Category Archives: Asian writing

Kitaab announces 15 new titles to mark 15th anniversary

15 Books to Look Forward to in 2020/2021 from Kitaab

Kitaab celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2020. What started as a literary blog in 2005 has now grown to a credible indie publishing house, connecting Asian writers with global readers. 

To mark this milestone in the journey of Kitaab’s life, we are announcing 15 titles that we are very excited about–they will be launched this year and next year. A few of them have just been released, and some will be released at the virtual Singapore Writers’ Festival this year.

  1. Dreams in Moonless Night by Hussain Ul Haque (Eng. translation by Syed Sarwar Hussain)

This much-appreciated multilayered novel spans the traumatic years of the aftermath of Indian Independence to the current apocalyptical state of affairs. It tells the story of Ismael Merchant who even after losing his whole family in a communal carnage represents the intrinsic Indian passion for love and brotherhood. 

This title will be virtually launched at the Singapore Writers Festival 2020.

Read more

Call for entries: Singapore at Home: Life across Lines

Singapore At Home

The thought of home is imbued with bliss and pain, comfort and guilt. In all its manifestations— whether it makes us or breaks us—home nurtures a tender, heartbreaking beauty. A lived space, it shapes our life experience. But more importantly, the people we share our home with transform the meaning we seek in a place that is hopefully our refuge.  Read more

Don’t give up, say filmmakers from Singapore and Mumbai through their short films on depression and suicide prevention

Sex tape film
Sushant Singh Rajput

Sushant Singh Rajput

The recent spate of suicides in the wake of the pandemic-related lockdowns, especially in the film and entertainment industry highlighted by the alleged suicide of well-known Indian film actor, Sushant Singh Rajput, has stirred many filmmakers.

“The reason I wrote this script is that, before Sushant Singh’s death, there were two other actors who had committed suicide,” says Shipra Arora, writer and producer of the short

BTS still from Sex Tapefilm, Sex Tape. “Sadly, we are in a time where people are feeling alone, out of job, unable to take care of themselves. After Sushant’s death, I couldn’t wait and I knew I had to make something on this subject. The idea was that even if one person gets inspired by this film, I will consider we achieved something. That we were able to help someone.”

Together with her brother, Shivankar Arora, the film’s director, this short was  filmed in 11 hours!
S Arora

Shivankar Arora, the film’s director

“As far as challenges are a concern, due to the lockdown, we couldn’t have a team of people working with us,” says Shipra. “The film was shot in 11 hours with only 4 people on the floor (which was the house of the actress). So, from sound recording to spot boy, The job was done by this small team of 3 people.”

“This lockdown kept us thinking how can we utilise the time creatively and what can be done remotely,” says Gibu George, the director of MND. “The idea of MND was ignited during a phone conversation and we four (actors in the film) liked the concept of making a short film remotely with the concept of four childhood friends trying to connect back during this lockdown to cherish their memories and then unveils the most painful memory of their life.”

After releasing MND on YouTube, Gibu and friends decided to launch the prequel too.

Still from the film, MND“The idea of preqel was always there in the first as the storyline had the scope of making a prequel, we just wanted to make it into 2 shorts due to the length of the film and also want to give a different treatment from part 1,” says Gibu. “I was very clear on the characteristics of Aditya Das and his mental problems. He was basically introvert, weird, kind of psychic and depressed because of obvious reasons. His friends was the lifeline during his younger days but he was late to reach out his friends when he lost control over his life. The second part(Prequel) evolved based on this thought.”

Talking about his motivation behind making this film, Gibu said: “Being a socially active person I myself had to go though a lot difficulties during this lockdown. I was not able to copup the sudden changes in day to day life of being locked inside feeling, battling the stress of working from home without understanding the timelimits, etc which has an impact on my mental well-being , makes me realize the importance of staying connected to your loved ones, spending time with your family or the kind of mental imbalance could affect your well-being and how do you try to overcome such situations. The film was so timely and relevent when the Sushant Singh incident came as a shock to the whole industry, but it was purely conindence as the scripting and shoot was completed by end of May. It was indeed painful to know SSR case while we were in the post production.”

Gibu

Gibu George, director of MND

The filmmakers were quite clear about the messaging of the film – “Never miss an opportunity to spend time with your loved ones, you never know there tomorrow may never come” and in the Prequel – Depression is real, but could be hidden behind a smile, Reach out when in need”.

