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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Easterine Kire

By Aminah Sheikh

easterine-kire

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

I write because I love to write. From childhood I have loved reading, and it was a natural progression to write stories as I grew older.

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

My publisher, Speaking Tiger, published my novel, Son of the Thundercloud in December 2016. It is the story of the Christ-child growing up as a Naga boy. I experimented with placing a well-known story in a completely different setting and giving it a different cultural background, transferring the mystery elements with it. It gave me the freedom to write about things that are very close to my heart: kindness, love and what my publisher calls the eternal aspect of life and love.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

It depends on whether I am writing fiction or non-fiction. Some books stay in my head for a long time before they come out on paper. I have writing bouts where I begin my days with writing and don’t stop until the last chapter as I don’t like leaving anything unfinished. If I am writing poetry, I go out of doors, sit in a cafe or sit by the boats alone for hours.

Who are your favorite authors?

Moris Farhi, Hugh McLellan, Ben Okri, Robin Ngangom, Tim Winton, Astrid Lindgren, Graham Cooke, Max Lucado, Michael Leunig, etc.

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

It would probably be MARI, a book on the Second World War and the Japanese Invasion of India via the Naga Hills. I used my aunt Mari’s diary and her memories and my mother’s memories to reconstruct the Kohima town as they knew it 60 odd years ago. Reconstructing historical events and details is both challenging and fascinating.

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Excerpts: Dvarca by Madhav Mathur

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Chicken & Egg

Jyoti was fast asleep in their bedroom. Baba was out for his night-shift and the children lay still, contorted and bent away from each other like the hands of a clock. It was ten- to-five. Gandharva shut Mira’s mouth and stopped Nakul from sucking his thumb. He watched them for a moment, before carrying on.

He didn’t want to risk waking Jyoti by using the toilet attached to their room and decided to use the small common toilet next to the kitchen to clean up. Rain had found a way to bounce off the window-shutters and wet everything from the lights to the floor. He looked at himself in the mirror. He was still wrapped in the foul-smelling cloth from the street. It had saved his life. He took it off and flipped it around to fold it away. His face went deathly pale when he saw the other side of his new found vestment. Something was written on the cloth. He leaned in close and read the words. They looked like scratches after a desperate fight.

‘WHAT CAME FIRST? POLITICS OR RELIGION?’

How could he have been so careless? How did he end up with a cloth that clearly came from the pariahs? He crumpled it into a ball. He panicked and splashed his face with water to make sure it wasn’t some sort of lurid Vision. Had he been seen with it? Would they believe that he had nothing to do with it?

He tried to wash off the unholy letters but they were stitched on. He looked around frantically for a way to get rid of the cloth. He could not burn it on the stove, all gas supplies were switched off after 10:00 p.m. for energy conservation. He could not carry it out and throw it away; it was too risky. He tried to flush the ball down the toilet, but it was too big. There was nothing in the bathroom of use, just some of Baba’s toiletries.

Gandharva rushed out to the kitchen and found one of Jyoti’s scissors. He hurtled back into the bathroom and pulled the door shut. He lowered the toilet seat-cover and sat down to cut the cloth into smaller pieces. The scissors had thick, blunt blades. He made some headway with them and then decided to rip the cloth with his hands. He was no Nakul or Arjun, but he tried his best.

“DETECTION: ELEVATION IN VITAL RATES. PLEASE REPORT.”

The veins of his forehead popped out like new hill ranges after a deep seismic disturbance. He quickly responded with the first thing that came to his flustered mind.

“Stomach upset. Recovering.”

He sat atop the commode with the stinking shawl in his hands. There were words stitched all over it. Some portions of the writing were illegible because of the indelible grease stains. He read a sentence.

‘YOU’VE FALLEN FOR THE OLDEST TRICK. THEY KNOW WHAT YOU WILL DO, BEFORE YOU DO IT. THEY’VE DRAWN LINES IN THE SKY AND LINES IN THE SAND, TO MARK GOD AND COUNTRY.’

Who were they addressing? Who was speaking? Why?

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Kiran Doshi wins ‘The Hindu Prize 2016’

Kiran Doshi, a retired diplomat and educationist from Gujarat, won The Hindu Prize 2016 on Sunday for his third major work of fiction, Jinnah Often Came to Our House, a book set against the political turmoil of the subcontinent from the early part of the 20th century, ending with the Partition and Independence.

