Women’s Day Special
Sarita Jenamani, poet, essayist, feminist and the PEN Austria general Secretary, explores poetry and women
Self portrait — Amrita Shergil
Gypsy girl — Amrita Shergil
Three women — Amrita Shergil
“You are a poem, though your poem’s naught.” This was said by well known American poet and critic, Ezra Pound (as quoted by H. D., End To Torment (New York, 1979), p. 12.), of a woman poet. Is it a fair statement?
On the other hand, American writer, feminist and activist, Audre Lorde said, “ For women, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity for our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.”
Since ages and across the cultures, women are more close to words than to silence. The medium of poetry has always played an important role in the process of communication. Poetry written by women opens up like linen of plentitude and possibility in every cultural scenario. Women write to record their history and as part of the common legacy of literary history. Female poetic practises forms an important part of women’s literary history.
Modern women writers reflect feminism and elaborate female identity in their works. Writers’ movements, their techniques and thematic works are necessary to understand women’s issues and feminine concepts in different situations and stages of their lives. They develop a female framework through figurative languages. Women’s poetry is all about decoding the silence, this is a search of the unspoken. Poetry has often been noted as a form of resistance and a powerful way to give voice to those who do not have it. Through the richly woven carpet of women’s poetry, ornamented by various texts and textures, women express themselves and mould their destiny. Their voices are loaded with the enormous power of language and individuality. In them exists an obsession for writing and speaking within the subversive tradition. Read more
Two Nobel prizes were given out in Literature this year — making it a first in the 118 year old history of this award, where prize money of more than US$910, 000 will be given to each winner. Last year the literature award was cancelled for scandals that rocked the academy.
The award for 2018 went to Polish authoress, Olga Tokarcruz “for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life,” according to the judges’ citation. The award for 2019 went to Austrian author Peter Handke “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience”.
However, earlier, Germany had revoked its decision to award him the Henrich Heine award.
While Poland celebrates the win of their much awarded authoress whose works centring on migration and cultural transition have reflected “local life, but at the same time inspired by maps and speculative thought, looking at life on Earth from above”, Peter Handke’s selection has fallen under much flak over his works that “defend” the Serbian dictator who had been charged with war crimes in1999 and jailed subsequently , Slobodan Milosevic. Read more
Tagore’s bust at his ancestral home at Joransankho, Kolkata
Last year after the Nobel Prize was cancelled and an alternative Nobel Prize in Literature, also known as Academy Prize, was given to Marys Conde, a Guadeloupean ( a region of France in the Carribbean), this year the Nobel committee is announcing two awards as if to make up for lost time.
The award was first given in 1901, by the will of Alfred Nobel, to “the person who, in the field of literature, produced the most outstanding work in an idealistic direction”, judged to be French poet, Sully Prudhomme, that year. Tagore, VS Naipaul, Wole Soyinka, Kenzaburō Ōe, Toni Morrison have been among the luminaries of this award. This year the winners will be announced on Thursday 10 October, 2019. Read more
By Dr Meenakshi Malhotra
What can you say about a writer who gave a voice and identity to a whole people — a group and a community whose silences are made to speak and sing in her books? A writer whose voice rang out with passion, courage and conviction to detail the sub-human conditions in which her people had lived? A trailblazer whose works depicted the toils and travails of a long suppressed people whose experiences were unrecorded in history books? A writer whose passionate courage helped her to articulate her convictions about the dehumanisation of a whole race?
Morrison was born in 1931 and grew up in a family atmosphere which provided a context for arousing a keen interest in the stories, narratives, folklore, myths and rituals of the African American community. This early interest is evident in the rich oral quality of her writings, its lyrical cadences and it’s measured and “layered polyphony’’. Later, she studied English and Classical Literature from Howard University in Washington D.C. where she acquired her BA degree. This was followed by a Masters from Cornell University in 1955.