Because of the lockdown regulations and the actors being in different locations, it was not easy to make this film. “The actors, including me are all very close friends and we worked together for few Malayalam theatre plays in Singapore,” says Gibu. “The main challenge we had was during the post-productions, sorting and sending out huge number of rushes, reviewing each and every footages to identify the best one and remotely coordinating with editors on those changes on each drafts were little exhausting but we are glad that we could deliver this completely remotely made 2 films in 2 months of time with a very minimal technical resources and limitations.”

The whole team, it was a satisfying journey. “In fact, a very memorable journey and yeah, these memories will never die!” says Gibu.

CAGED

“Caged was made to bring out awareness about ‘Mental Health’,” says Shalima Motial, who plays the protagonist in this short film.

Cage“Depression is an unspoken, often unfathomable turmoil people experience in their heart & head,” she adds. “It’s a small initiative of Dream Catchers to shed some light on such an important issue which has become a ‘taboo’ to talk about openly. People find it hard to accept that they are going through “Depression”, so asking for help becomes even more difficult.”

Shalima says this short film is her team’s humble initiative to highlight the issue of mental health. The director of the film is her spouse, Himanshu Motial.

The film has the support of Tree of Life as its Mental Health Partner.

While Gibu and team are not full-time filmmakers, Shipra has 15 years of experience in TV and online Industry. After working as a Creative Director for 7 years on Indian TV shows like, ‘Kahin Toh Hoga’, Kasauti Zindagi Ki and many more, she shifted to writing and co-wrote shows like Uttran and Udaan, and then progressed to write Naamkaram, Sanjivani and many more independently.
Her brother Shivankar Arora worked as a cinematographer for 10 years in the TV industry. He also did award-winning films, entitled, “Silent ties” as a cinematographer & “Love Knows No Gender” as a Director.
Wanting to tell the stories that could make a difference, the duo started their own YouTube Channel, ContentkaKeeda. Currently, they both are working together, where Shipra writes and Shivankar  directs. “We fight a lot but it’s all worth it in the end,” says Shipra with a smile.

Call for submissions: The Best Asian Short Stories 2020

Kitaab is seeking short story submissions for The Best Asian Short Stories 2020 anthology, the latest in the annual TBASS series of anthologies which aims to celebrate the Asian short story as a constantly evolving, innovative and vibrant mode of literary expression.

The focus of our 2020 issue is climate change and migration but stories on other themes will be considered too. As usual, we are looking for well-crafted stories that ignite the imagination of the reader and have the ability to suck in the reader into the universe of the story.

This time we are only considering submissions written directly in English in our attempt to capture the voice of the contemporary Asian writer. The anthology will be published in the last quarter of 2020.

What’s different this year?

This year we are making all the stories from the current and past volumes of TBASS available on a special website, tbass.org. It will be a subscription-based website and all the selected stories will be hosted on this site. The best three stories (decided by the editor) will get cash prizes or Kitaab vouchers (worth $50 each)! All selected contributors will each receive complimentary one-year subscription to the tbass.org site, where they can access stories from all the available volumes.

This year onwards, we will also select some web-extra stories: these will be stories will that not make it to the TBASS 2020 edition but will be published as Web specials. This gives you more chance of exposure to your stories, even if they don’t get selected for the main printed volume.

The Best Asian Short Stories 2020 anthology will be edited by Zafar Anjum, the founder of Kitaab, Singapore, and the Series Editor for TBASS. Anjum is a writer, publisher and filmmaker who has authored many bestsellers such as ​The Resurgence of Satyam (​Random House India, 2012), ​Startup Capitals: Discovering the Global Hotspots of Innovation ​(Random House India, December 2014), and ​Iqbal: The Life of a Poet, Philosopher and Politician (​Vintage Books/Random House India, 2014). He has published two collections of his short stories, The Singapore Decalogue (Red Wheelbarrow Press, 2012) and Kafka in Ayodhya & Other Stories(Kitaab, 2015).

Submissions between 3000-5000 words should be e-mailed to kitaab.sg@gmail.com.

Eligibility

Asians of all nationalities living anywhere in the world are eligible. By ‘Asian writers’, we mean all writers who belong to the continent of Asia. Non-Asian authors who have resided in and written extensively about an Asian country will also be considered.

Submission fee (until 31 March): S$10 per submission
Submission fee (1 April 2020- 30 May): S$20 per submission 

All submissions must be made together with the submission fee receipt or screenshot paid here at Kitaabstore.

(for fee waiver requests in case of financial difficulties, pls write to us at kitaab.sg@gmail.com)

Format

Submissions must be MSWORD (.doc/.docx) attachments, typed double spaced in legible fonts, preferably Times New Roman 12. The submission should also be pasted within the body of the covering mail. The subject line of the email should read as:

Submission/TBASS2020/author’s name. Please include an author bio note of 100 words. Only one submission will be considered from each writer.

