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Review: Ice: A Farooq Reshi Investigation by Praveen Swami

By Aminah Sheikh

iceLadakh district — a bikers’ paradise and the dream destination of travel junkies — prides itself in not only the gigantic mountains of the Himalayan range and its enchanting sceneries, but also in a historic place — Kargil. Kargil lies in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, and stands witness to infiltrations, the Indian armed forces guarding the borders and the lives of locals that are mired in politics. Lives that come under the scanner for merely having homes in sensitive regions; the mysterious deaths of locals that get swept under the carpet as deaths caused by “suspicious activities”; images that echo across media channels, if headline worthy.

Praveen Swami’s short story “Ice: A Farooq Reshi Investigation” published by Juggernaut Books is thought-provoking. An expert on Islamist terrorism, Praveen is known for his skilled investigative journalism in conflicted regions of India. “Ice: A Farooq Reshi Investigation” draws upon various dimensions from his years of award-winning reportage, and provides a fresh perspective on grave and sensitive issues with non-intrusive slap-stick humour.

The story is written as a personal account, or rather, a narration by the protagonist Farooq Reshi, Kargil’s Superintendent of Police, as he is pushed out of his lazy chair to investigate the case of four dead “Buddhist” shepherds, assumed to have been killed by Lashkar terrorists. Infamous among peers for his obnoxious behavior when drunk, Farooq’s demeanor reminds the reader of Sherlock Holmes, as he goes about solving the case.

“Nothing happened in Kargil. Nothing that concerned the police, anyway. Every once in a while, someone would get drunk and beat up someone else, or someone would run off with someone else’s wife, and there would be a bit of a to-do about it, and somebody or the other would disappear, never to be heard of again. No one troubled us for assistance on that sort of thing, though: they’d realized it’s faster, and a lot cheaper, not to involve the police in their problem.”

…This sets the tone of a story that is gripping in its revelations. It mocks the hypocrisy of authorities with simplicity in expression – an underground bedroom, reserved for newly married officers to protect them from Pakistani troop’s artillery, bears “loud-red Tibetan kitsch dragons, playfully curled around mirrors…”

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Book Review: This Wide Night by Sarvat Hasin

By Lakshmi Menon

this-wide-nightSarvat Hasin’s This Wide Night has been described as Little Women meets The Virgin Suicides. While this is not entirely wrong and there are some clear parallels between the works, the description belies the levels of meaning the author has packed into this work, and the comparisons fall short.

The majority of the story is told through the eyes of Jimmy, who, like Laurie in Little Women, is fascinated by the women who live in the house across the street from him. As he learns more about them, to live among them and love them, so do the readers. We grow to share his fascination with the Malik sisters – the beautiful Maria, firebrand tomboy Ayesha, shy Bina and the petulant Leila, and their mother Mehrunnisa who is as lovely as she is mysterious. In the absence of the patriarch of the household, Captain Malik, these women form parts of a whole that does not leave any room for outsiders. Even as Jimmy feels welcomed into their world he is aware that he will never be completely privy to it. They share “an invisible net of sisterhood” that he cannot penetrate, try as he may.

Through the course of the novel, we watch Jimmy try to find a balance for the failings of his own life. A loner in many respects, it is in this intimate shared space that he is invited into that he finds solace, even as he is aware that their world isn’t exactly considered “ordinary”.

No one lived as these girls did, no other mother would have allowed these freedoms. But even this freedom was not boundless. There were things you could live in the world without and things you could not. This was not a city for hiding sins or secrets.”

The isolation of the Malik girls from society in general becomes a real, physical thing in the latter part of the book, when circumstances force them to move to an island off Karachi, and Jimmy is aware of what it entails to share a roof with the women.

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‘Something Other Than Other’: The poetry of Philip Rowland captures quotidian Tokyo life

By Kris Kosaka

Tokyo poet Philip Rowland’s third full-length collection of verse, “Something Other Than Other,” quietly resonates with profound images of the quotidian humanity he finds around him.

Published last year by Isobar Press in Tokyo, the collection is a showcase for the playful power Rowland holds over his words. Organized into four sections, the book is a finely woven tapestry of forms ranging from found poems to pithy musings, tanka and haiku, all exhibiting a mastery of line and space — proof that Rowland is a craftsman who is confident with his tools.

