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Festival to celebrate the best of South Asian poetry in Delhi

By Bhumika Popli

The Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature (FOSWAL) is organising a three-day South Asian Literature Festival in Delhi from 24-26 February. This year marks the 30th edition of the festival, which was founded by Ajeet Caur, a Padma Shri awardee author, back in 1987.

The festival is to be inaugurated at the C.D. Deshmukh Auditorium, India International Centre, Delhi, on 24 February, and will continue at the Academy of Fine Arts and Literature on 25 and 26 February. The event, earlier called SAARC Literature Festival, is now the South-asian Literature Festival.

A number of readings on different themes, as well as poetry recitation in English, Hindi and Urdu languages, will take place at the two different venues in Delhi. The topic for this years’ festival is “Endeavouring for Peace and Tranquility in the Region”, with sub-themes like “Voices of Common Concerns”, “Literature Against Extremism and Terrorism” and “New Voices in Literature”. Read more

Source: Sunday Guardian Live


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3 Indian writers to attend Lahore fest

By Simran Sodhi

While the India-Pakistan deadlock continues over hardcore political issues, visible signs of detente have begun to emerge in areas of cultural and soft diplomacy.

Diplomatic sources confirmed to The Tribune that three Indian authors will be attending the Lahore literary festival starting February 24. The three-day event will see the participation of a number of celebrated writers and thinkers from all over South Asia.

British journalist Anita Anand and historian William Dalrymple will also be in attendance to discuss their new book Kohinoor. Interestingly, the International Advisory Committee for the Lahore Fest 2017 comprises Maina Bhagat of the Apeejay Kolkata Literature Fest and Namita Gokhale of the Jaipur Literature Festival, among others. This comes close on the heels of the previous ice breaker in the relationship with the Indian Council of Cultural Relations sponsoring four Indian authors to the Karachi literary festival held from February 10-12; known Indian author Urvashi Butalia was among those present. Read more

Source: Tribune India

 


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Excerpts: Dvarca by Madhav Mathur

2-dvarca-cover

Chicken & Egg

Jyoti was fast asleep in their bedroom. Baba was out for his night-shift and the children lay still, contorted and bent away from each other like the hands of a clock. It was ten- to-five. Gandharva shut Mira’s mouth and stopped Nakul from sucking his thumb. He watched them for a moment, before carrying on.

He didn’t want to risk waking Jyoti by using the toilet attached to their room and decided to use the small common toilet next to the kitchen to clean up. Rain had found a way to bounce off the window-shutters and wet everything from the lights to the floor. He looked at himself in the mirror. He was still wrapped in the foul-smelling cloth from the street. It had saved his life. He took it off and flipped it around to fold it away. His face went deathly pale when he saw the other side of his new found vestment. Something was written on the cloth. He leaned in close and read the words. They looked like scratches after a desperate fight.

‘WHAT CAME FIRST? POLITICS OR RELIGION?’

How could he have been so careless? How did he end up with a cloth that clearly came from the pariahs? He crumpled it into a ball. He panicked and splashed his face with water to make sure it wasn’t some sort of lurid Vision. Had he been seen with it? Would they believe that he had nothing to do with it?

He tried to wash off the unholy letters but they were stitched on. He looked around frantically for a way to get rid of the cloth. He could not burn it on the stove, all gas supplies were switched off after 10:00 p.m. for energy conservation. He could not carry it out and throw it away; it was too risky. He tried to flush the ball down the toilet, but it was too big. There was nothing in the bathroom of use, just some of Baba’s toiletries.

Gandharva rushed out to the kitchen and found one of Jyoti’s scissors. He hurtled back into the bathroom and pulled the door shut. He lowered the toilet seat-cover and sat down to cut the cloth into smaller pieces. The scissors had thick, blunt blades. He made some headway with them and then decided to rip the cloth with his hands. He was no Nakul or Arjun, but he tried his best.

“DETECTION: ELEVATION IN VITAL RATES. PLEASE REPORT.”

The veins of his forehead popped out like new hill ranges after a deep seismic disturbance. He quickly responded with the first thing that came to his flustered mind.

“Stomach upset. Recovering.”

He sat atop the commode with the stinking shawl in his hands. There were words stitched all over it. Some portions of the writing were illegible because of the indelible grease stains. He read a sentence.

‘YOU’VE FALLEN FOR THE OLDEST TRICK. THEY KNOW WHAT YOU WILL DO, BEFORE YOU DO IT. THEY’VE DRAWN LINES IN THE SKY AND LINES IN THE SAND, TO MARK GOD AND COUNTRY.’

Who were they addressing? Who was speaking? Why?

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Book review: Alia Malek’s The Home That Was Our Country mirrors the tragedy of Syria

By Marcia Lynx Qualey

Alia Malek

Nation Books,

Dh70

Alia Malek’s newly released The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria follows the author as she struggles to reclaim her grandmother’s Damascus home, her family narrative and her country’s history.

In broad strokes, Malek’s second work of non-fiction is much like Lebanese-American journalist Anthony Shadid’s House of Stone (2012). Both narratives required a steady hand, as they thread through family lore and violently contested histories.

But The Home That Was Our Country sets off through even rougher terrain. Malek wrote her book in the early years of Syria’s civil war. As the reader picks it up, the war still rages, its effects felt around the world.

The book’s lodestone is the author’s maternal grandmother, Salma. It begins with the story of Salma’s father Abduljawwad, who was born during the Ottoman era. This history is compelling and it creates a fluid, multilayered portrait of Syria’s people. Read more

Source: The National


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People in Singapore don’t read much literature. Can these tiny books change that?

By Amanda Erickson

When it comes to literacy, Singapore is no slouch. The country boosts a 98 percent literacy rate, and its reading curriculum is the best in the world, according to the Program for International Student Assessment.

