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Why an increasing amount of South Asian writers are getting picked up by publishers

Gone are the days when readers would look up to international authors who had earlier set a benchmark for sophisticated literature. With Indians picking up more and more desi literature in English off the shelves, the sale of South Asian books has shot up over the decade.

South Asian writers, apart from harking their original, authentic and rooted voice, call for a diverse set of readers who not only relate to the regional synergies, but also crave for elegant storytelling. This is one of the reasons South Asian writing has increasingly become more popular among readers as well as publishers.

Bookshops across India and publishing companies report that readership for South Asian literature is constantly on the rise, making it one of the most popular genres at the moment, the sixth largest in the world and second for the English language. Read more

Source: Times of India


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Can Rushdie and Roy save the novel in the age of Trump and Modi?

By Angshukanta Chakraborty

2017 comes bearing gifts.

At a time when the United States stands “unpresidented” and Donald Trump is unable to string a simple sentence together without committing grave factual or lexical errors, we have the return of Arundhati Roy, the novelist, and Salman Rushdie, with his grand American book about a family of Indian immigrants.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Roy and The Golden House by Rushdie are easily the most anticipated works of literary fiction to be published this year. This, at a time when literature itself is at its most disavowed, when language, under the barrage of social media, is increasingly failing to convey the shifts and churns posed by technology and politics, and the past is coagulating into imagined purity that prescribes exclusionism as the cure – is a source of hope. Read more

Source: DailyO


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Russian poet laments the lack of awareness about contemporary Indian authors

Eminent Russian poet and essayist Maxim Amelin has lamented lack of awareness about present-day Indian writers among Russian readers, which he blamed on the absence of “direct communication” between the two countries.

Only a handful of contemporary writers, for example Arundhati Roy, enjoys some familiarity back in Russia and for that matter in Europe, but that too because their writings got to be translated in native languages, Amelin observes.

“It’s a far cry from Rabindranath Tagore, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay whose works are hugely popular in Russia and several other European countries,” Amelin told PTI on the fringes of the 41st Kolkata International Book Fair where he was a guest. Read more

Source: DNA India


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What to read in 2017

By Palash Krishna Mehrotra

Is any year a good year for books? Despite doomsday predictions, the book is alive and kicking. Here’s a list of titles to look out for in 2017, from all God’s publishers, big and small.

The God of Small Things came out in my last year of college in 1997. Two decades later, as I sit perched on the cusp of middle-age, Arundhati Roy returns with her new novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Has she changed; have we changed? We shall find out soon.

Among other novels from Penguin Random House India, there’s Nadeem Aslam’s The Golden Legend, set in contemporary Pakistan; Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West,a love story set against the backdrop of the international refugee crisis; and Perumal Murugan’s Seasons of the Palm, the story of a young untouchable farmhand. In his novel, Friend of My Youth, a meditation on the passage of time, Amit Chaudhuri treads the fine line between fiction and non-fiction and emerges with a sensitive commemoration of Bombay and an unusual friendship. Read more

Source: DailyO


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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Shazia Omar

By Farah Ghuznavi

shazia

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

Writing is my favourite form of self-torture.  Playing with words is pleasurable, fantasizing plotlines from foreplay to climax is enjoyable, but then… getting the words to convey the plot, now there’s the hair-yanking, teeth-grinding, eye-gouging challenge.  Still, the creative process is exhilarating, and in the end it allows me to share thoughts and ideas with others.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

I have published two books this summer with Bloomsbury India. Dark Diamond is a historical fantasy set in 1685 about the Mughal Viceroy of Bengal, Subedar Shayista Khan, who built the Lal Bagh Fort.  I was looking for a time in history that Bengalis could be proud of and a hero who could inspire our youth.  I wanted to look beyond 1971, to remind our youth of our rich, secular, pluralistic past. On another note, I wanted to portray the outer, inner and secret meanings of Islam that come under threat when radical power structures are in place.

Intentional Smile: A Girl’s Guide to Positive Living is a mind, body, spirit book about staying happy and healthy.  It is based on my experience as a yoga instructor and a social psychologist, and a working mother who has struggled with chronic depression.  My co-author, Merrill Khan, is a school counsellor and a life coach.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

In my first novel, Like a Diamond in the Sky, my protagonist was a young junkie who loved rock ‘n roll. Inspired by the Beatniks and folk musicians of America, I tried to simplify and pare down my sentences and paragraphs as much as possible.

The protagonist of Dark Diamond, on the other hand, is a Sufi warrior and swashbuckling hero.  I allowed my writing to be inspired by Sufi poets, but also kept characters like Indiana Jones in mind.

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Why is Pakistan alienated by the global literati?

Arundhati Roy once said:

“[…] Writing is an incredible act of individualism, producing your language, and yet to use it from the heart of a crowd as opposed to as an individual performance is a conflicting thing.”

Roy, like many other authors of Indian descent has won a multitude of literary prizes, including the esteemed Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Which is why when India wasn’t nominated this year, it came as a blow to the world. This consternation, in my opinion, represented something far deeper for Pakistan: the alienation we face from the global literati, a sentiment the writers from this side of the border have come to accept.

