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Love in the Time of Numbness; or, Doctor Chekhov, Writer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee

When my mother’s mother began to die of a mysterious, undiagnosable neurological illness, the first thing she lost was her sense of taste. For most families, perhaps, this would be a rather inconsequential loss, but this had severe repercussions for us. As the matriarch of our heaving, multi-generational family, she had always helmed the kitchen with an efficient, if somewhat despotic, hand. Because all the food in that household was cooked by her—years earlier, an attempted takeover by one of the uncle’s wives had been swiftly and tyrannically rebuffed—my grandmother was, in fact, the ultimate arbiter of taste. For decades, this had been a relatively stable and blissful arrangement: she was an acutely talented cook. But as her taste buds numbed, week by week, the food turned from mild to well-seasoned to intolerably spicy. It was, perhaps, a kind of neural compensation for her—the way people with early hearing loss often begin to speak more loudly—but the fish curry now went off on the palate like a thermonuclear bomb. The lentils exfoliated the tongue. The fried spinach was an incinerating terror; the okra, an endurance sport. When even the white rice, the final refuge of the Asian tongue, began to arrive at the table with halved Thai bird peppers on top, the seeds squinting above it, we squirmed in terror. But we steeled ourselves and kept eating: numbness begetting numbness.

Read More at The New Yorker


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Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Irwin Allan Sealy (without capital letters)

By Aminah Sheikh

Each of the authors interviewed for Kitaab’s Lounge Chair have been unique, and this email interview with Irwin Allan Sealy was no different. Along with his responses he sent us a note which we’ve decided to retain as part of his interview. You’ll see why…

His note:

i sense a distinct persona here but a reluctance to lower the mask. i’m not sure you can use “let’s” and at the same time absent yourself but i’ll take your questions seriously; there’ll be some loss if you automatically adapt my answers to your house style. for example i prefer not to use the capital i for me, or for that matter capitals of any kind, but fight a losing battle with autocorrect. it’s your call!

Yours ias

(Editor’s note: We decided to publish the interview without editing the manuscript for capital letters).    

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

i write to sort out impressions accumulated in my body and ideas formed in my head over a lifetime; the two camps are perpetually at war. i write to ward off that madness, but equally for the pleasure of making something out of nothing. i write for the delight certain patterns yield. i write to make sense of an apparently barbarous world. i write to explain the persistence of goodness. i write for a living. i write to escape my fate, to step out of myself. i write to rescue the past, to examine alternative worlds. i write to explore an assigned topic (like this), to assess my motives, to plan a course of action, to understand last night’s dream (there was a marsh), to scrutinize loose notions, to reach out to persons far away in space and time, and because i detest the telephone. Continue reading


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What Occupation? New Generation of Palestinian Writers Shifts Focus From Politics to ‘Life Itself’

“We are not a reading people, and there are light years between civilization and us,” my high school principal in Kafr Raina in the Lower Galilee would say over the loudspeaker once a week before we entered our morning classes. This statement seeped into the consciousness of the sleepy students and shaped their view of reality. Although the school library was big, it was pretty quiet.

The teachers also perpetuated the saying “the Arab people are not a reading people.” They stood helpless in front of us with Arab literature curricula that hadn’t been refreshed for years. They were stuck with boring, modernist Egyptian literature.
“If I had sufficed with what I learned in school, I would have been illiterate,” says Hisham Nafaa, a writer and journalist from Beit Jann who lives in Haifa. “I don’t think the Education Ministry understands that part of its job is to provide culture to Arab society.”

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Storytelling: From kitchen to public space

Jnanpith award winner Girish Karnad traced the tradition of storytelling to its evolution as a folklore and ballad to eventually form the bedrock of culture.

In this context, he highlighted the contribution of poet and folklorist A.K. Ramanujan for his scholarly pursuit of oral traditions and for systematically studying them.

Mr. Karnad was delivering the inaugural lecture of the Mysuru Literature Festival here on Sunday. It was organised by the Mysuru Literary Forum Charitable Trust and Books Club-2015.

