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Jharkhand Bans Sahitya Akademi-Winning Author’s Book for ‘Negative’ Portrayal of Santhals

HansaAuthor Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar had earlier said he was facing intense online abuse, with a group of Adivasis had taken out a protest against him, burning his effigy and books.

The Jharkhand government has banned a collection of short stories released in 2015, The Adivasi Will Not Dance, on the grounds that it portrayed the Santhal community, particularly women, in a ‘bad light’, the Telegraph reported.

Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, the author of the book, won the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puruskar in 2015 for his novel The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey.

Chief minister Raghubar Das on Friday (August 11) evening asked chief secretary Rajbala Verma to seize all available copies of the book and initiate legal proceeding against the author, the newspaper’s report said. The matter was brought up in parliament on Friday morning by opposition MLA Sita Soren, from the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, who said the book was derogatory to Santhal women, after which the leader of the opposition in the assembly Hemanta Soren asked that the book be banned.

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South Side Stories: Long list of DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2017

Past winners of the DSC Prize include HM Naqvi of Pakistan, Shehan Karunatilaka of Sri Lanka, Jeet Thayil and Cyrus Mistry from India. Jhumpa Lahiri won it in 2015 for The Lowland. Last year, the winner of the prize was Anuradha Roy for her book Sleeping on Jupiter. 

The long list for the coveted DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2017 was announced by writer, publisher and chair of the jury panel, Ritu Menon, at Delhi’s Oxford Bookstore on Thursday. The list comprises 13 novels, written by authors of four nationalities. It includes seven writers from India, three from Pakistan, two from Sri Lanka and one American writer based in India. Some of the books that have made it to the list include Aravind Adiga’s Selection Day (pictured), Karan Mahajan’s The Associations of Small Bombs, Perumal Murugan’s Pyre (pictured), Pakistani author Omar Shahid Hamid’s The Party Worker, Anuk Arudpragasam’s The Story of a Brief Marriage, Anjali Joseph’s The Living, Ashok Ferrey’s The Ceaseless Chatter of Demons (pictured), among others. The prize is worth US $25,000 and is open to authors writing about South Asia and its people. The long list for the coveted DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2017 was announced by writer, publisher and chair of the jury panel, Ritu Menon, at Delhi’s Oxford Bookstore on Thursday.

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Arundhati Roy’s new novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, draws mixed reviews

arundhati_royFT has described Arundhati Roy’s second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, as “Compelling”.

“Ultimately, Roy’s admirers will not be disappointed,” writes Claire Messud in her FT review. “This ambitious new novel, like its predecessor, addresses weighty themes in an intermittently playful narrative voice. Whereas The God of Small Things — the tale of Rahel and Esthappen, a pair of twins, and their family’s tra­gedies in Kerala, southern India — approaches big issues such as caste divisions and molestation through the personal and domestic, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness embarks from the outset with a broader societal perspect­ive.”

“Now, finally, the second novel has come out, and it is clear that her politics have been part of its gestation,” writes Joan Acocella in the New Yorker. ““The God of Small Things” was about one family, primarily in the nineteen-sixties, and though it included some terrible events, its sorrows were private, muffled, personal. By contrast, “The Ministry of the Utmost Happiness” is about India, the polity, during the past half century or so, and its griefs are national. This does not mean that Roy’s powers are stretched thin, or even that their character has changed. In the new book, as in the earlier one, what is so remarkable is her combinatory genius.” Continue reading


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The lesser society reads, the safer writers are: Mustansar Hussain Tarar

Tarar is perhaps the most popular of contemporary fiction and travelogue writers in Urdu. He claims he has the capability to write another Aag Ka Darya, a novel on the Partition written by Qurratulain Hyder, but she could not have written a novel like his Bahao that talks about the disappearance of a civilisation.

Tarar’s mass popularity is perhaps the reason why he keeps distinguishing himself from other Pakistani writers. No other Pakistani writer has been honoured like him, he says: a lake in the northern areas has been named after him. But, in the same breath, he says critics need to pay attention to other contemporary fiction writers, particularly Khalida Hussain and Sami Ahuja.

