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Book Review: Dvarca by Madhav Mathur

By Imteyaz Alam

2-dvarca-coverImagine a country with one race, one language, and one religion where the state intrudes into the personal life of citizens. The state decides pregnancy and the traits of progeny to be born, distributes a quota of a type of food for each individual, decides the profession of people and promotes one language and one religion. The control is draconian and the thought process is manipulated and conditioned. It is boastfully declared that “Multi-culturism is dead”. It is a futuristic imaginary country depicted by Madhav Mathur in his new novel Dvarca.

Madhav Mathur, a Singapore-based writer, works for an MNC. Dvarca is the second novel by this writer-filmmaker. His first novel is The Diary of an Unreasonable Man. His award-winning films The Insomniac and The Outsiders have been screened at numerous festivals.

At a time when the ultranationalists and right wing forces are taking centrestage across the globe, Dvarca is well-timed. The book depicts the future but has an imprint of the past and is quite relevant to the present as well. The author has a deep knowledge of mythology and history. The author also has a sharp observation of current developments. Madhav Mathur has skillfully crafted the story nicely, blending it with mythology, history, science and fiction.

The craft and story of Dvarca resembles George Orwell’s 1984. The telescreen of 1984 is modern interactive television. Two Minutes Hate is celebrated as the Hour of Honour. The Big brother of 1984 is the great leader called Shastriji. The network of spies in 1984 is replaced with the omnipresent DD — Distant Directives — that tracks the movement of every individual. Every right or wrong is done for the country and for religion. The motto of the fictional country is “THINK THE SAME ACT THE SAME BE THE SAME”. One country, one language, one way of life that is Navmarg is enforced by state apparatus. Uniformity is celebrated and diversity is hated. The people are blinded with hate against other countries, other languages, and other cultures. They are indoctrinated to believe and accept whatever comes from the state. “ASK NOT WHAT GOD AND COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU.” “ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR GOD AND COUNTRY.” The line between sport and war is blurred.

The title of the book is based on the ancient city Dvārakā., the city of great religious importance. The present-day Dwarka situated in the state of Gujarat, India is one of the char dhams (the four abodes/seats). The very title of the novel lays the foundation of the book on which the author constructs the edifice. The novel is full of allusion to history and mythology. The names of characters and events are named after characters from Hindu mythology. The women are named Jyotis, Miras, Aditis whereas men are named as Gandharva, Nakul, Arjuns, Vishwakarma etc. They are further identified by kalaava (wrist band) which shows the position of the individual in the hierarchical society of Dvarca.

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‘The Sound of the Mountain’: Yasunari Kawabata’s slow-burning meditation on getting older

By Louise George Kittaka

The first Japanese winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1968, Yasunari Kawabata, deals with the gradual decline that comes with aging in “The Sound of the Mountain.”

Family patriarch Shingo Ogata, a businessman nearing retirement, lives with his wife, son and daughter-in-law in Kamakura. Shingo has an affinity for the natural world, which serves as a metaphor for his feelings and reactions to events around him.

He is forced to ponder his own past performance as husband and father when both the marriages of his adult children run into trouble: Daughter Fusako leaves her husband, arriving home with her two small daughters, while her brother, Shuichi, neglects his own wife, Kikuyo, and brazenly carries on an affair. Read more

Source: The Japan Times


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Book Review: Roots of today’s Middle East chaos found on the battlefields of World War I

By Lisa Kaki

The end of the World War I marked the end of the Ottoman Empire and the emergence of new countries. Lebanon and Syria were both created by France in the 1920s. These arbitrary boundaries, which opened a new chapter in the region, have been at the center of conflicts ever since. The Civil War that began in Lebanon in 1975 and lasted 15 years caused the deaths of 120,000 people.

Syria has also been devastated by a bloody war in which Europe was conspicuous by its absence. At a time when many Arab countries are divided by political and sectarian passions, a lot of discussion focuses on the Great War’s partition plans. In a timely and meticulously researched book, Eugene Rogan sheds light on the neglected Middle-Eastern theater of World War I.

“The Fall of the Ottomans – The Great War in the Middle East 1914-1920” fills a void. Very little is known about the Turkish and Arab experiences of the Great War and its centenary also attracted little attention in the Middle East. Read more

Source: Arab News


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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Laksmi Pamuntjak

By Aminah Sheikh

laksmi

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

I write because it’s the one thing I know how to do. It’s a need and a sickness, a weapon of struggle and an instrument of grace. It’s work and leisure, a way of life. I think it’s been like that since I was six, when I started keeping a journal and writing single page stories that had to end no matter what at the end of a page. Not a single day goes by without the act of writing. Letters, impressions, observations, lines that come to mind.

