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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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Nilanjana Sengupta’s rebuttal to P N Balji’s review of ‘Singapore, My Country: Biography of M Bala Subramanion’

singapore-my-countryOn 8 November 2016, P N Balji had reviewed “Singapore, My Country: Biography of M Bala Subramanion” by Nilanjana Sengupta right here on kitaab.org.

On 24 November 2016, Ms Sengupta sent the following rebuttal to Balji’s review:

“I found the review to be very perceptive, particularly his points about further contemporizing the book as well as Mr Bala’s voice taking a bit of a back seat. I will take careful note of this and ensure that I don’t fall into the same trap while I write about Mr J Y Pillay. But regarding the title of the book, I would beg to differ. It is not anchored in a wish to gain out of the SG50 celebrations but actually emerged organically while I wrote the book. If you read the book it actually traces Mr Bala’s journey in discovering his own identity – the British, Japanese, Indian, Malay, Tamil influences which were at work and then the final confluence of all these cultures and his alighting on what was his own or the Singaporean identity. To explain this further I give below a poem I had written on the occasion of the book launch and which I hope to include in the 2nd edition of the book:

An Indian in Singapore

He heard the word first when they had their backs to each other
His mother was intent on her spices
Grinding into dull submission
Frisky corns of pepper
Fiery red chilli, a genteel nutmeg
While he faced the door
Angsana trees beckoned
Balding patches of the football field in Racecourse Road

A whittled sun filtered in through the attap roof
He saw the word dance around him in little coins of light
Noticed the achromic floor, a split toe nail
You are Indian, you have to be decent
His mother said

Images of little boys in little coattails
Airing dogs at the promenade
Proud as the fat queen
In a country as distant as Naples or Batavia
Calm, dignified, of unfailing good taste

February 1942
Ghostly shadows rose from the yellow loam
Tonsured, skinned, horrible
A cloud of fine bone dust hung low
Over a land pitted and pared
As the waters of Blakan Mati keened its dead

In their house a new picture was put up
Just where the family gods used to be
The Samurai’s sword cut through the indolence of Indian deities
Industriousness was their new god

So by the early dawn light
He marched to the orders of the rising sun
And in the afternoon tilled neat plots
Growing tapioca from bleached bones and human remains
A bit of white loin cloth replaced the coattails
All for the cause of peace

And then came the moment of genesis
Parting darkness from light, the trite from the truth
Footfall of a stranger in the crescent*
And patriotism spread like a forest fire
Burning down undergrowth and small desires
While survivors stood tall
Pulsating, victorious, irascible
The fire had entered their veins

It came visiting their kampong as well
Snaking in through lorongs, shooing away cattle and poultry
And smouldering, waited – fearsome and fascinating
Licking at the edges of their home

India was suddenly in their line of vision
As close as the waters of the Straits
The spinning wheel fluttered on the flag
A crouching tiger hid in their hearts instead

The drum-roll receded, the kings were back
But so were the men
Lice crawled under their skin as they sang songs of freedom
Their eyes burnt with a fever, they were unable to sleep
He wondered if it was the lice or the song
And knew the kings would never be king again

He was sailing the seven seas with a new intent
He faced his mother as the sun set over the wharf
Looked at her as if for the first time
The silver twine in her hair
The five stars of her nosepin like fireflies
He bent low and whispered into her ear,
Singaporean, Mother
Singaporean is what we will be

Nilanjana Sengupta* The reference here is to Subhas Chandra Bose’s arrival to SEA in 1943

I do hope this will suffice to clarify my stance. Once again, I would like to put on record my gratitude to Mr Baljyi for taking time out to do the review.”

Best regards,

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Singapore’s Kitaab announces the first Seemanchal International Literary Festival to be held in India


Literary festivals of various hues have been creating a revolution of ideas across India in the last few years. However, most literary festivals take place in metro cities and resort towns. This is going to change with a new literary festival being launched in India by the people of the Seemanchal region of Bihar.

profile-pic-180by180The Seemanchal International Literary Festival (SILF) is an international literary event organized by Kitaab International, Singapore, in collaboration with Insan School, Kishanganj, Bihar.The first edition of SILF is scheduled to be held on 17-18 November, 2016 at Insan School campus in Kishanganj to coincide with the golden jubilee celebration of the Insan School, one of the well-known educational institutions in the region.

SILF is the brainchild of Singapore-based journalist, writer, publisher, and founder of Kitaab, Zafar Anjum, who hails from Kishanganj.

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Desmond Kon Wins Gold at 2016 Living Now Book Awards

kitaab-living-now-desmond-kon-pink-tee-striped-03The accolades keep stacking up for Singaporean poet and Kitaab’s Poetry Editor, Desmond Kon. With this win, Desmond has become the first writer in the world to have won three awards under the categories of Metaphysical, Inspirational Fiction, and Death & Dying at the US-based Living Now Book Awards.

This year, the anthology Ars Moriendi (Lien Foundation/Squircle Line Press), which Desmond edited, clinched the gold, beating Denna D. Babul and Karin Luise’s The Fatherless Daughter Project: Understanding Our Losses and Reclaiming Our Lives (Penguin Random House-Avery) and Karen M. Wyatt’s What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying (Sunroom Studios).

