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Kitaab’s The Best Asian Short Stories (TBASS) 2018: Winners and selected authors

Today, when latitudes shift, cultures collide, and we are all travellers in one form or another, in ways perhaps unprecedented, these stories must be told.
              — Dr Debotri Dhar, editor TBASS 2018


Putting together an anthology of short stories is not easy. Reading across a continent and picking from among the best of its writers and their stories is a daunting endeavour. TBASS 2018 is the fruit of this undertaking — 24 writers, 13 countries — led by Dr Debotri Dhar, Editor, TBASS 2018 and Zafar Anjum, Series editor.

‘The winners of TBASS 2018 are Rakhshanda Jalil (India), Aditi Mehrotra (India), and Martin Bradley (Malaysia; originally UK),’ said Dr. Debotri Dhar. ‘I also loved the translation of Japanese writer Mogami Ippei by Avery Udagawa (Thailand; originally USA), and there were many other excellent entries, from more than 13 countries.

‘While Rakhshanda Jalil is a seasoned writer known to many in South Asia, Aditi Mehrotra is an aspiring Indian writer whose story delightfully juxtaposed textual passages and news clippings on women’s empowerment with everyday life vignettes of domesticity from small-town India. Martin Bradley’s story highlighted the intersecting themes of travel, historical memory, and communication across differences. Today, when latitudes shift, cultures collide, and we are all travellers in one form or another, in ways perhaps unprecedented, these stories must be told.’

‘The response to TBASS 2017 has been tremendous. That really encouraged us to continue the series and redouble our efforts,’ said Zafar Anjum, Series Editor of TBASS and founder of Kitaab. ‘TBASS tries to represent the best of Asian voices, and we are specially keen to provide a literary platform to emerging, new voices from the region.  The sheer writing talent that we have gathered in this volume is a testament to Asia’s creative fecundity.’


  1. Rakhshanda Jalil (India) Story title: ‘Diamonds are Forever’
  2. Aditi Mehrotra (India) Story title: ‘Don’t Ask! Poocho mat!’ aditi.mehrotra@hotmail.com
  3. Martin Bradley (Malaysia; originally UK) Story title: ‘Bougainvillea’ martinabradley@gmail.com
  4. Also, Avery Udagawa (Thailand; originally US) Story title: ‘Festival Time.’ Translation of Japanese writer Mogami Ippei. She is working on the translation rights. averyudagawa@yahoo.com

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12 Indonesian books you should add to your reading list

Before Dawn: The Poetry of Sapardi Djoko Damono ( 2005 )

Author: Sapardi Djoko Damono

Translated by John H. McGlynn, this book contains poetry written by Sapardi Djoko Damono, one of Indonesia’s most renowned poets. It contains 30 more poems than Before Dawn – Suddenly the Night, which was released in 1987.

Some of the most popular poems in the 2005’s book are Rain of June and I Want, with the latter being commonly quoted by and even put to music by fans.

Man Tiger (Lelaki Harimau) ( 2004 )

Author: Eka Kurniawan

The book, which recently named a nominee for the prestigious Man Booker International Prize, follows Margio, a youngster from a rural area in Indonesia, who decides to kill a man. This leaves the whole village confused as Margio doesn’t seem like a person who could actually harm anyone. The worst crime he has ever committed is stealing a chicken, which was regarded as something that “happened out of spite”.

But, Margio really did kill the man, moreover in a brutal way. When asked why he did it, he answered, “It wasn’t me. There’s a tiger in me”.

The Land of Five Towers (Negeri 5 Menara) ( 2009 )

Author: Fuadi

Alif was a country boy from Maninjau in Padang, West Sumatra. Even though he dreamed to be another BJ Habibie, the country’s former president, circumstances led him to enroll at Pondok Madani, an Islamic boarding school in East Java.

Although disappointed at first, he learns the words man jadda wa jadda during his time there, which translates into “He who works hard must be successful” in Arabic, and later finds his life changed because of it.

Winter Dreams ( 2011 )

Author: Maggie Tiojakin

Nicky F. Rompa went to Boston, Massachusetts, to have a new life. During his stay, his new family, lover and his boss—apparently everyone around him—teaches him new lessons about living in a multicultural society.

Not only does he have to learn more about himself through it, he also embarks on a journey that will last throughout his life.

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Twenty Questions with Amit Chaudhury

Quick questions from TLS answered in Amit Chaudhury’s insightful and sometimes trenchant  style.


Is there any book, written by someone else, that you wish you’d written?

I have written other people’s books, without having read them, necessarily. Friend of My Youth borrows its title from a story I never read by Alice Munro. All art is about desire – about wanting to be somewhere, or someone, else. Why not desire to write a book someone else has written? “Being a writer” is the first act of make-believe. I’ve also written a song, “So You Want to be a Rock and Roll Star”, with a famous title.

What will your field look like twenty-five years from now?

I don’t know. Either the party will continue, or there will be a belated, vituperative intellectual and artistic backlash. If the latter happens, I hope it comes from non-professionals.

Which of your contemporaries will be read 100 years from now?

Difficult to say. I can say that Joni Mitchell will be discovered and rediscovered several times in the future. I know she’s not just a writer (writers may not primarily be interested in other writers anyway), but she’s often doing what a writer does, in creating a space within song that shows us new ways of thinking of the ways in which we have lived. Some of Arvind Krishna Mehrotra and Adil Jussawalla’s essays and poems, surely. I hope Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage is read in 2117 with laughter and joy, and Anne Carson’s Glass and God with wonder. I think Naipaul’s The Enigma of Arrival will come to be seen as the definitive book of the second half of the twentieth century; in Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter, the narrative’s cadenced progression and narrator’s pain and tenderness will, I think, amplify with, and endure, the passing of time.

What author or book do you think is most underrated? And why?

Much of Indian writing outside the English language is a significant achievement and terribly ignored. In English, Christopher Isherwood is very important, but there seems to be no political reason to champion him, as is perhaps still the case with Henry Green. The novelist, poet and critic, Buddhadeva Bose. The poet Jibanananda Das. The novelist and short story writer Bibhuti Bhushan Bandhopadhyaya. The world is waiting to hear of them.

What author or book do you think is most overrated? And why?

Difficult to single out overrated writers when the contemporary system of valuation is dependent on incantation – that is, bringing excellence into existence not by arguing for it or describing its qualities, but simply celebrating it.

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