I write because I read—as Susan Sontag said, the impulse to write is almost always fired by reading. I write because writing allows me to flesh out complex or extended thoughts more readily. It embraces language and ideas, shades and nuances; it is a medium both generous and rigorous. I write because writing always reveals something new about myself and about the world around me. I write because writing gives me my voice and the confidence to use it.

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

I’m hard at work at my third novel, The Fall Baby.  It is a sequel of sorts to my first novel, Amba: The Question of Red. The Fall Baby tells the story of Srikandi, the illegitimate daughter of Amba and Bhisma, the protagonists of the first novel. It is also the story of Dara, an ardent women rights’ activist who comes from a conservative Muslim family, to whom Srikandi becomes close.

Born in 1966, a year after the Indonesian anti-Communist massacres began, Srikandi—who prefers to be called by her nickname, Siri—is a globetrotting conceptual artist. She is smart, free-spirited, self-possessed. She is also worldly, willfully difficult, wildly successful—and the loneliest woman on the planet. Perpetually torn between East and West, between her home country Indonesia and various cities she has called home—Berlin, London, Madrid—her art mirrors her life in its quest for the ‘in-between,’ the ‘middle ground,’ the grey zones of human experience.

Broadly speaking, my aim with this novel is to present the complex, multiple realities of both “East” and “West,” what it means to have to constantly navigate between different cultures; to be both “Indonesian” (Indonesia itself being an artificial construct, a 20th century modern political invention), and to be a global citizen; and to look into the tension between art and activism. In the most intimate terms, it is a novel about mothers and daughters—a leitmotif in my body of work.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

Hard to describe one’s own aesthetic. If pressed, I would say lyrical realism.

I’m a poet and a musician. So, sound, rhythm, and musicality are very important to my writing. I have to hear the music. It has to sound right when it’s read out. This used to be the biggest thing with me.

I’m also an essayist. So ideas are very important to me; historical reflection, cultural theories, political thinking, philosophy. I like to ruminate. I also have many professional interests: as an art observer, food critic, (former) concert pianist. So I often draw on them. Sometimes these musings are good and useful for the novel; they enrich, add depth, color, taste, texture. Sometimes they’re not so good because they’re digressive, irrelevant. They slow down the pace and distract from the story. Nowadays I’m striving for wit, brevity and precision; poetry also teaches you that.

Who are your favorite authors?

Novelists: Henry James, Vladimir Nabokov; Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, Fyodor Dostoevsky; Jim Crace, Richard Yates, Walker Percy; Jorge Luis Borges; Thomas Bernhard, Toni Morrison, Nadine Gordimer, Christa Wolf, Hilary Mantel, Michael Cunningham, Ian McEwan, Stefan Zweig, Colm Toibin, A.M. Homes, Annie Dillard, Djuna Barnes, Elfriede Jelinek, Herta Mueller, Elena Ferrante, Margaret Atwood, Aleksandar Hemon; Helen Garner, Georges Simenon, Clarice Lispector. Evelyn Waugh for his wit and his glorious, rigorous prose.

Short story writers: Kafka, Lorrie Moore, Lydia Davis.

Poets: Paul Celan, Philip Larkin, Ingeborg Bachmann, Wallace Stevens, Tomas Transtromer, Adam Zagajewski, T.S. Eliot, Kay Ryan, Rita Dove, Chairil Anwar, Goenawan Mohamad, Sapardi Djoko Damono, Tomas Salamun, Pablo Neruda, Wislawa Symborzka.

Essayists, philosophers, art/cultural critics: Walter Benjamin, John Berger, E.M. Cioran, Helene Cixous, Hannah Arendt, Susan Sontag and Rachel Bespaloff.

What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.

My first novel, Amba: The Question of Red. It was my first attempt at writing a novel—and a big, ambitious one at that. I was inexperienced and I had no clue how to go about it. The novel’s canvas and expectations always seemed too big, and that was often paralyzing. My DNA as a poet often got in the way. Also, my bilingualism and biculturalism—normally a twin asset—sometimes backfired when I tried to contextualize complex Indonesian history into a different language, mindscape, and culture (English in the case). Lastly, the novel took too long—ten years—and I was working on different projects and published eight books during that time. It’s hard to sustain a novel when so much time has passed. Everything changed: you, your relationship with the world, your relationship with the novel.

