Surrounded by the grandeur of the Himalayas in the Doon valley, it strikes me that the mountains only serve to unite with their allure of serene remoteness. People find the aloofness of mountains attractive and set about exploring and conquering them as they do the raging seas; thus, advancing the human race not just by exposure to geographic or cultural novelties but also intellectually, by challenging their own comfort zones. Words do similar things for writers. Writers get drawn out of their comfort zones to generate ideas that stimulate.

In a world connected by clouds and birds that do not accept geo-political barriers, thoughts and ideas waft from region to region, sometimes gaining local colour but always creating a sense of interconnectedness. To harness these ideas into a stream, writers need an easy access to a forum that reaches out to the rest of the world. This forum would have to be a confluence where words from writers reach out to unite, probe, create, describe and move all mankind.

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Food of the Islamic WorldTitle: Feast – Food of the Islamic World
Author: Anissa Helou
Publisher: Ecco (29 May 2018)
Pages: 544 (Hardcover)

Reviewed by Shabana Zahoor

How do you feel when you get your eager hands on a multi-cuisine cookbook on Islamic worlds? The food which nourishes the soul, binds the family, brings smiles to friends and gives that moment of enlightenment that life is good.

This is exactly how I felt when I got a notification from my beloved library that my reserved item – Feast: Food of the Islamic World– had arrived and was ready for pick up. I couldn’t wait any longer, so I tucked my three-year old toddler into the pram and rushed to the library to lay my hands on this beautifully wrapped tome (the library had put a transparent cover to it to keep it neat), with its thoughtfully listed recipe after recipe.

At the beginning, this book by Arissa Helou, a London based chef and cookbook writer who specialises in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and North African cuisines, seemed overwhelming, but slowly it took me to a serene, calm journey of soulful food intertwined with equally beautiful snippets of Islamic food history here and there. As you read along, you discover that it is not just a recipe book but a food journey in itself. You travel from street to street, country to country whiffing the best of the gastronomic smells wrapped in magic cloaks. Some you can imagine, some are like friends you befriend at first sight and invite over to your place to have a lovely chat over chai.

The Best Asian Travel Writing series is the first of its kind, showcasing Asia’s finest travel writing. This second edition of TBATW is due for publishing in 2019.

We are looking for submissions from travel writers. The edition will choose the best twenty or so pieces from the submissions. By ‘Asian travel writers’, we mean all travel writers who belong to the continent of Asia, including the Middle East (West Asia).

We aim to amplify the voices of Asian writers in the field of travel writing and while priority will be given to authors who come from Asian countries, non-Asian authors who have resided in and written extensively about an Asian country will also be considered.

TBATW will include a wide variety of work that will capture the wonder, humour, fear and joy that greets us all every time when we travel. Importantly, it will also capture the frisson of excitement and uncertainty in the air when we embark on a journey to a new place, or even to a familiar one.

TBATW aims to corral stories on nature/conservation, cultural history, sociological and anthropological manifestations, the outdoors and adventure, gastronomy, and any other compelling idea you think that would meld into the edition and add to its freshness.

Kitaab is seeking high quality short stories for The Best Asian Speculative Fiction anthology to be published next year. We take a liberal approach towards defining the speculative and will look beyond popular categories of science-fiction, fantasy and horror though these are very much welcome. Our anthology editor is looking forward to reading a variety of stories which could include dystopian, apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, weird, utopian, alternate history, superhero and any permutations and combinations of these. But first and foremost your story should be engaging with attention to characterisation and plot.

Give us stellar tales that slip past the quotidian and the mundane, transporting your reader to the edges of the possible and realms further still. Whisk us away to Murakamiesque wonderlands or Huxleian cacotopias; indulge us with the outré, the outlandish, the uncanny. We are looking here for a whiff of the Asimovian imagination, a taste of Lovecraftian weird, a dash of Atwoodesque futures. Take us on journeys through chinks of space-time, fling us into situations of climate change horror. No fan fiction please. Give us mind-blowing originals.

The best three stories (decided by the editor) will get cash prizes or Amazon vouchers (worth $50 each)! All selected contributors will each receive 2 complimentary copies of the final publication. 

If you are interested to delve a little deeper into speculative fiction, here is an article by Annie Neugebauer.

“The Librarian” is a dark, powerful novel that will appeal to everybody who has ever loved a book, or found happiness in a library.

Kitaab Singapore is pleased to announce its upcoming fiction title, The Librarian by Indian author Kavitha Rao. This is her first work of fiction.

The novel is slated to be launched at the Singapore Writers Festival 2017 in November.

Synopsis of the novel

“That was the beginning of my great love affair with the Macmillan, and my journey through the tangled, knotty forest of literature, with Shekhar, that most kindly and yet intimidating of guides.”

Ever since she could read, Vidya Patel realised that she preferred books to humans. Her family disapproves, but Vidya meanders through life with her nose in a book. When she is ten, she visits the Macmillan, a struggling heritage library in Mumbai. It is in the Macmillan that Vidya truly, finally, feels whole.

Vidya befriends Shekhar Raghavan, the brilliant, eccentric librarian, who becomes her mentor. As soon as she is old enough, she joins the library as a junior librarian, and throws herself into keeping the Macmillan going, with consequences she could never have foreseen. She also learns the destructive power of obsession, and what it does to people. Will Vidya be able to save the Macmillan? And at what cost?

“The Librarian” is a dark, powerful novel that will appeal to everybody who has ever loved a book, or found happiness in a library.