By Elen Turner

Necropolis by Avtar Singh, New Delhi: Harper Collins, 2014. 268 pages.

necropolisAvtar Singh’s Necropolis is very different from a lot of English-language fiction currently emerging from India, a major strength of the novel. Part detective fiction, part literary, and incorporating much history and vampire imagery, Necropolis straddles various literary worlds.

Taking it as a mystery/crime thriller, it would be best not to give away too much of the plot in this review, as it is this that pulls the reader along. It opens with a murder—one in a string of murders—suspected to have been carried out by Delhi’s youth gangs. DCP Dayal and officers Kapoor and Smita Dhingra are on the case, and the novel follows their search for the killers. Further crimes occur, parallel or connected to the opening murder, including the killing of an African immigrant, the rape of a woman from the north-east of India and the kidnapping of a young boy from a wealthy family.

One of Singapore’s well-known publishers Epigram Books has announced the launch of a new literary prize, the Epigram Books Fiction Prize.

The annual prize of S$20,000 is the richest literary award in Singapore, the publisher claimed in a press statement.

According to the publisher, the prize is to be awarded to a Singaporean, Singaporean permanent resident or Singapore-born author for the best manuscript of a full-length, original and unpublished novel written in the English language. The first winner will be announced at this year’s Singapore Writers Festival in November 2015 and have his/her novel published by Epigram Books.

An English anthology of works by Taiwanese and Malaysian writers was launched in late January this year to introduce more literary works from the two countries to English-speaking readers.

The “Anthology of Short Stories Malaysia-Taiwan” features 12 short stories by six Taiwanese and six Malaysian writers, Sarah Hsiang (項人慧), secretary and assistant editor at the Taipei Chinese Center International P.E.N., said Tuesday.

Shahid Siddiqui can whip up magic with both a pen and a spoon in his hand: The Hindu

It is truly exhilarating to speak to Shahid Siddiqui! Away from the chaos of politics, he is a fascinating man, one who understands the subtleties of tea like few others; a man who loves to design clothes, a man who loves to be a playwright — by the way, his first English novel, “The Golden Pigeon” recently hit the stalls. He is a wonderful mimic too. Without a pause he can reproduce the accents of people in different lanes and bylanes of Delhi, the Jatland of Uttar Pradesh, the Patna boys, the Madrasi men. “I can speak English in all Indian accents,” he informs me with a little twinkle in his eyes. And when he is through with all that, he can play a good host too. But today, I am hosting him over lunch at Le Meridien’s Monsoon restaurant, the adults-only food corner that encourages conversation over food and drinks. 

Man Booker prize winner Richard Flanagan led the vanguard in a triumphant year for Antipodean fiction

The Narrow Road To The Deep North coverIt was a triumphant year for Antipodean fiction, the vanguard led not by grandee Peter Carey’s Amnesia, but by the winner of the Man Booker prize, Richard Flanagan, who not only gave us an astounding love story in The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Chatto & Windus, £16.99), but dared to enter into territory – the cruelty inflicted by the Japanese on Australian PoWs – which Carey confessed his generation had feared to tread.

Odds stacked against US novelists Joshua Ferris and Karen Joy Fowler, as shortlisted authors wait for announcement of winner: The Guardian

Neel Mukherjee, author of The Lives of Others.
Neel Mukherjee, author of The Lives of Others. Photograph: David Levenson/Getty Images

The US novelists Joshua Ferris and Karen Joy Fowler will have to beat the odds if one of them is to become the first American winner of the Man Booker prize, to be announced on Tuesday night in London.

For the first time, the £50,000 prize is open to any author writing originally in English and published in the UK, but Ferris’s book, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, described as a New York tale of existential dentistry, and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Fowler, a tale of family life where a psychologist father twins his daughter with a chimp, are the bookmakers’ outsiders.

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.”

“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.”