Previously published work in print or online (including blogs, magazines or other online fora) will not be accepted. Translations are not encouraged but simultaneous submissions will be considered. Please intimate us immediately if the story is accepted elsewhere.

Deadline30 May, 2020

Short Story: The Choice

By Tamizh Ponni

“Hey, don’t go too far,” yelled Rekha, adjusting her hat. The popsicle in her other hand was melting with all possible haste not letting Rekha relish it at her own pace.

“I am good. Jeez! I am a grown-up now! Stop being nannyish!”replied Madhu as she carefully collected the sea urchin shells. They fascinated her for some reason. With an enclosed dome-like structure and a muricated exterior, they resembled Madhu’s actual persona.

“You get back here now. It’s not safe in there,” Rekha yelled not paying any heed to her daughter’s backtalk.

“Ma! I am 35. Treat me like an adult. Pleaaaase…,” Madhu begged with a babyish pout. Now that her hands were almost full with the precious collection, Madhu was frantically looking for a place to unload.

“Age isn’t going to magically instil maturity in you or stop me from protecting you,” Rekha replied dryly, biting her popsicle.

“Protect me from what? Ocean waves?” asked Madhu jokingly and chuckled.

“From your own silliness. Now come back. Let’s enjoy the view and the waves from here,” said Rekha patting on a spot next to her on the beach mat.

“Alright, Alright,” Madhu sighed and returned. She wanted to sit for a while too. The cool, salty breeze calmed her mind and helped her take her mind off the previous week’s madness. She wanted to discuss it particularly with her mother but didn’t know how to begin.

As Rekha opened the box containing egg Samosas, the aroma of its filling fuelled Madhu’s hunger. She gladly took one and took a sizeable bite. Munching on the lunch, the duo were devouring the fresh sea breeze with their legs stretched.

“Is something bothering you?” Rekha asked without looking at her daughter. Read more

New Releases from Asia: February 2020

Suralakshmi Villa

Title: Suralakshmi Villa

Author: Aruna Chakravarti

Publisher: Macmillan

Year of publication: 2020

Pages : 313pages

Price : Rs 650

Links : Amazon

About: Suralakshmi Choudhury, a gynaecologist based in Delhi, falls in love at the age of thirty-one, marries and has a son. Suddenly, five years after his birth, she abandons everything including the house gifted to her by her father and her flourishing medical career, to travel to an obscure village in Bengal and open a free clinic for women and children. She leaves her son behind but takes along a poor Muslim girl, she has adopted. What makes her take this strange decision? Suralakshmi’s actions confound her relatives and it is from their accounts of the incidents, letters, memoirs, and flashbacks – from a more distant past – that the story comes together and the layers and nuances in the enigmatic character of Suralakshmi are brought to light.

In Suralakshmi Villa, Aruna Chakravarti blends the narrative of the novel with history, legend, music, religion, folklore, rituals and culinary practices of both Hindus and Muslims, and creates a fascinating tapestry which reveals the syncretic nature of Bengal and her people.

 

FrontCover-forebook

Title: Calling Elvis: Conversations with Some of Music’s Greatest: A Personal History

Author: Shantanu Datta

Publisher: Speaking Tiger

Year of publication: 2020

Pages: 230

Price: INR 399

Links: Speaking Tiger 

About: Shantanu Datta’s career as a journalist placed him at the forefront of music reportage in India for much of the past three decades, and therefore gave him unprecedented access to the greatest performers from around the world who played in the South Asian subcontinent. This book compiles, for the first time, the detailed interviews he conducted with seminal artistes like Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), Ian Anderson and Martin Barre (Jethro Tull), Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits) and many others including Dr L. Subramaniam, John McLaughlin, Sting, Jean-Luc Ponty, Carlos Santana and Amyt Datta. His candid, informed conversations with these enduring legends provide a rare glimpse into the minds of those trailblazers who influenced entire generations with their music. Datta’s own life too emerges in vignettes throughout the book, as he deftly weaves together his professional life with the personal through shared threads of melody and song.

Written with an exceptional depth of knowledge, Calling Elvis is an absolute treat for musicians and music-lovers everywhere. Read more

How The Best Asian Short Stories 2019 Explores the Souk of Asia’s Imagination

Book review by Tan Kaiyi

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With the rise of the Asian Century, the global community typically shines its spotlight on the economic progress of the region. Much is made of the advancing wealth of nations like India, China, Singapore and Vietnam. But while the economic progress is an easy unifying narrative that could be woven through the different countries, equally important — but much more challenging — is charting the breadth and depth of the Asian literary imagination.