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Book Review: The Parachute Paradox unrolls Palestinian artist Steve Sabella’s quest for a sense of identity

By Joseph Dana

The number of books about Israel and Palestine published every year can feel oppressive to the average reader. Coupled with the constant stream of news, it is clear that there is untappable desire for discussion about the conflict. Yet, new books tend follow the same patterns in terms of approach, construction and content. An in-depth history of one stage of the conflict, a compelling argument to achieve peace or, perhaps, a convincing strategy to challenge the status quo. On rare occasions, an original narrative of the conflict, imbued with honesty and sensitivity, is published.

Steve Sabella’s memoir, The Parachute Paradox, is one such narrative, but it has flown under the mainstream radar. That might have something to do with its author and the unorthodox style of the book. Sabella is an artist from Jerusalem. His art, which has garnered him acclaim from Berlin to Dubai, wrestles with notions of identity in Palestine.

The Parachute Paradox is devoid of the pretension normally associated with conflict memoirs. Sabella doesn’t have anything to prove with his story. As he describes his upbringing in Jerusalem’s Old City and what life was like for his Christian family, Sabella is having a conversation with himself as much as with the reader. He floats between Palestine and Israel, but life in the seam creates more identity problems than it solves. Read more

Source: The National


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New Release: The Three with a Thousand Apples by Sanchit Gupta

Book Cover_The Tree with a Thousand ApplesInspired by true events, this riveting narrative traces the lives of Safeena Malik, Deewan Bhat, and Bilal Ahanagar, three childhood friends who grow up in an atmosphere of peace and amity in Srinagar, Kashmir, until the night of 20 January 1990 changes it all.

While Deewan is forced to flee from his home, Safeena’s mother becomes ‘collateral damage’ and Bilal has to embrace a wretched life of poverty and fear. The place they called paradise becomes a battleground and their friendship struggles when fate forces them to choose sides against their will.

Twenty years later destiny brings them to a crossroads again, when they no longer know what is right and what is wrong. While both compassion and injustice have the power to transform lives, will the three friends now choose to become sinful criminals or pacifist saints?

The Tree with a Thousand Apples  (Niyogi Books) is a universal story of cultures, belongingness, revenge and atonement. The stylised layered format, fast-paced narration and suspenseful storytelling makes for a powerful, gripping read.

About the Author 

Born and brought up in the hills of Himachal Pradesh, Sanchit Gupta began his career as a part-time copywriter with an advertising agency in Mumbai. He went on to co-found his own theatre group, worked as a freelance film screenwriter and as executive producer–fiction for a leading television network. His short stories have been published in several esteemed publications and literary journals, and have won acclaim in leading literary festivals and online forums. Some of them being- Tata LitLive My Story Contest, Muse India, Contemporary Literary Review India, Indian Ruminations, Qpeka and the Orange Flame Literary Review.

As a screenwriter, his script Kahwa (based on the book The Tree with a Thousand Apples) has been long-listed at Sundance International Screenwriters’ Lab- 2017. Another of his film scripts (fiction) has been long-listed at Mumbai Mantra Cinerise screenwriters’ lab- 2016. He is the co-writer of Emraan Hashmi’s first home production Captain Nawab and Rajkumar Rao- Shruti Hassan starrer Behen Hogi Teri, that shall release in May 2017.

Apart from being a writer, he is a brand management professional with a wide range of brand building and communication development experience across FMCG, automobile and media industries. His works explore his fascination for global cultures, societal structures, vagaries of the world and the human mind.

The Tree with a Thousand Apples is his debut novel. More can be found about the author and his works at www.sanchitgupta.in


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Working It Out: How to be a published author?

By Siddhartha S

I have intentionally added the word ‘published’ to the title of this article. I wish for all the aspiring authors to not only write but also get published. As a published author, I often get asked how to be an author so I take this opportunity to share everything I learned about publishing over the last decade. I believe writing is one of the easiest ways to stay in touch with your creative faculties. Even as I write these lines, I am excited because I have no ideas of the words which will follow. A published book is the best example that the intangible becomes tangible if you are willing to invest time.