Especially worthy of note, in the second section titled “Surveillance,” is a series of vignettes documenting Rowland’s observations about strangers and the lives they lead in and around his neighborhood in Shinjuku Ward. Read more

Source: The Japan Times


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Gone Guy: A Writer Leaves His Wife, Then Disappears in Greece

By Fernanda Eberstadt

By Katie Kitamura
229 pp. Riverhead Books. $25.

When I was young, I felt a high-minded scorn for the whodunits my elders favored: mystery novels that inducted you into the specificities of British racecourses or Native American reservations while satisfying the same itch for neat solutions as my father’s games of solitaire, my mother’s crossword puzzles. Back then, suspense struck me as a cheap trick, like tickling the sole of a baby’s foot or cooking with scads of butter. The novels I loved occasionally included a murder — sometimes even a police inspector whose investigation actually produced the culprit — but the real question at stake wasn’t “Who killed the old bastard?” but “Is there a God, and if there isn’t, why should we be good?”

Now that I’m older, I have a grudging respect for the mystery novel and its resourceful practitioners, writers whose art depends on catching the world-weary reader unawares. Suddenly I too can see the point of having my questions answered, the teasing threads unknotted, cases closed.

Katie Kitamura would seem to share my youthful disregard for closure. In her third novel, “A Separation,” she has created a kind of postmodern mystery in which we end up with a dead body, evidence of a violent crime, an abundant trail of clues and even angry mourners, yet nobody feels compelled to pursue the investigation. There is something unknowable in human nature, the novel seems to assume, something better left unexamined. “Once you begin to pick at the seams,” we are told, “all deaths are unresolved.” Read more

Source: The New York Times

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Book Review: Collected Hong Kong Stories – love, shattered dreams and pursuit of wealth in the vertical city

By Tessa Chan

Collected Hong Kong Stories

by David T.K. Wong

Blacksmith Books

4 stars

While most authors build a following in their home country before venturing abroad, Hong Kong’s limited outlets for literary fiction led to local author David T.K. Wong taking his work to the US, Europe and Southeast Asia before publishing them here.

Now, however, he brings us 30 years worth of his short stories in one book, a rich and complex portrait of Hong Kong told through the lens of its varied inhabitants, their relationships with the city and each other.

Drawing on his own broad experience and knowledge – he studied political science and journalism, worked as a journalist, educator and government official – Wong conjures characters from all levels of society, from wealthy businessmen to migrant workers. He takes us on a vivid tour through Hong Kong’s back alleys, and abroad, whether to London’s Embankment or the traditional tea houses of Kyoto, Japan. Read more

Source: South China Morning Post

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The Rare Writer Who Hates the Word ‘I’

By Jiayang Fan

By Yiyun Li
208 pp. Random House. $27.

“Why write autobiographically?” the Chinese-American author Yiyun Li asks in this new collection of essays, “Dear Friend, From My Life I Write to You in Your Life,” the closest thing to an autobiography she has ever published. It is a question Li takes seriously and explores tirelessly, not least because she professes an unease with the assertion of the pronoun “I.” It is a “melodramatic” word, Li writes. “The moment that I enters my narrative my confidence crumbles.” This a remarkable statement in a volume that is essentially memoir.

Such diffidence is difficult to detect in her fiction, where the first person has been deployed to devastating effect, albeit infrequently. But then the narrative “I” of a short story is perhaps best seen as a means of self-effacement, and it’s notable that Li’s remarkable fiction — two elegant novels and two story collections — is all assiduously unautobiographical, from the forgotten granny living in China to the gay immigrant seeking asylum in the United States. Read more

Source: The New York Times

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Book Review: A soldier’s account of the Sri Lanka war

Title: Road to Nandikadal: True Story of Defeating Tamil Tigers; Author: Major General Kamal Gunaratne; Publisher: Not given; Distributed by: Vijitha Yapa Bookshop, Colombo; Pages: 741; Price: Rs 2,500 (SLR)

This is a dense yet gripping account by a decorated Sri Lankan military officer who was in the thick of it all in the long and bloody war that led to the decimation of the LTTE.