The Best Asian Short Stories 2019 is up to the monumental task. The editor of the anthology, award-winning author Hisham Bustani, highlights the main obstacle to the endeavour when assembling the collection:

“…there is no such thing as a well-defined, self-contained, concrete, unified Asian identity…”

He explains the issue by contrasting it with Europe. While similar to Asia with a geography that contains multiple language and cultures, the region “claims a unique identity and set of ‘European values’ that separate it from others…” This consequently gives a literary landscape in the region a halo of universalism. Whether it is true at heart or not is certainly up for debate, as Bustani rightly points out that some communities like Turkey are isolated from the Eurocentric ideological bloc. Read more

The Fragrance City by San Lin Tun

An experimental narrative from Myanmar

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A city is emitting fragrance without a reason — such a sweet, soothing smell! People living in this city behave like bees. They go hurriedly, work fast, eat quickly, sleep less, do not gamble, quarrel less, and laugh a lot. The city is very beautiful and splendid. It has spacious parks, tall trees, perfect housing, clean air and is plastic free. The residents enjoy their lives to the fullest. Children can play happily at all times and everywhere lost in wonder — as if they were in a perpetual Disneyland. Peace and harmony reigns supreme. The city is charming and stately. Even big cities like Paris, New York, Venice, Sidney or Tokyo cannot compete in beauty and grandeur to the fragrant city.

The residents are very hardworking, energetic, and ambitious. Also, they do not much care about any politics, even, social, and economic matters. They are only focused on attaining satisfaction in life. They tend to do what they think is right — informally and independently. They have no worries over food, cloth, and shelter. They have plenty. The system is very good; there are no hurdles that need to be overcome in everyday life. The long term plans provided by the government are perfect. They welcome any immigrants who come to this city heartily. Food is abundant, people are sweet, and places are nice and fanciful.

They communicate with each other using their special olfactory lingua franca. Only the city dwellers can understand. They just only have to conjure ideas which travel like waves. These waves spread from their brains and touch another person’s skin or any part of the body, they can accept the waves and decipher the meaning. They do not have to exert to make a sentence. They do not have to speak like us or worry about knowing a language. They can communicate with each other easily. Read more

New Releases from Asia: November 2019

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Title: The Best Asian Short Stories, 2019

Editors: Hisham Bustani (Series Editor: Zafar Anjum)

Publisher: Kitaab

Year of publication: 2019

Pages: 377

Price: $25

Links: Kitaab Bookstore

About: War, loss, love, compassion, nightmares, dreams, hopes and catastrophes; this is literary Asia at its best. From a wide range of geographies spanning from Palestine to Japan, from Kazakhstan to the Malaysia, mobilizing a wide array of innovative narrative styles and writing techniques, the short stories of this anthology, carefully curated by one of Asia’s prominent and daring writers, will take you on a power trip of deep exploration of local (yet global) pains and hopes, a celebration (and contemplation) of humanity and its impact, as explored by 24 writers and 6 translators, many of whom identify with many homes, giving Asia what it truly represents across (and beyond) its vast territory, expansive history, and many traditions and languages. This book is an open celebration of multi-faceted creativity and plurality.

Contributors:JOEL DONATO JACOB (Philippines); LANA ABDEL RAHMAN (Lebanon): RAZIA SULTANA KHAN (Bangladesh); DEENA DAJANI (Palestine); ALAN IRID FENDI (Syria); SAMIDHA KALIA (India); SCOTT PLATT-SALCEDO (Philippines); ANITHA DEVI PILLAI (Singapore); ANGELO WONG (Hong Kong); ODAI AL ZOUBI (Syria); SIMON ROWE (New Zealand / Japan); SEEMA PUNWANI (Singapore); VRINDA BALIGA (India); NAMRATA PODDAR (India / USA); T.A. MORTON (Ireland / Hong Kong); HAMID ISMAILOV (Uzbekistan); SUCHI GOVINDARAJAN (India); YD CHANG (China / Malaysia); JOLIN KWOK (Malaysia); IMRAN KHAN (Bangladesh); YAN TI (Taiwan); ZIRA NAURZBAYEVA (Kazakhstan); KAISA AQUINO (Philippines); JOSE VARGHESE (India)

 

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Title: Scream to the Shadows

Author: Tunku Halim

Publisher: Penguin SEA

Year of publication: 2019

Pages: 360

Price: SGD 14.50

Links if any: Penguin Random House

About: Unconfined to a single theme, this new collection of twenty short stories by Tunku Halim offers five distinct worlds—the paranormal mysteries from ‘The occult world’, with its dark settings reveal supernatural existences in the characteristic Halim style.

Read more

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