Neel

Walking into the prize ceremony for the Man Booker Prize in the knowledge that you could win one of the most prestigious literary prizes in the world should be the crowning moment in the career of any novelist writing in English.

But ask Neel Mukherjee whether he’s looking forward to his book, The Lives of Others, battling with works from the feted American author Joshua Ferris or the venerable past winner Howard Jacobson on Tuesday, and the response is close to total bafflement.

“What kind of question is that anyway?” he counters. “Of course I’m not. It’s going to be completely stressful.”

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“We talk in the same way about everything which is published, and literary criticism is poorer for it,” said Swedish Academy member Horace Engdahl. “This revolution has marginalised proper literature, which has not got worse, but which has seen its status change. Before, there were mountains and lowlands. Today, the outlook is that of an archipelago, where each island represents a genre … with everything coexisting without a hierarchy or centre”: The Guardian

Horace Engdahl swedish academy nobel prize literature judgeWestern literature is being impoverished by financial support for writers and by creative writing programmes, according to a series of blistering comments from Swedish Academy member Horace Engdahl, speaking shortly before the winner of the Nobel prize for literature is awarded.

In an interview with French paper La Croix, Engdahl said that the “professionalisation” of the job of the writer, via grants and financial support, was having a negative effect on literature. “Even though I understand the temptation, I think it cuts writers off from society, and creates an unhealthy link with institutions,” he told La Croix. “Previously, writers would work as taxi drivers, clerks, secretaries and waiters to make a living. Samuel Beckett and many others lived like this. It was hard – but they fed themselves, from a literary perspective.”

Indira Chandrasekhar is the Founding Editor of Out of Print magazine that focuses on short fiction. She shares with Kitaab her thoughts on the DNA Out of Print short fiction contest, how it came about and how it works.

IndiraTell us something about your magazine?

 Out of Print is a magazine that focuses on short fiction. We are a quarterly, offering a stringent selection of carefully edited short stories every three months. The stories all bear some connection to the Indian subcontinent.

Tell us about the DNA Out of Print short fiction contest. How did it start?

The contest, like many interesting confluences, came about in a wonderfully serendipitous way. A common interest in literature led to a conversation in writer Sanjay Bahadur’s drawing room between poet and novelist C P Surendran who is Editor-in-Chief of DNA and Indira Chandrasekhar, Founding Editor of Out of Print, which very quickly veered to the seed of what is now the DNA-Out of Print Short Fiction Contest.

Of course, the idea was then developed and detailed, but even the theme and format were fixed in the surge of that initial moment.

This anthology of literary voices from Sri Lanka offers a unique “opportunity to know a country and its various cultures in a holistic way,” says Kitaab’s fiction editor Monideepa Sahu

Many roadsMany Roads Through Paradise: An anthology of Sri Lankan Literature

Edited by Shyam Selvadurai

Penguin, India

Rs 499/-

Pp 493

In a war-torn land where people are trying to heal deep wounds in the aftermath of widespread devastation, the anthologist hopes to provide “an opportunity to build bridges across the divided communities.”

This literary bouquet will excite readers everywhere by offering an intricate mosaic depicting Sri Lanka’s peoples and their cultures. Translations from Tamil and Sinhala are also included to give a faithful representation of Sri Lanka’s ethnic and literary diversity.

For Indian readers, this collection shows how similar we are beneath the superficial differences. It also serves as a warning, portraying the dire consequences, the stupendous human toll, that results when neighbouring linguistic and religious communities sharing the same homeland push their differences to the point of fratricide.

It is a novel that raises and puts on the table truths-that-must-not-be-named as we collectively collude in an unspoken conspiracy to paper over the unseemly pockmarked aspects of the accepted model of ‘development’. The putrid underbelly under the glossy ‘modern’ feel is exposed as the author fixes her clinical gaze through her narrator on the unacknowledged recesses and crannies of urbanisation, says Preeta Menon in this review

a town like oursA Town Like Ours

Author: Kavery Nambisan

Publisher: Aleph, India

Pages: 242

Price: 395

There is a sense of déjà vu when you read this quiet unpretentious novel; and you realize that the title primes you for it. A Town Like Ours is full of characters and stories that seem to be a part of something or someone we have heard of, read about or know. It zooms in on the otherwise neglected territory of emerging small town India with its unapologetic local flavour, through which Nambisan fashions a commentary on the larger picture. It is a novel that raises and puts on the table truths-that-must-not-be-named as we collectively collude in an unspoken conspiracy to paper over the unseemly pockmarked aspects of the accepted model of ‘development’. The putrid underbelly under the glossy ‘modern’ feel is exposed as the author fixes her clinical gaze through her narrator on the unacknowledged recesses and crannies of urbanization.

National Library Board CEO Elaine Ng says it has found a “means and method” to put controversial children’s books in the adult section of the library: CNA

The National Library Board (NLB) will move the children’s titles that have been the subject of recent controversy to the adult’s section, and plans to create “more transparent review processes” for its books, CEO Elaine Ng said on Friday (July 18). The announcement follows instructions from Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim to reinstate the books in a separate section.

The Bangladeshi-British writer on news versus novels, swapping rural poverty for Wall Street, and “the power of story on the human mind”: Guernica

ZiaThe American physicist Richard P. Feynman once spoke of the “difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.” It’s a distinction that seems important in Zia Haider Rahman’s first novel, In The Light Of What We Know, which spans several decades and flies us between London, New York, Islamabad, and Kabul. Many of the characters have had the chance to get acquainted with Yale University’s motto, “Lux et Veritas.” But few have had the bone-deep experience of poverty and struggle that can lead to a different kind of knowing—an awareness that there are things you can’t be taught in the Ivy League; that there are different lights and different truths depending on matters of simple caprice: “the circumstances of our parents, the home and inheritance, the unearned talents…” Some kinds of knowledge go no deeper than language—are unaccompanied by experience or empathy—and the novel’s most memorable zingers are reserved for “that breed of international development experts unsparing in its love for all humanity but having no interest in people.”

China’s Beijingcream has extended their flash fiction deadline until this Sunday. 

Flash-Fiction-for-Charity-flyer-FINAL2

 

Their announcement:

“Submit stories 500-700 words to fiction@beijingcream.com before 11:59 pm this Sunday for a chance to read your piece over beers at Great Leap Brewing’s Original No. 6 courtyard on Sunday, July 13. If you need any inspiration, check out the piece that just went up on the Anthill about the heartache of being alone in a city of 21 million.

She was an art student from Beijing, and said she drank so she could get a good night’s sleep. I wondered what personal tragedy, heartache or sadness was at the bottom of her glass.

Shafts of humour help to illuminate this brilliantly bleak satire on the ‘one family, one child’ policy: The Guardian

Ma_JianIf a criticism must be made of Ma Jian’s devastating and powerful attack on contemporary Chinese oppression, elegantly translated by his wife Flora Drew, it lies less in the writing and more in the society described. Jian, who researched the novel while posing as an official reporter in the backwaters of China, depicts a terrifyingly random world in which the “one family, one child” policy of population engineering is stuck to with such rigid adherence that mothers-to-be can be seized, taken to down-at-heel makeshift clinics and forcibly aborted, often at extremely late stages in pregnancy.