By Farouk Gulsara
Malaysia National Day Special
Like the Sword of Damocles, his domestic troubles hung over his head. There was nothing much he could do about it. It had gone on too long, too deep. He just had to live with it and move around it. He could not give up everything. There was a nagging heaviness in his temples. He knew things were going to take a nasty turn and it might get worse. He had created some arbitrary goals to improve his life, but this one had crashed it all. But still, life had to continue. As they say in showbiz, the show must go on.
He knew it was a bad idea. With all these problems plaguing him, he thought it was inappropriate for him to participate in this event. But then, it was also a lifetime achievement — a success hailed by his kinsmen as the epitome of his checkered life. Akin to a water lily, growing wild amongst the filth of marsh, stench and reptiles infested wetland to glorify the lotus feet of Buddha, it was an achievement enviable to some but yearned by all and privileged to only a few!
The problem, as he understood, was not something that developed overnight. Like a crystal, the lattice had developed over the years slowly but surely to its full wrathful glory. How could he be so dumb? Or was it beyond his control and was decided by the constellations and the genetic predisposition? Read more
By Jyoti Singh
As a child, I used to think that America and England were the same. Later I learnt that America was a bigger and more relaxed version of England. Then one day I found out that Americans were in fact prudes – like Indians! I had to unlearn that wearing undergarments in public and holding sacrosanct views on sex and marriage were not mutually exclusive. (As a child, marriage as a concept had seemed so Indian to me that I thought it was invented by Indians.) Soon I knew I was saying America/ England and thinking France. Referring to a continent (Africa) as a country is ignorance, but calling a country America, which is not one but two continents combined, is exactly the same. USA became America when it became great. Now Trump wants to make it great again. But then Michelle Obama came out and said that it’s the greatest. So maybe Trump should rethink his words.
I migrated to the USA four months ago. Trump had already happened, and Brexit was waiting to happen. Major cries on both fronts, even if reductionist, blamed the outsider for the disappointments of the Anglo-Saxon population. It’s a weird time to be migrating anywhere, not just the hottest migrant destinations. Nationalism is being hijacked by the oldest scam of “us” versus “them”, in a domino effect, across continents. It seems to me that the more the world interacts, the more we contract one another’s diseases, which, interestingly, has given rise to the prejudice paranoia. And then we have people who live off stoking it.
by Felicia Low-Jimenez, Interviews Editor, Kitaab
The first time I read a story written by Zen Cho was in LONTAR #1: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction. The piece was titled Love in the Time of Utopia and was set in a possible future-Kuala Lumpur. I was immediately intrigued and wanted more. The second time I came across Cho’s name was when I read about a new collection of short stories, Spirits Abroad, which was going to be published by Fixi Novo, an award-winning Malaysian publisher well-known for putting out edgy, controversial titles by local authors. I was intensely curious to find out more because science fiction and fantasy writers hailing from Southeast Asia are relatively rare compared to those from the west—at least those writing and publishing in English. The third time I heard Cho’s name was when I learned that she had been picked up by major publishing houses (Ace Books in the U.S. and Pan Macmillan in the UK) for a new fantasy trilogy set in Victorian London. The more of her stories I read, the more I realized that Cho is an immensely imaginative writer who is able to infuse a vulnerable humanity into the mythological creatures that she writes about, and at the same time, as many great speculative fiction writers do, comment on the society in which she lives in—regardless of where she might be.
You primarily write speculative fiction. Is there a reason why you gravitate towards these particular genres?
I enjoy science fiction and fantasy on a few different levels–I like the element of strangeness; I get a kick out of dragons and spaceships; and I like playing with the tropes. They’re hooks you can hang a story on, and then you wander off and explore a bunch of other things at the same time. I don’t really like stories that are only about one thing, which is what contemporary non-genre fiction often feel like to me. Read more
India had encroached on the edge of Morgan’s mind before now, not a place so much as an idea. It had become a tradition for Kingsmen to join the Indian Civil Service and many people he knew had gone out there to make their careers. It was spoken of at dinner parties, usually with extreme seriousness, as the vital cornerstone of the Empire. On the other side of the world, yet somehow part of England, it was not a place he had ever thought he might visit. Yet now, as he listened to Masood talk about his childhood, and sensed the homesickness in his voice, he began to imagine himself against the same background. Perhaps, yes, perhaps he would go there one day. Read more
Jonathan Chatwin reviews the novel in ARB
Mr Ma and Son is the first of two Lao She novels to be published in new editions by Penguin; the second, Cat Country, will be reviewed here in the future. Perhaps best known for his later novel Rickshaw Boy (1937), which found considerable success in the U.S. in a somewhat mangled 1945 translation, Lao She is one of the most important Chinese writers of the last century, referenced—with questionable veracity—as the author who would have won, had death not intervened, China’s first Nobel Prize for Literature. Mr Ma and Son, Lao’s third novel, was written during the five years Lao spent as a lecturer in Chinese at the School of Oriental and African studies in London between 1924 and 1929, and deals explicitly with the experience of life as a Chinese expatriate in the London of that era.
25 January 2013
On the second day of JLF 2013, I attended two sessions: one by Faramerz Dabhoiwala on The Origins of Sex and another by Jawed Akhtar on Bollywood and the National Narrative.
Faramerz Daboiwala on The Origins of Sex
Faramerz was in conversation with William Dalrymple. Dalrymple introduced the teacher at Oxford in most glowing terms and then took a back seat.
Faramerz made the following main points, in relation to his book, The Origins of Sex. The book was based on his PhD thesis and portrays the history of sexuality and sexual mores in the last two hundred years.
– Sexual revolution did not start in the 1960s. It started in 18th century England.