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Arundhati Roy’s first novel for 20 years goes on sale

Arundhati Roy’s eagerly-awaited second novel goes on sale worldwide on Tuesday, two decades after her prize-winning debut The God of Small Things propelled her to global fame and launched her career as an outspoken critic of injustice in her native India.

Roy became the first Indian woman to win the prestigious Booker Prize with her 1997 work, which sold around 8m copies and turned the young author into a star of the literary world.

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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Ather Farouqui

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

To be honest, I haven’t enjoyed writing for a long time now for reasons beyond my control. I enjoy reading mainly contemporary texts in English. I also read a lot of Urdu poetry, mainly classical poets and poets of modern sensibility, including the modernist poets of the Progressive Writers Movement.

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

 My latest translation is of The Life and Poetry of  Bahdaur Shah Zafar written by Aslam Parvez. My endeavour was to make a wonderful book that has for long been confined to a narrow Urdu readership available to the wider English-speaking world.  Continue reading


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Meet the guardians of literature in Hyderabad

As the British poet-novelist CS Lewis once famously said, “Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.”

Hyderabad is one such city where there’s literature worth beauty camouflaged in its historic monuments, delectable cuisine, exquisite mélange of languages and the salient contrast between the quaint old city charm and the ostentatious dynamics of city life.

Hyderabad also hosts a number of clubs that incessantly churn out wordsmiths, who, in return enrich the city’s aesthetics. Write Club, Happy Book Club, Abhivyakti, Twin City Poetry Club and Ka Se Kavita are some such paradises of bibliophiles.

Sravanthi Talluri, a software developer at an MNC and a founder of Write Club Hyderabad recalls the instigation of the club.

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Arundhati Roy’s new novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, draws mixed reviews

arundhati_royFT has described Arundhati Roy’s second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, as “Compelling”.

“Ultimately, Roy’s admirers will not be disappointed,” writes Claire Messud in her FT review. “This ambitious new novel, like its predecessor, addresses weighty themes in an intermittently playful narrative voice. Whereas The God of Small Things — the tale of Rahel and Esthappen, a pair of twins, and their family’s tra­gedies in Kerala, southern India — approaches big issues such as caste divisions and molestation through the personal and domestic, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness embarks from the outset with a broader societal perspect­ive.”

“Now, finally, the second novel has come out, and it is clear that her politics have been part of its gestation,” writes Joan Acocella in the New Yorker. ““The God of Small Things” was about one family, primarily in the nineteen-sixties, and though it included some terrible events, its sorrows were private, muffled, personal. By contrast, “The Ministry of the Utmost Happiness” is about India, the polity, during the past half century or so, and its griefs are national. This does not mean that Roy’s powers are stretched thin, or even that their character has changed. In the new book, as in the earlier one, what is so remarkable is her combinatory genius.” Continue reading


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The lesser society reads, the safer writers are: Mustansar Hussain Tarar

Tarar is perhaps the most popular of contemporary fiction and travelogue writers in Urdu. He claims he has the capability to write another Aag Ka Darya, a novel on the Partition written by Qurratulain Hyder, but she could not have written a novel like his Bahao that talks about the disappearance of a civilisation.

Tarar’s mass popularity is perhaps the reason why he keeps distinguishing himself from other Pakistani writers. No other Pakistani writer has been honoured like him, he says: a lake in the northern areas has been named after him. But, in the same breath, he says critics need to pay attention to other contemporary fiction writers, particularly Khalida Hussain and Sami Ahuja.

Source: The Herald


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Sequoia Capital, Perfect World co-invest in Chinese literature site Zongheng

Sequoia Capital China, and Perfect World co-led a new round of financing in Zongheng, a Chinese literature site that provides vertical and horizontal literature contents.

The site is owned by Beijing-based Network Technology Co Ltd. Sheng King Fund, Guonong brothers, Shegjing360, Share Capital, and several institutions also participated in the strategic investment. The size of the deal was undisclosed.

Founded in 2008, Zongheng is a domestic Chinese original literary professional website. It serves as a cultural platform meant to guide the master writers and epic works.

Source: Dealstreetasia.com