happybirthday_meghnaThe Frank O’Connor International Short Story award’s 2014 long list is out.

Among the dozens of writers on the long list are Nepal’s Prawin Adhikari, Singapore’s O Thiam Chin, Zhang YueRan and Amanda Lee Koe, India’s Ashwini Devare, Meghna Pant, Ashok Srinivasan and Ashish Kaul, and China’s May-Lay Tan. Kitaab congratulates all these long listed authors and wishes them the best.

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India’s Out of Print Magazine announces that it will run a special short fiction feature for DNA.  To reference the choices made, and the transitions effected by this extraordinary Lok Sabha election in India, the theme of the fiction feature is CHOICE.

Here’s what DNA is looking for:

“We are not seeking literal interpretations. Stories could comment on the alienation of contemporary life or, in contrast, emphasise the irrelevance of our societal structures by reflecting upon nature. Works could be personal, political or social. But ultimately they should bear some adherence to the theme – CHOICE. Or its lack!”

vineetha_mokkilVineetha Mokkil is a fiction writer based in New Delhi, India. Her short stories have been published in Santa Fe Writers Project Journal and Why We Don’t Talk, an anthology of contemporary Indian short fiction (Rupa and Co, New Delhi, August 2010) and in the Asia Writes Project. Poems translated by her have appeared in Indian Love Poems (Knopf/Everyman’s Library, 2005). A Happy Place (HarperCollins India, 2014) is her first collection of short stories (read the Kitaab review of this book here).

Here is an interview with the author:

A Happy Place and Other Stories is your debut collection of short stories. How did you conceive of this collection? Did you have a theme in mind?

These stories were written at different points of time and not specifically with a collection in mind. I would send out a story at a time to literary journals and magazines once I finished work on them. Some got published. Every time I got an acceptance letter, it felt like a small victory. It made me work harder on my writing. It made me consider the possibility of a collection. I am grateful to all the good souls out there who devote their time to bringing out small publications which value quality writing and edgy themes. They do it for the love of literature, not to rake in revenue. I owe a great deal to them as a writer.

The stories in “A Happy Place” are not interlinked in the strict sense of the term. But the backdrop of all of them (except for one which is set in Kashmir) is Delhi. The city is as much a character as the people whose lives the stories trace. The larger theme that binds all the stories together is the complexity of urban life and our search for an ideal “happy” place.

Sara-Ang-AdamCommonwealth Writers has announced the regional winners of the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. The Prize provides a platform for writers from the 53 countries of the Commonwealth to inspire others by bringing compelling short stories to a wider audience. This year unpublished stories were entered by nearly 4,000 writers from the five regions of the Commonwealth.

This year’s Chair is Ellah Allfrey, Deputy Chair of the Council of the Caine Prize and previously Deputy Editor of Granta and Senior Editor at Jonathan Cape, Random House.  The judges reflect the five regions:  Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, Caribbean, and the Pacific:  Doreen Baingana, (Africa), Michelle de Kretser (Pacific), Marlon James (Caribbean), Courttia Newland (Canada and Europe) and Jeet Thayil (Asia).

Dr. Usha Bande reviews Vineetha Mokkil’s A Happy Place and Other Stories (New Delhi: HarperCollins India, 2014. Pp. 202. Rs. 275)

A Happy PlaceTwo things about Vineetha Mokkil’s book under review attracted me at the outset: the title, A Happy Place and the cover design – a rich and pleasant mix of browns and yellows and grayish-blue. Both are evocative. The cover has a faint facsimile of a car on the move, the street is deserted and the high-rising buildings are upside down, may be reflecting the mood of the era or just symbolic of the life that is lived in them. The title A Happy Place exudes joie de vivre but then, the stories are about life and life does not offer happiness on a platter. Mokkil is a careful artist who would not diminish the value of her literary work by presenting self-improvement book-like facile solutions. The stories have plots and sub-plots, convincing characters and denouements that are twisted but not dismal.  Each story offers a kind of release and hope. And herein lies the success of the writer, a novice in the field, as she likes to call herself.

Joseph-Conrad
From the shores of Haldia the Tilkhurst could have looked like anything, with lanterns perched at various heights conveying only a meagre outline. But there was no one to see it from the shore. Inside the ship, in a dank cabin beneath the deck, there was a sailor’s feast in progress.

Both the party and the ship’s overnight anchoring off Haldia had been Captain Edwin John Blake’s orders. He believed it better to spend another night at sea before taking the river towards Calcutta. Right now, he was addressing an audience of sailors seated on the floor. Few in the audience were paying heed to the captain’s words about Calcutta and its culture, and those few were amazed in witnessing a complete reversal in their captain’s usually calm demeanour. Józef, the only Pole on the ship, was in this lot, and although he could not entirely comprehend what the captain said in his perfect English, he was nevertheless fascinated, possibly because of the liquor he had had, by the way this complex language, this English, always seemed to open the world—unpacked it, so to say. To Józef, who aspired to one day be called a writer, the choice between English and French was becoming somewhat clearer in the head, though only part of it was due to the unpacking quality of English. He could not really hope to write as well as the Frenchmen did, competition in French would be way tougher, already he knew that Flaubert was inimitable, and so on. To write in Polish was unthinkable anyway. Who wanted to read Polish other than a few Poles?

Manto
Manto

Saadat Hasan Manto has a good claim to be considered the greatest South Asian writer of the 20th century. In his work, written in Urdu, he incarnated the exuberance, the madness, the alcoholic delirium of his time, when the country he loved cleaved into two and set upon each other, brothers of all religions murdering their infant nephews and raping their sisters-in-law.

Pickup1Brightways loved his pickup.  It was the kind of doting, paternal love you’d extend to a large dog.  A bull mastiff, perhaps, of shuddering weight, who barked at your enemies, understood nothing and trusted you implicitly.  So it was with the pickup.  Brightways loved the way the engine started the first time, with a jolt like the detonation of a small bomb under the bonnet.  He loved the steady vibration of the cab, the deep three-litre, diesel-consuming growl.

Also, driving it made him feel more Thai.  For two years now he had been collecting such feelings and marshalling them as evidence he presented to himself: he could live here.  His flat was one such proof, his girlfriend Ning another.  And now the pickup.  In the cab’s elevated height, on Bangkok’s choked and dusty roads, among the other pickups and thundering lorries, the weaving motorcycles and buses groaning with human freight, Brightways felt that he belonged and in fact, was surviving.

It hadn’t always been thisway.  He’d spent six months travelling on the buses himself and had frayed at the edges, taken apart by Asian entropy.  The hindering crowds, diseased street dogs, splattering overhead drains, odours of rotting vegetation wafting up from black-water canals.  He’d bought the pickup to escape from all of it.