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Book Review: Perumal Murugan’s ‘Current Show’ is a novel about the uncertainties the young feel

By Anjana Balakrishnan

current showThere is a scene in the television series Breaking Bad where brother-in-law cop Schrader is brewing beer in his garage. I knew right away that he would hurt himself while capping the bottles. Because Perumal Murugan wrote about the dangers of bottling soda in his book Pyre. The spell Murugan casts gives me the ability to consider the realities of his characters as my own, though it is far removed from my reality.

Who knew that there was joy in the glint of a soda bottle well-washed or the artful perfection of bottling soda until Murugan told us so? In Current Show, he made bile rise to my mouth with similar ease as he describes the theatre grounds squishy with stale urine. When he talks about the crowds for an MGR movie, I could feel the stickiness of sweat against my clothes and the push and shove of being in that crowd.

Sathivel is a poor, young soda seller at an old theatre past its prime. He sells colour soda during the interval and spends his free time with the other theatre boys, doing odd jobs or smoking ganja. Including their next meal, there are few certainties in life for the boys to rely on. Sathi’s friendship with Natesan is one of his certainties. They look out for each other, sharing food and cigarette butts. These boys are willing to get into fights, steal slippers off cine-goers, sell tickets in black and to do the bidding of anyone who will give them money, food or drugs. This is where we begin to see how poverty changes their worldview. Read more

Source: The News Minute

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The wife’s letter

This is one of Rabindranath Tagore’s most acclaimed stories in which voices of women are brought to the fore

(Translated by Shawkat Hussain)

Respected Lotus-footed one,

We have been married for years fifteen years but this is my first letter to you. Since we have always been together, there was never any need to write letters.

Today I have come for a pilgrimage to Srikhetra and you are in your office working. Your relationship with Kolkata is like that of a snail with its own shell. Kolkata is a part of your body and soul, and so you did not apply for leave. Perhaps that was what God wanted; but He has granted my application for leave.

I am the second daughter-in-law in your family. Today, standing by the sea-shore, fifteen years after our marriage, I have realized that I have another relationship with the universe and its Creator. This realization is what has given me the courage to write to you today. This is not just a letter from the second daughter-in-law of your family.

In my childhood, when nobody knew about my ill-fated connection with your family except He who willed it to be, my brother and I were once stricken down by typhoid fever. My brother died but I recovered from my illness. All the women in the village said that I survived because I was a girl; there would be no escape from death if I were a boy. The Angel of Death is excellent in the art of theft; it steals things only of value.

I am deathless. It is to explain this more fully that I am writing this letter to you.

When your uncle and your friend Nirode came to see me as a possible bride for you, I was only twelve years old. We used to live in a remote village where jackals howled even during the day. To reach our village you had to travel miles in a bullock-cart from the station and three miles on a palanquin along a dusty road. It was a very difficult journey for both, and then they had to suffer our bangalstyle of cooking. Even to this day your uncle remembers the horrible food that was served to them. Read more

Source: Dhaka Tribune

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The significant other

By Tabish Khair


A collection of Urdu stories that question implicit generalisations about writings from small towns

An anthology of Urdu short stories translated into English is rare enough these days. An anthology of 20th century Urdu short stories written by writers mostly based in Bihar and translated into English is almost unheard of. That is why Nameless Lanes, translated and edited by Syed Sarwar Hussain, deserves attention.

Nameless Lanes contains 18 stories by Urdu writers based for much or all of their life in places like Patna, Kako, Gaya and Bhagalpur. Of these, I knew one well and had heard of two. All the others are new even to me, a writer from Bihar. It redounds to Syed Sarwar Hussain’s and his Singapore-based publisher’s credit that such an anthology has been published at all, along with the required introductions to the authors and their works.