Source: The Herald


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Sequoia Capital, Perfect World co-invest in Chinese literature site Zongheng

Sequoia Capital China, and Perfect World co-led a new round of financing in Zongheng, a Chinese literature site that provides vertical and horizontal literature contents.

The site is owned by Beijing-based Network Technology Co Ltd. Sheng King Fund, Guonong brothers, Shegjing360, Share Capital, and several institutions also participated in the strategic investment. The size of the deal was undisclosed.

Founded in 2008, Zongheng is a domestic Chinese original literary professional website. It serves as a cultural platform meant to guide the master writers and epic works.

Source: Dealstreetasia.com


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Book Review: The Never Mind Girl and Other Stories by Rosmarie Somaiah

By Mehjabeen Aladdin

rosemarieTitle: The Never Mind Girl and Other Stories
Author: Rosmarie Somaiah
Publisher: Ethos Books Singapore
Pages: 104
Price: $ 16.00 SGD
Rosmarie Somaiah’s The Never Mind Girl and Other Stories is a collection of 15 short stories written in a contemporary style, depicting realistic and actual scenarios and situations that most young adult females go through in Singapore during their secondary school years in an all girls’ school.

The main character in the book is a teenage girl called Anna whose life is surrounded by her family consisting of her mother, father, sister and two younger brothers. Somaiah writes about the different challenges and obstacles that Anna, along with her sister, have to face at school in terms of peer pressure, self esteem, tests of loyalty and friendship, striving for academic excellence, making big decisions and generally trying to fit into a society that has various other demands. Somaiah has efficiently laid out a specific scenario under each story involving the input and role play of various other characters who help Anna make her decisions and conclusions, thus leaving a “lesson learned” for the reader who might find the story relatable. In the early chapters, Anna uses the term “never mind” frequently until she is baptized as “The Never Mind Girl” by one of her colleagues at school. “I am not the never mind girl! I do care about things!” she retorts in an outburst to her mother when she is overcome with emotions and the tension to fit in.

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China to guide the development of online literature

By Xinhua

The General Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee has asked the China Writers Association (CWA) to guide online literature and carry out other reforms.

According to a plan to deepen reform of the CWA issued by the office on Thursday, CWA should establish evaluation and incentive systems that will benefit the development of online literature.

The Party’s role in literature work should also be strengthened. For instance, the Party should guide and support works focusing on juveniles and patriotism, as well as realistic and historical topics.

In the meantime, the CWA should organize literature exchange programs among Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and provide more communication opportunities between Chinese and foreign writers. Read more

Source: China Daily


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Literature that Sparks Hope

By Aminah Sheikh

book of lightIt is early winter, but the October heat in Ambala Cantt is making me visibly drowsy. “Do you mind some Tulsi leaves in the chai?” he asks. I nod in the typical manner in which we Indians do. “Well, go on then, pluck some leaves from the plant. It’s right opposite the gate,” he prompts. Sounds of chirping birds, sunlight that warms the linen clothes drying on a wooden hanger, happy plants and a few flowers break the monotony of green. The garden is perhaps the only ‘lively looking’ corner of this ageing home.

Sitting opposite each other, with a table that holds a bowl with floating roses, we sip chai. “My father loved roses,” he says breaking the silence. And even before I can acknowledge by saying – Yes, that’s what I gathered from the story “Papa, Elsewhere” he has written in A Book Of Light, Sukant Deepak offers to give me a tour of the place that is home to famed playwright and short-story writer Swadesh Deepak, his father.

Within the confined walls of this house are stories, like in any house – some pleasant and some mired with painful memories. Sukant now lives alone in this house that stands witness to almost two decades of suffering that his family went through after Swadesh was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the 1990s. This phase of the Sangeet Natak Akademi award winner’s (2004) life finds its spot in A Book of Light: When a Loved One Has a Different Mind, among twelve other stories edited by Jerry Pinto and published by Speaking Tiger.

Although Swadesh left his home one monsoon morning of 2006 never to return, his house breathes nostalgia. “I love staying in this house, that’s why I stay here,” says Sukant, adding that he’d wanted to tell his father’s story for a long time. “I wrote it because it had to be written. Some things have to be done. It was a ruthless decision.”

