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Excerpts: The Exodus is Not Over by Nandita Haksar

exodusAtim had not thought of herself as a Naga. She knew she was a Tangkhul  and she also knew that her people were fighting  for freedom. While she was studying in Holy Spirit School in  Longpi,  near  Kalhang,  her  mother’s  village,  the  girls exchanged stories about the heroic tales of the Alungpashi     or the people who live underground, sometimes known as Ishipashi or ‘our people’. Atim had assumed ‘our people’ meant Tangkhuls, rather than the Nagas as a whole.

There was a senior student called Rachael. She would tell the younger girls about the valour of the underground. She said there was one man called Yarchung who was identified by the Indian army by the mole on his cheek. But when they caught him, he jumped down the hills from a moving jeep and escaped. Rachael said that three Tangkhul freedom fighters could kill a hundred Indian soldiers. Her audience listened in awed silence.

The girls would practise Kung Fu moves that they had seen in the movies and were absolutely enthralled by a Tangkhul movie called Ramchoramrin. It had scenes of real ambushes carried out by the underground.

Except for one incident, Atim had not personally encountered the Indian army. That had happened when she was with her mother’s elder sister in the paddy field in Kalhang. When the other women started running away because the army was coming, her aunt was not scared. She stood in the field and the soldiers called out to them. The aunt told Atim to ask for roti and the little girl called out, ‘roti dedo’. A soldier gave her two rotis which she ate hungrily.

Atim had childhood memories of hearing shots at night in Ukhrul when the Indian army exchanged fire with the Naga militants, and on one occasion two people had hidden in their house for several days. One of them was injured. That was the day when they heard that one of the underground had worn a Haora Tangkhul shawl and calmly walked to the army post and shot some officers. Another time, when there was curfew in Ukhrul town and one of her mother’s friends needed to go somewhere urgently, she had put ash in her hair and pretended to be a madwoman.

Later, when she was older and living in the Greenland locality of Ukhrul town, she used to see a very well-dressed young man. It was whispered that he was in the movement   and had a reputation for his acts of daring. He even tried to  get Atim and her friends to join the organization, but they  were not willing to leave their families. Later, they heard he was killed. Atim had also heard of a legendary Naga freedom fighter called Livingstone who, it was said, could turn into a fly and enter the Indian army camps. Atim’s father used to tell her about how he had secretly met Muivah himself at Shirui village.

Sometimes, when Atim was angry with her parents, she would threaten that if they did not listen to her she would join the underground. At the same time, she knew that the life of a freedom fighter was not easy. She had also discovered that there were divisions among the underground. Her mother had told her a story that made Atim’s spine tingle with fear.

Atim’s mother’s friend, Thing Thing, was in the NSCN and living in a camp deep in the forests on the India-Myanmar border. Once, when the women had gone into the forest to collect banana leaves to use as plates, they heard their camp being attacked by the Khaplang faction. All the men, mostly Tangkhuls, were killed. The women ran deeper into the forest. They had no food to eat. One of the women, Ngalangam from Khangkhui village, did not have boots and her feet had started to fester so she could no longer run; she told the others to leave her. They put her under a tree and managed to reach a village to fetch help. When the villagers reached the spot where she had been left, they could not find her body and they assumed that wild animals must have attacked and killed her.

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Belt and Road opens new chapter for authors

By Mei Jia

China’s contemporary wordsmiths are gaining a wider audience through the development of the ‘modern Silk Road’. Mei Jia reports.

Prior to 2011, kung fu, Jackie Chan and pandas were the images readers in the Arab world associated most with China, according to Ahmed Elsaid, an Egyptian publisher who operates from a base in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region.

Six years later, the list has grown and writers such as Liu Zhenyun, Xu Zechen and economist Justin Yifu Lin have seen their popularity grow with readers in the region.