Believe that you can be an author: Writing a book is definitely a long term effort. No matter how much impressive they sound but never sign up for workshops that offer to make you a published author in a month. Try to deliver a baby in month and chances are high it will be healthy of fully developed. There might be few exceptions but generally I believe that it takes a minimum of one year to write a good book. Read more

Source: The Indian Express

 


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New Release: None Other by Krishna Baldev Vaid

none otherNone Other conjures a vivid portrait of a man who is old, alone and dying. Trapped in his house, consumed with lust, shame and loathing, he scribbles his frenzied ramblings in his notebooks. But what begins as a bitter tirade transforms into an anguished meditation on loneliness and the quest for solace. In Here I Am if I Am, translated into English for the first time, a hunchback at a desolate roadside contemplates the precariousness of his own existence even as his tormented mind unravels. Hypnotic and unsettling, Krishna Baldev Vaid’s highly innovative novellas expertly explore some of our biggest anxieties: the fear of abandonment, the treachery of memory and the imminence of death.

 

About the Author 

Krishna Baldev Vaid, born in 1927 in Dinga, now in Pakistan, is a major Hindi writer known for his iconoclastic and innovative work. He survived the horrifying carnage that accompanied the partition of the Indian subcontinent, and regards his involuntary transplantation to the Indian side of the border as his most traumatic existential experience. Vaid was educated at Punjab and Harvard universities, and has taught at Indian and American universities. He has published novels, novellas, short stories, plays, diaries, literary criticism and translations. Among the many great books that comprise his prolific literary career, perhaps his best-known and most-loved work is the extraordinary coming-of-age novel Uska Bachpan (published in Penguin Classics as Steps in Darkness). His work has been translated into and published in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Russian, Japanese and several Indian languages.

 


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Indian authors writing in English language

By Ankita Ghosh

While we were busy reading mostly American and European authors to satiate our hunger for novels written in the English language, a quiet and cautious breed of writers were steadily reinventing the idea of English language novels for us, here in the heartland of the subcontinent.

These writers came to be loosely known as ‘Indian authors writing in English language’. As the 21st century progressed and our desperate need to be readily anglicized was reversed by the chronic desire to be homebound, more and more people began reading them and soon they became a phenomenon.
These authors usually fall into two distinct categories. The first category of authors is headed by Chetan Bhagat, Ravinder Singh, Manju Kapur, Anuja Chauhan and the likes. They have equally been loved and loathed. The middle class that was reluctantly welcoming English into their households, loved them as they spoke of a transitioning India and wrote about its average citizens. Read more
Source: Meri News


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Book Review: Sauptik: Blood and Flowers by Amruta Patil

By Nilesh Mondal

sauptikMythology remains a vast source of interesting and sometimes intimidating stories that writers have constantly been trying to draw from. Whether it is the subtle parallels drawn from mythology, or the more direct approach of retelling or reimagining epics and adapting them into more contemporary narratives, both have been tried by many writers to varying degree of success. However, Amruta Patil’s second attempt to combine the tales of Mahabharata and the knowledge from Puranas, after the highly successful Adi Parva: Churning of the Ocean, is neither of the two. It is one which deals with Indian mythology head on; narrating the epic we’ve known and loved always with glorious precision and straight-forwardness.

This is why Sauptik: Blood and Flowers sets a precedent for a very different kind of mythological retelling, one that is both devastatingly thought-provoking and disarmingly honest, one which depends entirely on the epics themselves to impart readers with lessons on life and justice, and the art of war.

From the very beginning, we know this isn’t going to be the usual run-of-the-mill bit of story-telling, since Sauptik is first and foremost, a graphic novel. I’d leave the analytical scrutiny of Amruta Patil’s artwork to those more experienced in those fields. To me, the usual reader, the artwork serves both as a reminder of a bygone era of paintings done by artisans in a king’s court, done on fabric and papyrus and other media, and a sense of aesthetics that is a complete departure from the prevalent genres of digital manipulation of art. In her art, done as a mixture of techniques ranging from watercolour to acrylic paints to charcoal to collages, battles and scenarios come alive in their entire magnificence. She also drops the conventional rectangular structure used in most comic books, instead experimenting with various alternatives, sometimes splaying the art over the entirety of the pages, sometimes having multiple scenes unfold on the same page, etc. The use of motifs and symbols of importance as depicted in the epic and Puranas are layered and repetitive. All in all, it is a visually stimulating collection of artwork rich in colours and details, which keeps the reader riveted throughout the entire book.

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