Each of the 13 writers have come out of their shell, perhaps, to tell a tale that has affected them deeply. The process of writing, not so easy at times. Yet they did write!

“Many of us have family histories that contain very troubled moments, that have had people whose lives, their joys and struggles, the love we felt for them or the dislike, remain within us long after they are gone,” shares Sharmila Joshi, one of the 13 contributors to the book. Her story “The Man Under the Staircase” speaks of her uncle shunned by his own brother (her late father) then a Judge at Nagpur High Court. “My uncle Vinay was one such person from among various complex characters in my family – some of whom I have for long wanted to write about. His story just came to me first. Telling it is an attempt to record and then purge maybe, an attempt to look back without too much sadness.”

Lalita Iyer, writer of “Roger, Over and Out” shares the story of her former love interest Roger, who she believed was her companion for life but things didn’t quite go the way she had imagined they would. By sharing their story, Lalita wanted Roger to find a voice. She says that for the longest time, her backstory always preceded her. She was that girl who called off her wedding to a ‘psycho’.  She was ‘that poor thing’. She finally reached that place of numbness when she stopped talking about it and pretended it never happened. “But in the last few years, I have had many friends ‘coming out’ and talking about their journeys with loved ones who were mentally ill. Jerry’s book Em and the big Hoom spurred me to unlock the past that I had so carefully guarded,” she says. “I felt that the world (my family and friends) always looked at the story from my point of view, and Roger was always the ‘other’, the ‘outsider’, and I thought that was really unfair. Sometimes I wonder if he had written his story, what would it have been? He never got to share his story and probably never will. I also feel hopeful that with me sharing my story, there might be other people who are willing to share theirs, or at the very least, people will learn to approach mental illness from a place of compassion than a place of anger or wronged-ness. I hope more people are motivated to seek help and be more empathetic to those afflicted by mental illness.” At times when alone, Lalita sees Roger’s face. “It’s often an ethereal image, of a face in the clouds, like an angel. This also makes me feel that perhaps he has left this world.”

Most stories are of dear ones who’ve passed away and maybe it is easier to write when the person isn’t around, but two writers –Madhusudan Srinivas and Nirupama Dutt- have written about their children. Children they live with and face each day, even today. While Madhusudan through ‘Abhimanyu, Our Son’ shares his journey as a parent of an autistic 23-year-old son, Nirupama chose a unique way of telling her daughter’s story. Nirupama’s “Mother and Daughters” has been written from her daughter’s point of view. We share a very intense relationship of co-dependence. Even though it is a troubled one, we know each other’s mind well, so I just narrated what goes on in her and my mind. That was not difficult at all,” says Nirupama. However, writing as a mother was not an easy task, she adds. “I wished to tell the story, more so for it touched on the status of the girl child in India and the damage that is done just because she belongs to the second sex.”

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New Release: Zelaldinus: A Masque by Irwin Allan Sealy

9789386021441Published by Aleph Book Company, Zelaldinus by Irwin Allan Sealy mounts such a pageant, glittering and fantastical, where past and present, nobles and commoners, history and fiction rub shoulders. Its variety of verse and prose forms evoke the carnival spirit of a masque.

On a camel’s back hill beyond Agra stands a redstone citadel altogether different from the white marble Taj Mahal. Fatehpur Sikri is the capital Akbar built to honour the saint who foretold the birth of his first son. In the inner court of the king’s palace is      a broad stone terrace with a chequered pattern that resembles a game board. Here, accounts say, Akbar played a kind of chess using human pieces from his harem of three hundred. Costumed in various guises, his women would have presented lively masques upon this stage.

Underlying the depiction of a rich and varied court life at Sikri are reflections on kingship, a meditation on fathers and sons, and a plot within a plot that tells a crackling story of love across the Pakistan border—while through it all strides the nimble ghost of Akbar himself. Jalaluddin (Zelaldinus) Akbar.

About the Author:

Irwin Allan Sealy was born in Allahabad and educated in Lucknow and Delhi. He is the author of The Trotter-Nama, The Everest Hotel, The Brainfever Bird and other novels, and the travelogues From Yukon to Yucatan and The China Sketchbook. A memoir, The Small Wild Goose Pagoda, is set in Dehra Dun where he lives.