October 29 saw the third annual appearance of Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest at the NCPA. This year’s line-up has something for everyone — book lover or not. Each day is packed with interesting sessions and live performances.

The evening acts promise a wonderful marriage between literature and performance. While contemporary dance pioneer Astad Deboo and his troupe’s acclaimed rendition of Tagore’s poems will mark the finale of the festival on Sunday. Gillo Theatre Repertory, who work exclusively in Theatre for Young Audiences, will perform Kyun-Kyun Ladki (Why-Why Girl) inspired by Mahashweta Devi. Chris Larner’s poignant play about euthanasia, An Instinct for Kindness will bring to Mumbai an award-winning production which earned rave reviews in London. Actor Naseeruddin Shah will present a project he has long dreamed about — an enactment of Vikram Seth’s poems from The Beastly Tales and stories about author James Thurber’s dogs.


Given this sharp precipice of literary creativity, which allowed me little toehold, largely because my difference could not be countenanced in standard class or post/colonial terms, I latched on to the odd book that I could relate to. The most enabling was VS Naipaul’s A House for Mr Biswas. I picked up a second-hand copy from a roadside stall. I was doing my Inter at the local college in Gaya. I doubt I had heard about Naipaul. Even if I had it must have been fleetingly. What struck me was the context — provincial and seemingly unstructured — in which Mr Biswas struggles to live and write. I could identify with it; identify much more with that Caribbean space than even with RK Narayan’s Malgudi, which exuded a suggestion of structure and calm that was often missing in my small town space.

Bertelsmann, the German media company, and Pearson, its UK rival, are merging Random House and Penguin, their respective publishing units, in order to respond to the rapidly developing challenges of the ebook revolution.

In a move that is likely to trigger more consolidation, the companies on Monday said 53 per cent of the merged entity, Penguin Random House, would be owned by Bertelsmann, with the other 47 per cent held by Pearson, which also owns the Financial Times.

The father of Chinese writer Mo Yan

Guan Yifan, 90, the father of Chinese Nobel laureate writer Mo Yan, in front of Mo’s childhood home at Ping’an village, Gaomi, Shandong province Photograph: Jason Lee/Reuters

On a brisk day in mid-October, Nobel prizewinner for literature Mo Yan‘s 62-year-old brother, Guan Moxin, stands outside their childhood home in Ping’an village, Shandong coastal province, posing for photographs with a steady stream of brightly dressed tourists. He smiles as a teenage girl in a pink sweater puts her hand on his shoulder and flashes a peace sign at the camera.

“Everybody wants to understand what Mo Yan’s life used to be like, when we were young,” says Guan, leading a small crowd inside the abandoned house to a dusty room where Mo, now 57, was married. A broken antique radio – a wedding gift, Guan says – sits on a crumbling concrete bed, untouched for decades.


The annual autumn buzz here in Tokyo for the Nobel Prize in Literature was more intense last week than in any years past. The Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, whose global audience and literary stardom confound conventional publishing wisdom (he’s not American, doesn’t write in English, and not a single vampire or wizard appears in his oeuvre), has been in the running several times, but this year he topped everyone’s list of favorites. Leading up to the word from Stockholm, early evening local time, a major domestic TV network aired a segment in which Murakami readers worldwide expressed their love for him and his books in a babel of languages. One Chinese reader declared that the latest China/Japan spat over disputed island territories had zero impact on China’s love for Murakami, despite the author’s recent newspaper article calling for both sides to lay off the liquor of nationalism. (Some Japanese newspapers were reportedly banned in China last month, so the reader may not have seen it.)