Kitaab kicks off its Asian Literature in Translation Project with Isa Kamari’s seminal novel, “Intercession”

IntercessionOne of the aims of Kitaab is to celebrate Asian writing through translations, and make great literature available in various Asian languages.

Kitaab made its foray into publishing with a book of Urdu poetry, translated into English. Urdu Poetry—An Introduction was published in 2013 and was released at the Singapore Writers Festival in the same year.

“We are kicking off Kitaab’s Asian Literature in Translation Project with Isa Kamari’s seminal novel, Intercession,” said Zafar Anjum, founder-editor of Singapore-based publishing company, Kitaab. The novel was published in Malay as “Tawassul”.

Kitaab will get the novel translated into Urdu and Hindi languages and will get it published.

Singaporean writer Isa Kamari is a Cultural Medallion winner (2007) and has written nine novels in Malay: Satu Bumi, Kiswah, Tawassul, Menara, Atas Nama Cinta, Memeluk Gerhana, Rawa, Duka Tuan Bertakhta and Selendang Sukma. Seven were translated into English: One Earth (Satu Bumi), Intercession (Tawassul), Nadra (Atas Nama Cinta), Rawa (Rawa), A Song of the Wind (Memeluk Gerhana), 1819 (Duka Tuan Bertakhta) and The Tower (Menara). He has also published two collections of poems, Sumur Usia and Munajat Sukma, a collection of short stories, Sketsa Minda and a collection of theatre scripts, Pintu. Isa has also been honoured with  the S.E.A. Write Award (2006) and the Anugerah Tun Seri Lanang (2009).

“The publication of Tawassul (Intercession) in Urdu and Hindi is indeed a breakthrough after 13 years of its first publication,” said Kamari. “I would like to thank Kitaab for this wonderful opportunity to present it to an audience that it deserves and beyond. It is timely and crucial. You have to read it to understand why.”

A novel against terrorism

Isa KamariThe thought-provoking novel Intercession is a bold experiment in modern Islamic fiction – it features a clone of Prophet Muhammad, and through this metaphor, Isa makes a great commentary on the phenomenon of Islamic terrorism, one of humanity’s greatest scourges.

According to the author of the book, the genesis of his book lay in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Thinking about what could trigger such a terror attack, he decided that the issue was misreading of history – that interpretations of the past were hindering the peace of human future. The writer wants his faith (Islam) to be adaptive, inclusive and progressive, drawing on principles established in the past but made relevant to the present.

“That’s why actually I created this character – the clone of the Prophet. In my story, I put him in a community. Biologically, he has all the traits of the Prophet but the question is, could a historical man be repeated? I try to portray this person using experiences from the past and trying to adapt to the current situation,” Isa has said in his earlier interviews.

“We believe that readers of Urdu and Hindi literature in India, Pakistan and elsewhere in the world, who are millions in number, will appreciate a timely novel like this in their native language,” said Anjum. “Intercession is a highly acclaimed novel and for its theme and treatment deserves a wider readership. Kitaab wants to play a small part in taking this novel to South Asian readers.”

The translations will be published in late 2016.