Last year, his novel Singular Acts of Endearment (Grey Sparrow Press/Squircle Line Press) garnered the Silver award, while the hybrid work Babel Via Negativa (Ethos Books/Squircle Line Press) walked away with the Bronze. Continue reading

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Indonesia’s Eka Kurniawan wins the Emerging Voices fiction award for Man Tiger


Indonesia’s Eka Kurniawan has won the Financial Times and OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices fiction award for Man Tiger, along with Brazil’s  Clarissa Campolina (who won the Emerging Voices film award for Solon) and Zimbabwe’s Gareth Nyandoro (who won the Emerging Voices art award).

The Financial Times and OppenheimerFunds presented the second annual Emerging Voices Awards to the three winners. The ceremony marked the culmination of a months-long award process which reviewed and selected from 797 submissions from 64 emerging market nations.

“It has been a fantastic process getting to know the finalists and now winners of this year’s awards through their hard work and dedication to their individual crafts,” said Michael Skapinker, associate editor of the Financial Times and chair of the judges. “I think I can speak for the entire panel of judges when I say that it is incredible to be able to share the winners’ stories and amazing talent for a second year.”

The three winners each receive a $40,000 award and the runners-up in each category receive $5,000, OppenheimerFunds said in a press statement today.



  • Tania Cattebeke LaconichOlia, Paraguay
  • Camilo RestrepoImpressions of a War, Colombia


  • Yu HuaThe Seventh Day, China
  • Yan LiankeThe Four Books, China


  • Noor Abuarafeh, Jordan/Palestine
  • Syowia Kyambi, Kenya

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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Ikhtisad Ahmed

by Farah Ghuznavi

Ikhtisad Ahmed 3Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

I write to be honest, free and meaningful, to paint important pictures. It is a lifelong commitment to converse with the world, to make sense of it, and make a contribution of substance to it. Writing is a disease with no known cure. There is neither peace nor fulfilment without it. The more we do it, the more we are consumed by it.

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

I have been polishing a play about garments workers in Bangladesh, scheduled to be staged in the UK next year. At the same time, I wrote a commissioned screenplay for an independent film that tells the origin story of a female detective. It has been a wonderful learning experience, which, in turn, has seen me delve into a previously unexplored literary medium. My most recent book is the short story collection, Yours, Etcetera, which came out at the Dhaka Literary Festival in November 2015, and unlocked the novel that has been festering in my mind for some time, freeing me to begin it. The collection makes a comprehensive statement about what I try to say with my writing: socio-political impressions with the central recurring themes of absurdism, existentialism and humanism. Continue reading

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Essay: Tagore’s Love Affairs

by Aju Mukhopadhyay

tagoreExpressions of love are different with different objects. With the divine, it is pure; we call it devotion or worship, but with fellow human beings, especially of the opposite sex, we find it tinged with desires of lust and other emotions. Love is the finest, and at the same time, the crudest emotion in the human heart, though it is sometimes possible to find it in animal hearts also. Man’s love with woman is the most common bond, which has created a sea of literature. With all types of love in him, Tagore was not a stranger to this type of love also. Poems of light and shade, love and remorse, joy and pain, are the results of his experiences at different levels. Such love affairs occupied different parts of his long life. Some of them, which we have come to know of, are the bases of our story.

Love Lyrics

Rabindranath Tagore has written innumerable songs of love; love for the divine and humans. He wrote more than 2500 lyrics; perhaps the most among world poets and song composers. All his love was based on the faith that he explained throughout his life and demonstrated. His immortal songs live vibrantly not only in Bengal but in other Indian provinces and sometimes they travel abroad. Rabindra Sangeet is a popular song-word now, which reminds us of beautiful tunes with befitting words that touch the heart and soul of man. Continue reading

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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Eddie Tay

By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

eddie-tay-pixLet’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

Like most people (I suppose), my mind jumps insanely from one thing to another, moving from distraction to distraction. Therefore I write so as to distract myself from distractions, to be able to think. Writing is sanity. Everything else is madness.

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

It’s a book featuring street photography and poetry – I am trying to make the two artistic forms talk to each other. There’s a natural interaction between poetry and street photography in that they both work through images. In the case of street photography, the scenes are found rather than staged, so I’m learning to be more serendipitous with my writing as well. Continue reading

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Inside a writer’s mind: Review of ‘Kafka in Ayodhya’

Saima Afreen reviews Zafar Anjum’s collection of short stories, Kafka in Ayodhya (Kitaab), in The New Indian Express (27 Sep, 2016):

KafkaFCIn most of the stories Zafar remains a silent writer. He presents the characters from a distance. They do most of the talking as he presents them as if sitting in the chair of an erudite clerk who documents the coming and going of the characters. The narrative looks distant like starlight filtering through glass windows. You see them walking, you hear their words, but can’t really catch them. In the title story, your mind wanders to the town Ayodhya and the incidents of Babri Masjid attached to it. The story talks about the much-awaited judgment and the author’s rendezvous with the perceptions expressed through journalists. The author himself is Kafka in the story. The story is an attempt to begin the search for belief, its coming apart. It relies on the telescopic vision of the author, when if reached near, gets blurred. He creates the awareness of this paradox by textual construction of the development in the story. That’s how the short crisp sentences make for a speed-read.

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