Mr. Doshi was among the five authors shortlisted from nearly 60 entries for the seventh edition of the prize. The shortlisted works included Anil Menon’s Half Of What I Say, Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar’s The Adivasi Will Not Dance, Kunal Basu’s Kalkatta and Manjula Padmanabhan’s The Island of Lost Girls.

K. Satchidanandan, a member of the jury, pointed to the manner in which Jinnah Often Came to Our House, with its “unbiased wisdom, corrects all kinds of prejudices about political leaders and religious communities.” Read more

Source: The Hindu


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Excerpts: Amba: The Question of Red by Laksmi Pamuntjak

amba

The Third Man

When a woman wavers between two men—the one she didn’t get and the one who didn’t get her—she usually encounters a third. This is how the third man came into Amba Kinanti’s life and how his story should be told.

*

For Amba it started with dreams both foul and fair.

In the days following Bhisma’s disappearance, her heart sick with sorrow, Amba started having vivid dreams. Maudlin, abusive nightmares with baby-burning witches and gods with deformed cocks. Nostalgic images of Kadipura, of her parents and her sisters and her corner on the porch where they took their tea in the afternoons, the lakeside where her father and she often sat, her father opening The Mahabharata.

Once, Bhisma and Salwa appeared together in her dream, as the book dictated. But instead of taking up arms and hacking at each other, they were sitting down under a vast banyan tree, the way warriors always do, talking about great revolutions and ideas that would transform the world. Meanwhile, she was peering at them from behind another tree, eavesdropping. She could hear every word. The Amba of this dream looked sad, disheveled, and old, and her purpose was vindictive: to aim her arrow at Salwa’s heart. She would wait for the right time and kill Salwa first and then herself, and then the gods could have a field day blaming one another for the loss of a very important thread in their celestial narrative. She, Amba, would be the noble princess who exited the world so that Bhisma, the ultimate warrior-healer, the man who saved lives, would prevail. Because he must. She was going to take Salwa with her to end his suffering in the world, his and Bhisma’s, from everything that she had done.

Suddenly, in the dream, she saw Bhisma lean toward Salwa, the man who was supposed to be his rival, his fiercest foe, and say, ‘She doesn’t know it yet, but I must leave her. I must leave so she will have a future.’

The horror of that dream had woken her. The horror of how in the dream Amba, on hearing those words, had changed her aim in a sick split instant, and the desolate sound of Bhisma’s groan before his body hit the earth.

Some nightmares were grimmer. In one she saw her father dashing through the dust in a smoky battlefield, amid the ringing sound of gunfire and the swish of arrows, soldiers screaming and falling around him. He had in his trembling hands an open page from The Mahabharata, something he seemed to want to get rid of but couldn’t. Soon a naked woman who looked like Rinjani, a perfection of limbs and breasts, appeared. She began to devour soldiers, both dead and alive.

In another, Bhisma and Salwa appeared in her room, their faces dewy and transformed by lust. They offered to take turns fucking her. ‘Why not?’ they said when she protested. ‘Won’t it be fun?’

*

After the chaos at Untarto’s funeral and Amba’s sick moment of realization that Bhisma was not with her in the courtyard, she swallowed her fear and frantically began looking for him.

The streets had almost emptied. No one wanted to be part of more trouble. Yet she went around anyway, asking each person she saw if they knew, or had seen, Dr. Rashad, describing his appearance. Each time she was met with a shaken head, a blank stare.

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China: 2016 works worth reading

By Mei Jia

The Paper Republic website, which promotes contemporary Chinese writing to the English-language world, has just put out its latest list. Now in its fifth year, the list offers readers a wide range of choices. “This year’s list is longer than ever, and several books have won international prizes,” says Nicky Harman, a UK-based prize-winning literary translator, who prepared the list. At a glance, there are names of writers of fiction, sci-fi writers, online works, poetry and children’s literature, all translated and published in English in 2016. Read more

Source: China Daily


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Have you written a children’s story inspired by Asia?

The Scholastic Asian Book Award (Saba) is a joint initiative between the National Book Development Council of Singapore and publishers Scholastic Asia that “will recognise children’s writers of Asian origin who are taking the experiences of life, spirit, and thinking in different parts of Asia to the world at large”.

