Orhan Pamuk
Orhan Pamuk

Pankaj Mishra: Is the economic success of countries like Turkey or India or China going to breathe new life into the novel?

Orhan Pamuk: I think so. I strongly believe that. The novel is a middle-class art. And we see the proliferation of middle classes in India, China, definitely in Turkey, so everyone is writing novels. If you want to predict the future, I can predict that in Europe, in the West, the importance of literary novels will decrease, while in China, India, popular literature will continue. Innovation will come from there, because the populations are large, there will be a lot of production.

I’m writing a novel now about immigration to Istanbul. Starting in the late-’50s, especially in the ’60s, immigration to Istanbul from the poorest parts of Turkey began. And then Turkish shantytowns were beginning to be built in the mid-’50s, but in the ’60s, they flourished. This is not a middle-class changing of cultures. This is the proletariat, the most dispossessed.

Asian literature is rising fast on the international publishing scene. Anticipating this burgeoning demand, Kelly Falconer – former literary editor of the Asia Literary Review – founded the Asia Literary Agency earlier this year. Heading up the nascent group, which represents luminaries in the field throughout Asia, Falconer is constantly keeping tabs on the continent’s hottest writers.

According to her, the five Asian writers to watch are: British-Indian Bidisha, Ichi Batacan who is a Filipino writer in Singapore, Kim Young-ha of Korea, Mai Jia of China and Prajwal Parajuly of Sikkim.

China-based Shanda Literature announced an adjustment to its Cloudary in which the company will divest its content and hardware businesses.

After the adjustment, Cloudary will still be responsible for Shanda’s Bambook e-reader. However, the Cloudary app will be integrated with that of Qidian.com, another Internet literature branch of Shanda Literature. This adjustment aims to solve the resource redundancy problems of the two parties.

My Brazilian friend Marina and I were picking up a visiting friend from New York, who heads an NGO, in her hotel lobby near Paulista, the most prestigious avenue in São Paulo. It was 7:30 on a busy Friday night last October.

We walked up to a taxi outside the hotel. I sat in the front to let the two women chat in the back. Marina asked me to Google the restaurant menu. I was doing so when I saw a teenage boy run up to the taxi and gesticulate through my open window. I thought he was a beggar, asking for money. Then I saw the gun, going from my head to the cell phone.

“Just give him the phone,” Marina said from the back seat.

I gave him the phone. He didn’t go away.

Dinheiro, dinheiro!

HE TOO HAS A MARKETING MIND: Ravinder Singh sees his books as his ‘babies’ and refuses to abandon them after the writing process (Photo: RAUL IRANI)

It’s possible you’ve never heard of Ravinder Singh. Till a month ago, I hadn’t either. It might surprise you, as it did me, to know that he is Penguin India’s topselling fiction writer, with combined sales across all titles exceeding half a million. According to Anand Padmanabhan, vice-president, sales, Penguin India, pre-orders for Singh’s latest book, Like It Happened Yesterday, released just this month, were upwards of 200,000 copies. Unsurprising, since his second, Can Love Happen Twice?, sold more than 250,000 copies in its first year of publication, becoming one of Penguin’s topselling titles, second only to APJ Abdul Kalam’s Ignited Minds. Singh’s first book, I Too Had A Love Story, was published in 2008 by a small Delhi press, Srishti Publications, and re-released in 2012 by Penguin. Five years after its publication, it is still among the most popular on Flipkart.
habib
habib

Thespian Habib Tanvir lived an exhilarating life: it is a justifiable conclusion if we consider merely the triumphant arc of his career. Habib Tanvir—née Habib Ahmed Khan — was born in 1923. He grew up in Raipur, in an atmosphere that celebrated the decadence of mushairas, Kali Bari theatre and Parsi theatre. After finishing his BA from Morris College in Nagpur, he pursued an MA in Urdu from Aligarh university in 1944 (but didn’t finish it) and went off to Bombay to work in cinema, subsequently getting involved in the leftist cultural activities of groups such as the Indian People’s Theatre Association, which was the cultural wing of the CPI, and the Progressive Writers’ Association. Tanvir lived in Bombay for nearly a decade and later spent a year at RADA, the renowned theatre school in London, before moving to the Bristol Old Vic to be a student of production in theatre. He spent three years travelling across Europe, before returning to India to start Naya Theatre.

An undertain glory
An undertain glory

At a time when the public discourse is all about the falling GDP growth rate and India’s economic troubles, Professors Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze shake you up with their latest book, An Uncertain Glory — India and Its Contradictions. It is not the slowdown that is a worry — indeed, growth will return presently. The bigger concern for India today should be the continuing deep disparities in society that are only widening with every percentage point growth in GDP.

India’s democracy, say the authors, has failed to rise to the challenges the country faces in the economic and social fields; and worse, it has been compromised by the extent and form of social inequality. Whether it is education, health care, female literacy, sanitation, or nutrition, India fares only marginally better than countries in sub-Saharan Africa.