That doesn’t mean, though, that Singapore is a country of bookworms. A 2015 survey found that just 40 percent of the population had read a work of literature in the past year. (In America, that number is about 70 percent.) Just a quarter had picked up something by a Singaporean author.

Now, leaders have come up with a solution: tiny books. Starting this month, public transportation riders will be able to buy pocket-size tomes for about $10. The “ticket books” are part of a broader campaign to get people reading again. Their launch will coincide with a weekend of book fairs, author meet-and-greets and literature seminars across the city-state. Read more

Source: The Washington Post


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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Swati Sengupta

By Aminah Sheikh

swatisengupta

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

I write because I have stories to tell. Because I want to tell these stories in a particular way. Some characters, and a vague, blurry indication of their predicament just pop up inside my head and I have no idea how they got there. Together, my characters and I, we embark on this journey to find out. This entire process – unpleasant at times but mostly exciting – provides me with the rush of air that keeps me going.

Sometimes though, I meet my characters in the real world. I may have heard about them from someone, so I go and meet them and find out their stories. I am talking about my non-fiction and reportage work here.

Basically, I am quiet, introverted and a loner. There’s silence all around me. Writing helps me to survive because I can’t talk much. I like to dwell in my own world in the company of my books, very few people I can relate to, and, the only way I am able to give vent to what’s buzzing inside my head is through the written words – whether it is published or what remains in the closet.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

My recent book, Out of War (non-fiction), published by Speaking Tiger Books, is about the narratives of surrendered CPI (Maoist) cadres. I spent two years travelling through different parts of India – Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. I located them, talked to them for hours, and I’ve remained in touch with many for four years now. I tried to understand their lives and stories. In my book, I look at the Maoist movement, its successes and failures, the passions and sacrifices, through the struggles of individuals – their individual needs, personal longings, sufferings and self-respect.

How do these foot-soldiers themselves view the Maoist movement? Is the movement free from hierarchies and compromise? Are the soldiers free to visit their parents, partners, children? What about those that trust the police with the promise of a safe life and opt out? I visited their homes, heard their stories – stories of abuse, poverty, suffering, hurt, deceit, joy, love…

I worked hard to get these stories. The research was also emotionally taxing for me. It wrung out all my energy. These people and their stories deeply influenced me. Now I know why people turn to the Maoists for support, I know why they become Maoist cadres.

Professionally, I’ve achieved only that much – I’ve written the book, pouring my heart into it.

But personally, I’ve achieved much more. Without expecting to. It was incidental. There was a time when I worked full-time with a reputed newspaper, earned a fairly decent salary and felt happy about certain material comforts. I quit my job to write this book, but the cravings for material things had remained. Bit by bit, in the last four years that I worked on this book, the attachment to material things has gone, and I hope for good.

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Philippines: Author Alfred Yuson to lecture on ‘Fake News Fiction’ on February 20

Award-winning writer and columnist Alfred “Krip” Yuson will deliver the 2017 Adrian Cristobal Lecture, which will be held on Monday, February 20, at 2 pm, at Function Room 1, AIM Conference Center Manila, JV del Rosario Building, Benavidez corner Trasierra streets, Legaspi Village, Makati City. His lecture is entitled “Evolving Genres of the Written Word: ‘Fake News Fiction’ and the Like(s).”

The Adrian E. Cristobal Lecture Series was established by the Cristobal family, in collaboration with the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas or the Writers’ Union of the Philippines. It aims to honor the intellectual legacy of the late renowned writer and former Umpil chairperson whose name the series carries. Read more

Source: Rappler.com


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Indian-American writer Siddhartha Mukherjee on 2017 Wellcome Book Prize longlist

Indian-American physician and author Siddhartha Mukherjee has been longlisted for this year’s Wellcome Book Prize for his non-fictional work The Gene: An Intimate History, which was published in May 2016.

The author took to Twitter to share the announcement.

In his book, Mukherjee blends science, social history and personal narrative, and attempts to tackle the knotty dilemma of whether human beings should remain bound to heredity or alter the course of future generations.

It is among the 12 books on the list that features seven non-fiction and five fiction titles, including memoir, contemporary fiction, historical fiction and popular science. Read more

Source: Hindustan Times


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Karthika VK Set To Launch A New Division For Amazon-Owned Westland Publishers

By Somak Ghoshal

Karthika VK, who stepped down as Publisher and Chief Editor at HarperCollins Publishers India (HCI) last October, is set to start a new publishing division for Westland Publishers, now wholly owned by Amazon, according to sources. The name of the division is not known yet, but it is likely to start publishing titles from the third-quarter of this year.

Amazon.com Inc. acquired the publishing business of Westland, a Trent Limited subsidiary and one of India’s major publishing houses, last October as well, after initially having bought 26% stakes in it.

Westland, which includes imprints like Tranquebar and EastWest, published best-selling authors like Amish Tripathi, Ashwin Sanghi, Rashmi Bansal, Rujuta Diwekar, Preeti Shenoy, Devdutt Pattanaik, Anuja Chauhan, Ravi Subramanian and BKS Iyengar. Read more

Source: Huffington Post

 

 


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Nobel Laureates speak out for jailed Turkish writers

Nobel laureates and other writers have issued a message of solidarity to Turkish colleagues who have been jailed as part of what they call a “heavy-handed” crackdown against free expression.

Close to 150 writers and journalists are in prison in Turkey, several jailed as the government embarked on a massive clampdown on a network linked to a US-based Muslim cleric blamed for Turkey’s failed coup in July. The crackdown later extended to other government opponents.

Nobel laureates, including Elfriede Jelinek and JM Coetzee, and other high-profile authors vowed today not to remain silent “while your human rights are violated.” Read more