Since its inception in 2011, the biennial award has been responsible for publishing English language works by authors from all over Asia, including India, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

The best manuscript wins S$10,000 (RM31,000) and will be considered by Scholastic Asia for publication; the authors of the first and second runners-up manuscripts will be offered advice by Scholastic Asia on editing and submitting their works for publication. Read more

Source: Star2.com


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Excerpts: The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam

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The doorbell rang at last. When she answered it she found a boy of about eleven or twelve standing in the lane, with several bags of food and a thick bushel of reeds.

‘You should be at school,’ she said when she brought him in- to the kitchen.

He did not respond. His face was beautiful and doll-like and he was looking towards the bird wings hanging on the pink wall. He had placed the bags on the dining table and was using his grimy sleeve to absorb the perspiration from his forehead and upper lip, holding his gaze on the wings. He went towards them and reached out with a finger and touched the lime green feather of an Alexandrine parakeet.

‘Does the man with the straw hat live here?’ he asked. ‘The one with the elastic going over his shoulders.’

‘They are called braces. Or galluses.’ ‘Gal…lu…ses.’

She held up the bottle of Rooh Afza he had brought, crack- ing open the seal on the cap. ‘Would you like a drink of this?’

He seemed uncertain. ‘I overheard the lady mention some- one named Helen,’ he said. ‘Is that you?’

‘Yes.’

‘Are you an infidel?’

Helen had been looking into one of the bags. She raised her head but not her eyelids. At the beginning of high school, when she was fourteen years old, a teacher had asked her to stand up in class and ‘justify taking the place of a Muslim’.

‘Are you a servant here?’ the boy continued. ‘You don’t look like one.’

When she finally glanced at him he nodded towards the Rooh Afza bottle. ‘I am a Muslim, I can’t accept a drink from your hand.’ And he added, ‘You should know that. Shouldn’t you?’

At nineteen, Helen was old enough to remain unsurprised by occasions such as these. She had always known them and could not have separated them from the most basic facts of her existence. Still, sometimes she was caught off guard.

She watched him from the kitchen window as he crossed the garden at an unhurried pace and left the house, stopping twice on the semicircular path through the grass, to look up at the ripening fruit or some creature moving in the branches.

She put away the items of food, and divided and bound the river reeds into brooms. Afterwards she carried the alumini- um stepladder to the study and unfolded it below the model of the Hagia Sophia. She stood there for a few moments: even from the topmost step of the ladder, the book would be too high up. She needed something to nudge it with, and she went back to the kitchen and unhooked the giant wing of the trum- peter swan and returned with it, the feathers blindingly white when she walked through the rays of the sun on the veranda, almost a detonation.

As she climbed up with the four-foot wing she thought of her mother who would use this ladder to dust the upper reaches of walls and shelves in this house. She recalled the story of her parents’ first meeting. Grace had been fifteen years old at the time and was a servant in someone’s house, and she had approached a passing policeman one day in a distraught state and demanded that he arrest a certain seventeen-year-old gardener’s boy from a nearby house. ‘I cannot stop think- ing about him!’ she had declared. ‘Each night the thought of him keeps me awake, and all day I long for him. I demand justice!’ Looking for a few moments of amusement, the police- man had followed the spirited, indignant girl as she led him to her criminal. He was entirely unaware of her, of course, and was speechless now, to find himself accused of being her incre- mental killer.

Helen arrived at the top step of the ladder – ‘This is where the wolf lives,’ Grace would say – and she stretched the wing of the swan cautiously towards the book on the small windowsill. The tip of the last feather fell just short of making contact with the book’s spine, and she raised herself onto her toes to attain the extra inches. There was a dull, indistinct noise from some- where below her at that moment, and she glanced down to see that the boy from the shop had appeared at the door to the study.

Carefully she brought her heels back down to the metal sur- face of the step. She had neglected to lock the door after his departure.

‘Did you forget something?’

He was looking at her and the expression on his face was somewhere between a sneer and a swoon, his body partly con- cealed in the shadow being thrown by a shelf. As he advanced into the room Helen saw that he was in fact trembling, the sharp length of the knife in his right hand moving to and fro as he approached the ladder.

