Category Archives: Literature

Literary News: A NEW Book Club Launched To Explore Asian American Identity

Starting this month, Gold House is launching its new initiative – a Book Club to uncover and codify Asian identity through other artistic mediums. This summer they held a pilot event called The Joy Luck Club which was extremely successful. Post the success of which, they decided to formalize the Book Club as a series of curated book lists and virtual events. With an aim to continue important conversations around identity by exploring critical themes raised in each of the books, including immigration, intersectional identities, and generational and bi-cultural differences, this book club sounds promising.

The Book Club is going to be first of its kind with a definitive list to help Asian Americans better understand their identity and culture in today’s political and social climate.

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Essay: Why does Manto arouse antagonism amongst the intelligentsia?

Today is Saadat Hasan Manto‘s birthday. Considered to be one of South Asia’s finest fiction writers, he is known for his candid and honest style of writing which was often considered provocative. There has been a lot of debate on his style of writing since time immemorial. While one may continue to argue on that but the fact still remains, that he is one of the greatest short story writers till date. Which leads us to the question: Why does Manto arouse antagonism amongst the intelligentsia?. Let’s try to decipher that.

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Do you live in a City of Literature?

 

This year Lahore has been dubbed a City Of Literature.

What does it mean to be a City of Literature? How do you become a City of Literature?

City of Literature is a venture initiated by UNESCO in 2004, where Nanjing and Baghdad figure; Stratford on Avon, Oxford and Cambridge do not. Edinburgh was the first city identified under this scheme. Manchester, Melbourne, Prague, Durban and Milan find spots on the list.

So, how do they judge which city is the right pick?

These are the features they look for quality, quantity, and diversity of publishing in the city; educational programmes focusing on domestic or foreign literature at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels;  how important  the role of literature, drama, and poetry are in the city. They also check out how many literary events and festivals promoting domestic and foreign literature are hosted in the city.

Manchester has the library. Edinburgh hosts the International Book Festival and has its own poet laureate. Melbourne has more than 300 bookshops. There are seven Asian cities in the list including  Nanjing and, now, Lahore. Read more

How Isa Kamari’s ideology and Ayn Rand’s Objectivism seems to be embedded at the heart of a new course in UPENN

This year, in the Singapore Writer’s festival, one of the books  launched is a translation of Isa Kamari’s Kiswah, a novel which was created with two more in 2002 — Intercession and The Tower. While these novels focus on spiritual evolution by evolving religious lore, in two of them at least the protagonist is an architect.

So, what does architecture have in common with literature? 

Russian author Ayn Rand  found some answers in The Fountainhead (1943), where the protagonist, architect Howard Roarke moves towards her theory of Objectivism,  a theory which the author herself defined as “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” 

Do Kamari’s books, though studied in a religious light by Henry Aveling of Monash University, also subscribe to Objectivism? Read more

Can Literature Survive?

 

“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for she was born in another time.” 

― Rabindranath Tagore

One of the greatest writers of all times, Tagore spoke a truth which we can only understand to an extent. Are we limiting our children when we perceive literature as dying? Dying — because of technology? Is it dying only because of technology? 

In an essay in Paris Review, David L Ulin, an essayist and writer concluded: “Literature is dead.” And this was despite his earlier vindication that technology, like Gutenberg, brought books to us. His fifteen year old after reading Great Gatsby declared that the last few chapters “ featured the most beautiful writing he ever read” and yet he said none of his peers would read such lovely writing and therefore, literature was dead.  Read more

Short Story: The Cat by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay

Translated by Shah Tazrian Ashrafi

 

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Bust of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay

I was in my bedroom, sitting on the stool, dozing with a hookah in my hand. A sliver of light was permeating, creating a clever shadow on the wall, a ghost dancing. Lunch wasn’t ready yet — I sat in a pensive state; I was dreaming as I puffed… If I were Napoleon, could I win the battle of Waterloo?

Right at the moment, an unexpected sound crept in, “Meow”.

As I tried looking, I couldn’t perceive anything. First, I thought that the Duke of Wellington had taken the shape of a cat and was approaching me to beg for some opium. Full of enthusiasm, tough as a stone, I thought I’d say that the Lord Duke shouldn’t ask for more, given that he had been awarded previously. Too much greed isn’t healthy. The Duke replied, “Meow”.

With careful observation, it dawned on me that this wasn’t Wellington! This was a petty cat that had drunk the milk reserved for me as I was busy arranging soldiers on Waterloo’s field — unaware of the cat’s theft. The beautiful cat, filled with satisfaction after finishing all the milk was intent on making its satisfaction known to this world.

In a mellifluous tone, it said “Meow!”

IMG_0683I did perceive that the cat was mocking at me, that it was laughing internally as, facing me, it thought; “Somebody dies drying the pond; somebody eats the koi.”

I perceive that the “Meow” had the intent of understanding what was on my mind. I perceive that the cat’s thought was, “I’ve finished your milk—now what do you say?” Read more

What does Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka have to say on India, Nigeria and more….

Wole Soyinka was the first Nigerian author, poet, playwright and essayist to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. He has taught in number of universities, including Cornell, Oxford, Harvard and Yale.

Soyinka had been living in America for twenty years before President Trump came to power. He was a scholar-in-residence at New York University’s Institute of African American Affairs when he tore up his green card. He said: “I had a horror of what is to come with Trump… I threw away the card and I have relocated, and I’m back to where I have always been.” He returned to Africa.  Read more

Mongolian Literary Collection on the Cards

 

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19th century Mongolian sutra manuscript…Wikimedia commons

China has for the first time compiled Mongolian literature, including incantations, from the province of Inner Mongolia, spanning the last eight hundred years.

Eight hundred year ago, the Mongolians had invaded large parts of the world and Kublai Khan,  grandson of the conquerer Genghis Khan  had established the Yuan dynasty which not only popularised the paper currency yuan (that is what Chinese currency is still called though renminbi does replace it within China often), but also hosted  Marco Polo, the first European who left written accounts  of China.

The Mongolians founded the Yuan dynasty and ruled for nearly a century. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem Xanadu immortalised the Yuan dynasty reign in verse in the nineteenth century. Read more

More Online Avenues for Books in Asia with Tencent’s China Literature & Singtel Merger

Despite studies projecting that millennials may prefer reading paper books over e books, China Literature, a pioneer online literature company, is tying up with Singtel to bring literature to readers online.

China Literature, a unit of Tencent Holdings and China’s largest e-book and online publishing website, boasts 9.6 million e-books from 6.4 million authors and they plan to grow bigger with the merger.

“We are the biggest owner of intellectual property (IP) in China, but that’s not the end of the story,” said vice-president Luo Li of China Literature. China Literature earns its income by charging readers for their services. Last year it generated an annual profit of 30.36 million yuan. However, Mr Luo Li stated that online readers would be charged lesser once the income from the IP business rose. Read more

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