Like all anthologies, this is a mixed bag of stories, some of which appeal more than others. They also range from stories that are closer to the traditional dastaan form in sensibility and stories that are entirely modernist in ethos, as well as many in between. Read more

Source: The Hindu

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New Release: The Glory of Patan by K.M. Munshi

patanGujarati classic The Glory of Patan by K.M.Munshi, and translated by Rita and Abhijit Kothari will be released by Penguin. The first novel in the Patan trilogy, the novel is about the the exploits of the magnificent Chalukya dynasty at a crucial period in the history of Gujarat.

The Glory of Patan is sprawling, fast-paced saga in the oeuvre of Alexandre Dumas.

The kingdom of Patan faces an ominous future. King Karnadev lies on his deathbed. His son, Jaydev, is too young to ascend the throne. Rumours abound of scheming warlords intent on establishing their own independence and powerful merchants plotting to wrest control from Patan Fort. There is also the shadowy monk Anandsuri and his vision to unite Patan under one religion: Jainism.

In the eye of this gathering storm are Queen Minaldevi and the shrewd chief minister, Munjal Mehta. Both have striven to maintain order in Patan and ensure that Jaydev’s succession is secure. But the growing attraction between them is threatened by betrayal and intrigue, with dramatic consequences for the future of Patan.

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English translation of Muhsin Al-Ramli’s novel exposes the horrors of war

By Ben East

It begins with a beheading. Then another, and another, until nine severed heads are found in a sleepy Iraqi village. It’s a shockingly vivid introduction to the ­violent, ­chaotic world of Muhsin Al-Ramli’s The President’s ­Garden.

Asking where the Iraqi novelist got his inspiration seems an innocent enough question. Nothing prepares you for the answer.

“On the third day of Ramadan in 2006, I received news of the slaughter of nine of my relatives who were fasting,” Al-Ramli says. “My village found their heads in banana crates, along with their ID cards, on the side of the main road near my ­family’s house.

“That news shocked and terrified me. I wept. I had childhood memories of playing with the owners of these heads.”
Understandably, Al-Ramli had no idea what to do, other than to take refuge in something he knew: writing. Six years later, The President’s Gardens was published in Arabic, framing the stories of friends Abdullah, Tariq and Ibrahim around both their personal tragedy and the tragedy of Iraq in the years ­between the war with Iran and the aftermath of the American invasion.

It was longlisted for the 2013 International Prize for ­Arabic Fiction, and this week an ­English translation, by Luke Leafgren, is finally published. It is a stunning achievement. Read more

Source: The National

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‘The Book of the Dead’: The first complete translation of Shinobu Orikuchi’s classic

By Damian Flanagan

Both influential and deeply mysterious, “The Book of the Dead” (“Shisha no Sho,” 1943) is the most famous work of fiction by Shinobu Orikuchi (1887-1953), a pioneer of folklore studies in Japan and renowned poet. Orikuchi was fascinated with the origins of Japanese religion and the connections between spirit possession and the role of an emperor as a mediator between the gods and the Japanese people.

Inspired by the Egyptian myths of Osiris and Isis, “The Book of the Dead” is a short but complex web of interconnected narratives set in eighth-century Japan. The literary equivalent of a shining mandala, it transcends modern concepts of the novel and attempts to capture the mood and religious mindsets of the early Japanese nation. Read more

Source: The Japan Times

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Book Review: The Life & Poetry of Bahadur Shah Zafar by Aslam Parvez

By Najmul Hoda

shah zafarTitle: The Life & Poetry of Bahadur Shah Zafar

Author: Aslam Parvez

Translated by: Ather Farouqui

Publisher: Hay House

Price: Rs 172

To buy

“Do gaz zameen bhi na mili…”: Bahadur Shah Zafar in the Time of Qabristan and Shamshan

Ather Farouqui has translated The Life & Poetry of Bahadur Shah Zafar by Aslam Parvez. This is as good as translation gets. Textual integrity does not mar the flow of the narration.