“Before 2011, even Chinese language majors at universities in the Arabic-speaking world didn’t understand Chinese society, the people or history very well. At the time, there were very few books about China in English, let alone Arabic,” said the publisher and translator, who majored in Chinese at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo and now operates from Yinchuan in Northwest China. Read more

Source: China Daily


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New Release: Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan

temporary peopleIn the United Arab Emirates, foreign nationals constitute over 80 percent of the population. Brought in to construct and  serve the towering monuments to wealth that punctuate the skylines of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, this labor force is not given the  option of citizenship. Some ride their luck to good fortune. Others suffer different fates. Until now, the humanitarian crisis of the so- called “guest workers” of the Gulf  has  barely been addressed in fiction. With his stunning, mind-altering  debut novel Temporary People, published by Simon & Schuster India, Deepak Unnikrishnan delves into their histories, myths, struggles, and triumphs.

Combining the linguistic invention of Salman Rushdie and  the satirical vision of George Saunders, Unnikrishnan presents twenty-eight linked stories that careen from construction workers who shapeshift into luggage and escape a labor camp, to a woman who stitches back together the bodies of those who’ve fallen from buildings in progress, to a man who grows ideal workers designed to live twelve years and then perish—until they don’t, and found a rebel community in the desert. With this polyphony of voices, Unnikrishnan maps a new, unruly  global English and gives personhood back to the anonymous workers of the Gulf.

About the Author:

deepakDeepak Unnikrishnan is a writer from Abu Dhabi and a resident of the States, who has lived in Teaneck, New Jersey, Brooklyn, New York and Chicago, Illinois. He has studied and taught at the Art Institute of Chicago and presently teaches at New York University Abu Dhabi.

Temporary People, his first book, was the inaugural winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing.

 


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‘I believe he (RK Narayan) should have won the Nobel Prize’ – Jeffery Archer

By Rituparna Mahapatra

jefferyHe lives the life of a real Hero, a superman of sorts , whose life and career is nothing short of a thrilling story — novelist, playwright, former Tory deputy chairman, a mayoral candidate for London, champion athlete, a celebrity, and tragically a prisoner and failed businessman — he has done it all and triumphed. His stint in prison could not pin him down and there he wrote his Clifton Chronicles, a runaway bestseller yet again. Although he is reluctant to talk about most parts of his life, Jeffrey Archer has mastered the craft of popular storytelling, and has understood and grasped the dynamics involved in it.

His books have sold over 300 million copies worldwide, and translated in over 37 languages. But he has not won a single literary prize in the UK. Regardless, Archer thinks of himself as a storyteller, one who is gifted and says it’s difficult to be considered a good writer if you are a storyteller. He says he is lucky to be a storyteller since you are not confined to a particular niche of readers or time, you go beyond that. That is the reason Dickens and Jane Austen are read widely even now, he says.

He stresses the importance of discipline and hard work for aspiring writers. “There are no short cuts,” he says. His famed writing regime is about 8 hours of writing every day, which begins at 6am in the morning and ends at 8pm in the evening. He writes for two hours at a time with breaks in between, when he goes for long walks. He mostly writes from his house in Majorca, overlooking the bay. He still handwrites his first draft, with Staedtler pencils and even after authoring 150 books, he is nervous when he starts a new project.

Interestingly, writing was his second career option, which he had to fall back upon to pay off his debts, which he incurred as a failed businessman. Other than that, he loves Cricket, and says he would have been a cricketer if he hadn’t been a writer.

At 76, he shows no signs of slowing down, his mind still brimming with new ideas and his body as fit as ever. Having survived prostate cancer, he proudly says, “I train three times a week in the gym, and have an outstanding New Zealand trainer who pushes me as far as she can, and I certainly benefit from it.”

Speaking about the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature at Dubai, he says it’s a brilliant platform, an event managed wonderfully by Isobel Abulhoul, and is getting better by the day.

You have been writing for more than three decades now, and even now your books are loved by millions the world over. How does it feel and how do you manage to do it?

I’m very lucky to be born with the simple gift of storytelling, and although I work very hard, I enjoy what I’m doing, and the reactions from my readers.

You call yourself a storyteller. How important is it for you to tell a story? Do you follow a specific structure in your storytelling?

It’s hugely important to tell a story, and have a beginning, a middle and an end. When I start a new book, I have in my mind an idea of where I want to the book to go, but sometimes the characters take me in an entirely different direction, or I come up with a brand new ending half way through. You should always be open to this.