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Excerpts: Son of the Thundercloud by Easterine Kire

son-of-thundercloud_e-bookGrey Earth

When he had been travelling for two weeks, perhaps more,   he could not be sure, Pele came to the base of a black mountain. His feet hurt and his white canvas shoes were brown with dust. There had been no big roads, just narrow mountain paths that he followed up and down until they brought him to some human settlement or a solitary dwelling. He would partake of the hospitality of the starving inhabitants and continue on his journey.

Everywhere he stopped, he was told he should go to the Village of Weavers. Rumour had it that there was enough food and water to be found there. They might let him stay and build a home. In the last habitation where he was told this, a man gave him detailed directions to the Village of Weavers.

Pele decided to go, if only to keep travelling. He did not know if he wanted to build a home. He did not know what he wanted; except hunger, thirst and physical pain, he felt nothing. The journey could take him anywhere, or nowhere. The mountain lay between him and the Village of Weavers. It was a hard climb and when he reached the top, the sun had begun to sink low on the horizon. Pele stopped in his tracks and looked around him. He had never seen such desolation in all his travels. Before him stretched miles of barrenness. The earth was so dry that the soil no longer looked like soil. It had cracked apart, every brittle vein and ligament exposed, looking more like sun-dried sponge with big holes running through the sod. The brown colour had gone from the soil and if the traveller were to describe it, he would call it grey, death-grey. It had long given up the struggle to sustain any form of life. His eyes scanned the horizon for people, though he asked himself how anyone could possibly survive here.

To the east, he saw a knot of houses. But as he began his descent, he saw that they were dilapidated sheds crumbling to the ground, the few remaining posts vainly holding up the overhanging roofs of thatch. They looked as desolate as the dead fields. Everything looked abandoned. He decided to spend the night in one of the ruins and set out early for whatever else lay in his path. He was some distance from the base of the mountain when he saw movement. Two  dark figures emerged out of the sheds and stopped by a large rock, looking up at him. Were they human or were they spirits? He could not tell. His pace slowed down; he was surprised that he could still feel fear after weeks of lonely travel. He watched as the figures began to move again, almost gliding through the air rather than walking  on the dead earth. And as they came closer, something calmed him a little.

It was only when they spoke that he realized they were human. ‘You have come far, traveller. We have no food, but you may shelter in our house. That is our way.  We  never turn   a traveller away and it will soon be night, so you may be our guest.’

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Book review: The Golden Legend – beauty and pain in Pakistan

golden-legend

“Two of their buildings fell down and they think they know about the world’s darkness, about how unsafe a place it is capable of being!” remarks a character in Nadeem Aslam’s The Wasted Vigil (2008). That was a novel set in Afghanistan amid the ruins of war, juxtaposing Eastern and Western characters united by the experience of loss.

He continued with this setting in his The Blind Man’s Garden (2013), this time populating Afghanistan with characters from his native Pakistan. Now, in his fifth novel, Aslam returns to Pakistan itself for the first time since his 1993 debut, Season of the Rainbirds. And the country he depicts is one bent on completing what the West has begun with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, by revealing quite how dark and unsafe the world can be. This is a landscape of irrational sectarian violence, rivalry and cruelty.

The novel opens with the death of middle-aged architect Massud, who leaves behind his wife and collaborator, Nargis. Together, they have created a collection of exquisite buildings and fought for culture in a hostile world. He is accidentally shot during the inauguration of a new library they’ve designed in the fictional city of Zamana, as they form part of a mile-long human chain to transport the precious books to their new home. Read more

Source: South China Morning Post


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Is fiction on the decline? Non-fiction found more takers in 2016

The tastes of the reading public in India seem to growing beyond fiction. In what is being seen as a major evolution in the Indian publishing space, 2016 witnessed a fast and booming shift to memoirs and non-fiction while fiction titles were subdued not only in terms of their numbers but also popularity among readers. Industry insiders say this is a cumulative result of the nation’s changing reading patterns.

Opening the year with a surprise was Anything But Khamosh, the authorised biography of Bollywood icon and politician Shatrughan Sinha, by Bharati Pradhan.

The book, which was launched at the Jaipur Lit Fest towards the end of January, went on to attract readers from all age groups and even the “Bihari Babu” left no stone unturned in its promotions, retracing the many “hurrahs and heartaches” of his life at promotional events. Read more

Source: Hindustan Times