I read this book in the Urdu original. Long back, in 1996, when in JNU. So, when I read Dalrymple’s bestseller, The Last Mughal, in 2006, there was a sense of having been there and done that, which made me wonder whether Dalrymple’s would still be such a roaring success if this one had already been available in English. This book is not only the spine and skeleton but also the muscle and sinews which Dalrymple fleshed out rather sumptuously in his book. He acknowledged as much. This, and Zaheer Dehlavi’s chronicles of the Great Uprising, and a slew of Urdu newspapers, published from Delhi, first sourced by Aslam Parvez, beside the elegies of the failed uprising such as Rashid ul-Khairi’s and Khwaja Hasan Nizami’s et al.

Bahadur Shah Zafar, above all, came to embody and symbolise the civilisational unity, cultural continuity and political integrity of India at her darkest hour. The moment when she refused to go gentle into that dark night, and raged, raged against the dying of the light. This is a requiem to what India was and a lamentation of what she could have been. Her aborted potential. It vividly captures the degeneration that had set in and the embers that still glowed under the heaps of ashes of the fire that was once the light and warmth of a vibrant civilisation. No wonder that the greatest cultural efflorescence since the age of Bhakti and Khusrau took place in the first half of the 19th century. Zafar presided over it, and Ghalib was its most luciferous star. Its sun. The greatest gift of the Indo-Islamic culture. The milky marbles of Taj Mahal may pale someday, but Ghalib will keep shining brighter with each passing day as humanity delve deeper into the depth of their soul and expand the horizons of their mind.

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Burton Watson, scholar and translator of classical Asian literature, has died

By Lilly Greenblatt

Burton Watson, American scholar and translator of classical Chinese and Japanese literature, passed away on April 1 at Hatsutomi Hospital in Kamagata City, Chiba, Japan at the age of 91.

Watson was well-known for his translations of Chinese and Japanese history, philosophy, and poetry, and sacred Buddhist texts. He made many classical Chinese and Japanese works accessible to the English-reading public, helping to define East Asian literature in North America. Read more

Source: Lion’s roar


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Records of Genghis Khan’s empire translated into Mongolian

By Xinhua

Historical records compiled more than 600 years ago about Genghis Khan’s empire have been translated into the Mongolian language, experts said on Tuesday. The records consist of 15 books with 210 volumes and chronicle the rise and fall of the Mongol empire. They were compiled in 1370 as ordered by Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), which ended the Mongolian reign in China.

Over the past six centuries, historians have made several attempts to translate the books, written in classical Chinese, into Mongolian. But the efforts were interrupted due to difficulty and war.

In March 2014, 16 experts in Mongolian history teamed up to begin translation. They believe the historical records could help Mongolian people better understand their own history.

The books will be published in the next two years. Read more

Source: China Daily

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Book review: The Sad Part Was – Mui Poopoksakul’s witty translation opens a new world of short stories from Thailand

By Lucy Scholes

New publisher Tilted Axis Press has made it their mission to publish world literature that ordinarily wouldn’t make it into English translation and shine a light on difference. Prabda Yoon’s short story collection The Sad Part Was certainly showcases both inventive storytelling and an innovative translation process. So much so that the volume carries an afterword by its talented translator, Mui Poopoksakul, which provides some invaluable information regarding the intriguing idiosyncrasies of Thai wordplay and the challenges of rendering these as accurately as possible in English.

As Poopoksakul explains: “any given language is a game with its own internal logic – a challenge for the translator, who attempts to recreate his moves in a language where the rules are different.” Apparently, for example, the use of punctuation in Thai is “relatively rare”, not to mention the fact that it’s a language that doesn’t utilise spaces between words in the way western readers are used to. Armed with this information, the story Miss Space’ – note the nicely translated wordplay – becomes all the more absorbing. In it, the narrator first takes note of a fellow passenger who is composing diary entries while riding the bus, due to “the extraordinary size” of the spaces between her words: “They catalysed my consciousness as though it had been struck by lightning,” the narrator declares, “and I briefly became abnormally perceptive, able to absorb information about my environment instantaneously and effortlessly. Thank god I stopped short of Nirvana.” This same wry wit can be heard throughout the collection – Poopoksakul successfully transmuting the mischievousness of Yoon’s original tales, a liveliness that extends to the syntax itself. Read more
Source: The National