On the 25th of October, the Booker for 2016 was awarded to the USA’s Paul Beatty. And with the announcement of this year’s awarding ceremony, it’s saddening to note that India’s troubled neighbour has never won a single international prize for literature – let alone the Man Booker.

Perhaps it is a paucity of distinctiveness in the Pakistani voice, or maybe it’s the deficiency of branding that our contiguous counterpart finds in abundance, but Pakistani novelists never seem to strike any chords with the literary intelligentsia. The aforementioned quote is evidently accommodating for this thought; somewhere along the way, our writers lost their sense of individualism. This, coupled with Indian fictionists’ continual plenitude of literary laurels, begs the question: will we ever win an international literary award like the Booker? Read more


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Arundhati Roy’s ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ will be published by Hamish Hamilton UK and Penguin India

Hamish Hamilton UK and Penguin India are proud to announce that they will publish ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ by Arundhati Roy in June 2017.

“I am glad to report that the mad souls (even the wicked ones) in  ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ have found a way into the world, and that I have found my publishers,” says Arundhati Roy.

It is her first work of fiction since ‘The God of Small Things’, which won the Booker prize nineteen years ago in 1997.

arundhati-roy

Photo credit: Mayank Austen Soofi

Simon Prosser, Publishing Director of Hamish Hamilton & Penguin Books UK,  and Meru Gokhale, Editor-in-Chief, Literary Publishing, Penguin Random House India share, “To publish this book is both a pleasure and an honour.  What an incredible book it is—on multiple levels; one of the finest we have read in recent times. The writing is extraordinary, and so too are the characters – brought to life with such generosity and empathy, in language of the utmost freshness, joyfully reminding us that words are alive too, that they can wake us up and lend us new ways of seeing, feeling, hearing, engaging. It makes the novel new – in the original meaning of novel.”

According to Arundhati Roy’s literary agent David Godwin, the book has been in the making for 20 years and is worth the wait.


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Pankaj Mishra on Arundhati Roy: Hindu nationalists ​have many ways to silence writers

Author Roy is facing criminal trial for contempt of court in India. Of course, Narendra Modi’s government has left no clear fingerprints on this scene of a crime against art and thought: The Guardian

arundhati_royThe governments of Egypt and Turkey are brazenly leading a multi-pronged assault on writers, artists and intellectuals. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last month denounced his critics among Turkish academics as treasonous fifth columnists of foreign powers; many of them have been subsequently dismissed and suspended. Both Turkey and Egypt have imprisoned journalists, provoking international protests. But the suppression of intellectual and creative freedoms is assuming much cannier forms in India, a country with formal and apparently free democratic institutions.

Controlled by upper-caste Hindu nationalists, Indian universities have been purging “anti-nationals” from both syllabuses and campuses for some months now. In a shocking turn of events last month, Rohith Vemula, a PhD student in Hyderabad, killed himself. Accused of “anti-national” political opinions, the impoverished research scholar, who belonged to one of India’s traditionally and cruelly disadvantaged castes, was suspended, and, after his fellowship was cancelled, expelled from student housing. Letters from Modi’s government in Delhi to university authorities revealed that the latter were under relentless pressure to move against “extremist and anti-national politics” on campus. Vemula’s heartbreaking suicide note attests to the near-total isolation and despair of a gifted writer and thinker.

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How a ‘coward’ literary society is killing ‘good’ Indian writing

You cannot play it safe and expect good writing to come out of a place: Omair Ahmad in the Daily.O

arundhati_roy_20140310.jpgPretty much everybody I know in India has an opinion on Charlie Hebdo. Even if some of them are confused whether it is the name of a man or a magazine, they do know that Charlie Hebdo is French, and there were attacks, murders, and there is something to do with cartoons and Freedom of Expression. Actually that might be too much knowledge. Opinions are formed without even such details.

For example, most people know that Salman Rushdie is (in)famous for a book called The Satanic Verses. They would not have read the book, and they might – just maybe – know that the book is restricted in India. Most people will tell you it is banned. This is not true.

The book is not banned, but its import into India is. The distinction is important because, if you want to change the current state of affairs, you at least need to know who to approach, what to argue. The silly, self-glorifying spectacle of authors reading passages from the book – which they are entirely legally allowed to do – makes no change to an import ban, and leaves the debate on freedom of expression exactly where it is – murdered in a ditch by the side of the road while we clink wineglasses and express our horror at the barbarians at the gates. This is satyagraha as silliness.

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Arundhati Roy: ‘Intolerance is the wrong word for the lynching and mass murder of human beings’

arundhati_royThe respected author has issued a statement about her decision to return the national film award she won in 1989 for writing the screenplay of ‘In which Annie Gives it Those Ones’: Scroll.in

Although I do not believe that awards are a measure of the work we do, I would like to add the National Award for the Best Screenplay that I won in 1989 to the growing pile of returned awards. Also, I want to make it clear that I am not returning this award because I am “shocked” by what is being called the “growing intolerance” being fostered by the present government. Continue reading