Kamila Shamsie is a British Pakistani writer who was given the German Nelly Sachs Prize.This award, named after the 1966 Nobel laureate, is given to a writer whose work shows “tolerance, respect and reconciliation”.
Kamila Shamsie herself expressed regret over the committee’s recent decision:
“In the just-concluded Israeli elections, Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to annex up to one third of the West Bank, in contravention of international law, and his political opponent Benny Gantz’s objection to this was that Netanyahu had stolen his idea; this closely followed the killing of two Palestinian teenagers by Israeli forces – which was condemned as ‘appalling’ by the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process,” she said.
Tagore’s bust at his ancestral home at Joransankho, Kolkata
Last year after the Nobel Prize was cancelled and an alternative Nobel Prize in Literature, also known as Academy Prize, was given to Marys Conde, a Guadeloupean ( a region of France in the Carribbean), this year the Nobel committee is announcing two awards as if to make up for lost time.
In an article in The Guardian, we are told : “Based on a standard 35-hour week, the average full-time writer earns only £5.73 per hour, £2 less than the UK minimum wage for those over 25. As a result, the number of professional writers whose income comes solely from writing has plummeted to just 13%, down from 40% in 2005.”
So, writing does not pay. Then why do writers write?
China Writer’s Association announced five winners of the highest literary award in China called the Mao Dun literary awards.
Mao Dun was the pen name of Shen Dehong, a 20th-century Chinese novelist, cultural critic, and the Minister of Culture for his country from 1949 to 1965. He initiated this award in 1982.A four yearly affair, the prizes will be given out in Beijing this October.
The award winning novels and writers are The World by Liang Xiaosheng, The Story of Leading the Wind by Xu Huaizhong, Beishang by Xu Zechen, The Protagonist by Chen Yan and Brother YingWu by Li Er.
What are writers and artistes tweeting about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir? What is their attitude to the people in this region?
Rahul Pandita, author and conflict writer from Kashmir, tweeted that “In all, a majority of Kashmiris have no idea what abrogation of article 370 means. Argue with them for a minute and one realises they are totally ignorant. All they know is ‘India will now take away everything.’ From our sources we know NSA(National Security Agency) is aware of it. Big challenge.”
Mirza Waheed, Kashmiri writer and novelist who now lives in London, wrote, “August 11, 2019. Day 7 of Seige of Kashmir. We are not allowed to say Eid Mubarak to our families.” But is it a seige or an attempt to integrate the state into the country?
Vikram Chandra, a commonwealth prize winning American Indian novelist, wrote, “In his Aug 8 speech, PM Narendra Modi did say it was for every Indian to share the concerns of the citizens of J&K. Best way to do that today is to reach out to Kashmiris in other parts of India, spending Eid away from home. Make them feel that they ARE at home.”
Actress Shabana Azmi tweeted “Kashmiri Pandit Youth invite every Kashmiri who has been unable to travel home for Eid for a get together…”
Novelist and essayist Chetan Bhagat has taken a stand where he says, “August 5, 2019. Kashmir is finally free. Free to grow, free to make a future. #Article 370 goes. #OneCountryOneSystem.” And also, “Article 370 never gave Kashmiris freedom. It only created selfish leaders who created a terror filled society and robbed Kashmiri youth of opportunity. It is finally time for it to go. Anyone objects, tell them loudly: One Country, One System.”
What can you say about a writer who gave a voice and identity to a whole people — a group and a community whose silences are made to speak and sing in her books? A writer whose voice rang out with passion, courage and conviction to detail the sub-human conditions in which her people had lived? A trailblazer whose works depicted the toils and travails of a long suppressed people whose experiences were unrecorded in history books? A writer whose passionate courage helped her to articulate her convictions about the dehumanisation of a whole race?
Morrison was born in 1931 and grew up in a family atmosphere which provided a context for arousing a keen interest in the stories, narratives, folklore, myths and rituals of the African American community. This early interest is evident in the rich oral quality of her writings, its lyrical cadences and it’s measured and “layered polyphony’’. Later, she studied English and Classical Literature from Howard University in Washington D.C. where she acquired her BA degree. This was followed by a Masters from Cornell University in 1955.
Subsequently, she taught at Howard University for two years. She also got married to a Jamaican architect named Harold Morrison in 1958 and they had two sons, before divorcing in 1964.The next few years Morrison wrote, juggled teaching assignments and also did a twenty year stint with Random House as an Editor. This platform enabled her to identify writing talent and she was able to help many aspiring young African American writers to get published.
Amba, a novel from Indonesia, written by award winning writer Lakshmi Pamuntjak, was a modern take on the story of Amba and Bhisma from The Mahabharata, set against the backdrop of the violence of 1965 and the Buru penal colony set up during Suharto’s regime. Published in 2012, it became a national bestseller within Indonesia.
It was first translated to German in 2015 and sold 10,000 copies within three months of its launch. Later the English translation renamed it The Question of Red (2016). The novel did win some amount of international acclaim.
Wole Soyinka was the first Nigerian author, poet, playwright and essayist to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. He has taught in number of universities, including Cornell, Oxford, Harvard and Yale.
Soyinka had been living in America for twenty years before President Trump came to power. He was a scholar-in-residence at New York University’s Institute of African American Affairs when he tore up his green card.He said: “I had a horror of what is to come with Trump… I threw away the card and I have relocated, and I’m back to where I have always been.” He returned to Africa.
Born and raised in Central Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, he moved to Australia where he graduated from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Simon Rowe not only has a passion for words, but also indulges in photography. Many of his works have appeared in TIME (Asia), the New York Times, the Weekend Australian, the South China Morning Postand the Paris Review. His short stories have been published in Flesh: A Southeast Asian Urban Anthology (2016), Another Time Another Place: A Collection of Short Stories (2015) and Noir Nation: International Crime Fiction No. 3(2013). He holds an MA in Writing from Swinburne University of Technology and is currently a foreign language instructor at Kwansei Gakuin University. He recently published another short story, ‘The Summer Hills of Pourerere’ , a story that talks of three teenage misfits forging a path through a harsh rural environment.
In this exclusive interview, he talks about travel, writing and teaching from Japan, the inspiration behind his stories, and his life as an English lecturer.
Kye Lee: Your stories have appeared in numerous publications. What made you start writing and for how long have you been writing?
Simon: That’s a long story! Growing up in rural New Zealand during the 1980s, my window on the world was National Geographic magazine. Naturally, I wanted to be a travel writer and photographer. My first story was about backpacking from Melbourne to Cape Tribulation in far-north Australia. I sold that tale to a newspaper in Melbourne and with the money bought an onward ticket. This became my existence for the next fifteen years and took me around the world three times. I finally settled in Japan where I now write short fiction, screenplays, and a blog called ‘Seaweed Salad Days’, about life in a traditional Japanese neighborhood.