Major General Kamal Gunaratne is no ordinary soldier. An infantryman, he led the 53 Division – the most powerful Division in the Sri Lanka Army – that killed the LTTE founder leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, in May 2009, bringing the curtains down on a conflict that at one time looked like it was destined to go on and on.

When the dead Prabhakaran was placed before him, “I closely inspected the body of this fiend lying at my feet like a dog, his eyes wide open. Dressed in the striped camouflage uniform of the LTTE, Prabharkaran had not shaven for a couple of days and a growth of greying stubble covered his face. On his forehead was a deep gash spreading up to his skull, but other than that, not a single scratch was seen on his body. The open eyes displayed shock and terror. Having died only about 30 minutes earlier, it was still bleeding from the wound and his ears.” Read more

Source: Business Standard

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The magic of allegory

By Shafey Kidwai

Isa Kamari’s “Tweet” is a modern-day fable that juxtaposes human condition with natural environment


Does the much-needed sense of contentment elude zillions of children who seek uninterrupted amusement through mobile and internet? Does prattling of birds soothe their inflamed nerves or does it symbolise ungainliness of their tweeter ? Do they now look for super birds when they find themselves surrounded by birds? Is it the time to ponder over ‘tweet’ instead of concentrating ‘twitter’ for conveying one’s feelings instantly? Should we look beyond twitter that has become the muse of many artists of our time? These unsettling questions, coupled with a deep sense of bewilderment and dislocation that breathless ubiquitous techno-culture produced, are creatively explored by an eminent Singaporean writer Isa Kamari in his recently published novel “Tweet”.

It is his first novel in English though he has published nine novels, two collection of poems, a collection of short stories and a number of theatre scripts in Malay. Read more

Source: The Hindu

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Caught in the religious tangle

By  Madhulika Liddle

denied-by-allahIslam allows for a practice called Halala: if a man divorces his wife but then wants to marry her again, she must first be married to another man, then divorced (or widowed) before she can be remarried to her first husband. In its essence, it sounds logical, because divorce must not be an impulsive decision. The decision must be considered, attempts must be made at counselling, and parting should happen only if there is no other way out.

In Noor Zaheer’s Denied by Allah, the author offers several real life case studies. Sakina, for instance, married to a drunk man, finds herself divorced one night when, in a drunken fury, he pronounces ‘talaq’ thrice. The next morning, he is repentant and wants to marry her again—but it is too late. Sakina now has to go through a hundred-day period of Iddat, where she remains housebound, unseen by strange men, until she can marry another. The husband quickly finds a solution: his younger brother will marry Sakina and divorce her after one night. But the younger brother cannot bring himself to consummate the relationship with his former bhabhi. So Sakina has to marry another man (and obtain a divorce from him) before being free to marry her first husband. Read more

Source: The New Indian Express

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Book review: Three Daughters of Eve looks at the challenges facing Muslims

By Lucy Scholes

This week I’ve read two new fictional works, both of which speak directly to the world today: Vietnamese-American author Viet Thanh Nguyen’s short-story collection, The Refugees; and Turkish writer Elif Shafak’s new novel, Three Daughters of Eve.

The Refugees, with its moving depiction of the immigrant experience in the United States, should be compulsory reading for anyone in favour of US president Donald Trump’s attempts at a refugee ban; while Three Daughters of Eve, in its efforts to speak to the broader ideological concerns that underlie this pernicious anti-Muslim hate-filled rhetoric, is a text to linger over. It’s a novel of ideas – sometimes to the detriment of its story – that advocates replacing dogma with doubt.

Opening in modern-day Istanbul – “a bloated goldfish, unaware of having gobbled more than it could digest, still searching around for more to eat” – Peri, a wealthy housewife and mother, is on her way to a dinner party at a seaside mansion. An altercation with a mugger leaves her out of sorts. In the course of their struggle a Polaroid snapshot, a “relic from a time long ago”, is shaken free from her handbag: a professor and three young female students outside the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Two narratives thus unspool: in the present, the performance of the dinner party – the small talk, the silent hovering servants, the polite but ultimately empty delight of fine food and wine, itself a delicious portrait of the contradictions and intolerances of the city’s bourgeoisie – fractiously rubbing up against Peri’s recollections of a buried episode in her past. Read more
Source: The National