who follows a particular religion wants the competition to flourish. Tolerance is not the same as encouragement. Still, there was an inclusive spirit afoot in this bold, young country that would, in principle, make a Muslim feel safe and welcomed.

It’s safe to say America’s relationship with Islam has been headed downhill ever since. Read more

Source: The New York Times