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New release: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

punjabi-widowsBalli Kaur Jaswal’s Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows published by HarperCollins is an east-meets-west novel.

When Nikki takes a creative writing job at her local temple, with visions of mancipating the women of the community she left behind as a self-important teenager, she’s shocked to discover a group of barely literate women who have no interest in her ideals.

Yet to her surprise, the white dupatta of the widow hides more than just their modesty – these are women who have spent their lives in the shadows of fathers, brothers and husbands; being dutiful, raising children and going to temple, but whose inner lives are as rich and fruitful as their untold stories. But as they begin to open up to each other about womanhood, sexuality, and the dark secrets within the community, Nikki realises that the illicit nature of the class may place them all in danger.

East meets west and tradition clashes with modernity in a thought-provoking cross-cultural novel that might make you look again at the women in your life…

About the Author:

Balli Kaur Jaswal is the author of Inheritance, which won the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian Novelist Award in 2014, and Sugarbread, a finalist for the 2015 inaugural Epigram Books Fiction Prize. She has been a writer-in-residence at the University of East Anglia and Nanyang Technological University.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is her third novel. Balli is currently working on a fourth novel about three sisters who go on a pilgrimage to India to reconnect with each other after their mother’s death.

 

 

 

 


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Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, book review: The reader is brought face to face with the realities of war

By Lucy Scholes

With novels like The Reluctant Fundamentalist and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, Mohsin Hamid has proved himself a writer able to speak directly of and to the moment. His latest work, Exit West, is no exception. In it he situates a love story amidst the refugee crisis, painting a nuanced portrait of contemporary migration, from the horrors of Western hysteria to what it really means to leave one life behind in the hope of building another.

It begins like any “boy meets girl” story – eyes are locked across a classroom, an invitation to get a drink after class is declined but not rebuffed, accepted a week later, and two young people begin to spend more and more time together. The relative gentleness of this courtship, however, is contrasted against a backdrop of increasing civil unrest. The unnamed Middle Eastern city in which Hamid’s two lovers, Saeed and Nadine, live is on the brink of disaster, “swollen with refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war”, but, as Hamid expertly shows, the slide into conflict, violence and the frightening curtailment of civil liberties happens all too easily. Read more

Source: Independent.co.uk


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‘The Gentleman from Japan’: Impersonation and intrigue in China and Europe

By Mark Schreiber

“You don’t know anything, you like noodles, and you aren’t Japanese. Can we put that on your gravestone?”

“If it fits.”

Inspector O, James Church’s acerbic North Korean cop, is back, in a new work featuring exotic characters, international intrigue and snappy dialog. The narrative shifts between northeast China and the Iberian Peninsula.

While Japan pops up frequently in the book, such as in reference to occupation of Korea and Manchuria, O, the “gentleman” of the title, is clearly not Japanese. Now semi-retired, he lives in Yanji, a city on the Chinese side of the river, with his nephew, an officer with China’s security police. Read more

Source: The Japan Times


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safe flight: A poem by William Beale

safe flight

william-bealeWilliam Beale, author of “they call us loud” (2015, Perfect Binding Press) is an Australian poet, writer and actor currently in Melbourne. He performs poetry, judges slams and teaches as a collective known as Poetry Cafe KL. Co-founder of Malaysia’s only bi-monthly poetry open mic night, If Walls Could Talk; winner of performing arts awards; and runner-up for the 2014 KL ‘Punch Drunk Love’ poetry slam. You can find his words online at williambeale.com


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Next month’s Script Road literary festival in Macau set to be biggest yet

By Liana Cafolla

Man Booker Prize-shortlisted author Madeleine Thien and acclaimed Korean-American writer Krys Lee are among more than 60 influential literary figures attending The Script Road this year, Macau’s literary festival, making it the biggest since the event was launched in 2012.

Getting bigger was not intentional, says the festival’s programme director and co-founder, Hélder Beja. Last year’s festival turned out to be almost bigger than the festival team could manage and the plan was for the 2017 edition to be smaller. But with more writers asking to attend this year, it just didn’t turn out that way. Read more

Source: South China Morning Post

 


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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