Subsequently, she taught at Howard University for two years. She also got married to a Jamaican architect named Harold Morrison in 1958 and they had two sons, before divorcing in 1964.The next few years Morrison wrote, juggled teaching assignments and also did a twenty year stint with Random House as an Editor. This platform enabled her to identify writing talent and she was able to help many aspiring young African American writers to get published. Read 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
Tagore’s bust at his ancestral home at Joransankho, Kolkata
Debendranath, Rabindranath’s father’s bust
On May 7 th, 1861, was born a man who left an indelible mark in the world of literature, philosophy, music, education and on the lives of many people. He wrote the national anthem for at least two countries, India and Bangladesh, and influenced the writer of the national anthem of a third country, Sri Lanka.
Rabindranath Tagore, the first non- European Nobel prize winner, was a remarkable man. Despite having his songs picked for national anthems and providing inspiration to other national anthem writers, he was critical of a system that drew borders among men and created hatred or intolerance. He withdrew from the politics of nationalism. He wrote: “…my conviction (is) that my countrymen will gain truly their India by fighting against that education which teaches them that a country is greater than the ideals of humanity.”
Front view of the Tagore mansion
The Tagore family car
Prayer hall in Tagore’s home
(From The Guardian. Link to the complete article given below)
A lost collection of short stories by the celebrated Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz has been discovered in a box of the late Nobel laureate’s papers.
The 50 handwritten stories were found by the Egyptian journalist Mohamed Shoair at the home of Mahfouz’s daughter Umm Kulthum. While some of the stories were published in magazines while Mahfouz was alive – the Arab world’s most beloved novelist died aged 94 in 2006 – 18 of them have never been published. Set in Cairo, they are filled with “fable-like scenarios and reappearing characters”, according to UK publisher Saqi Books, which will release the stories in English next autumn.
Shoair found the papers when Kulthum gave him a box of Mahfouz’s papers while he was working on a book about the Nobel laureate’s manuscripts. He said he felt, “that I’m in front of a treasure”.
The author of 34 novels and more than 350 short stories, Mahfouz won the Nobel prize in literature in 1988. The Nobel jury described him as an author “who, through works rich in nuance … has formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind”.
Saqi Books said: “We are excited beyond measure to be bringing these stories to readers in English … With Mahfouz’s often ironic, always insightful observation of the human character, this priceless discovery is wonderful news for fans of one of the world’s best-loved novelists.”
Read more at The Guardian link here
With the announcement of the 2017 Nobel Prize winners, British contemporary author Kazuo Ishiguro joins the small but extremely talented cohort of writers from Japan or of Japanese descent to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of picking up a work from one of these prize-winning authors, here are 9 essential novels to add to your reading list.
Kenzaburo Oe was born in 1935 and came of age during the post-World War II US occupation of Japan. While much of the literature from this period is marked by a bleak or despondent mood, Oe’s works are known for their sharp yet somehow uplifting humor. Many of his books are inspired by his own experiences raising a son who was born with brain damage. Oe was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1994.
Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids (1958)
Oe’s first novel Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids, or 『芽むしり仔撃ち』 Memushiri kouchi, published in 1958, tells the story of a group of young troublemakers who find themselves alone without adult supervision when plague breaks out during the war. The book has been compared to both William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and Albert Camus’s The Plague.
A Personal Matter (1964)
Originally titled 『個人的な体験』 Kojinteki Na Taiken, the 1964 novel A Personal Matter is the dark comedy of a man who struggles with the birth of his developmentally disabled son. The book is highly regarded for its existentialist meanderings and black, lyrical beauty.
Yasubari Kawabata (1899-1972) became the first ever Japanese writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1968. He’s known for his masterful command of prose, achieved through sparse yet hauntingly beautiful language that draws on traditional Japanese aesthetics.
Snow Country (1937)
The 1937 story Snow Country, known as 『雪国』 Yukiguni in Japanese, is considered by many to be Kawabata’s greatest masterpiece. A romantic tragedy about a married man from Tokyo and the geisha with whom he had fallen in love at an onsen resort many years before, the novel’s poetic descriptions capture the dreamlike beauty of the snowy onsenvillage with an almost haiku-like delicacy.