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. 

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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.