The Curse: Stories by Salma ( Translated by N. Kalyan Raman)
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
Year of publication: 2020 / October
Price: INR 350
In The Curse, acclaimed author and poet Salma blasts through the artifice of genre an language to reveal the messy, violent, vulnerable and sometimes beautiful realities of being a woman in deeply patriarchal societies. Loosely rooted in the rural Muslim communities of Tamil Nadu, these stories shine a light on the complex dramas governing the daily lives of most women moving through the world.
In the title story, a young spinster is caught between her desire for marriage and a dark family history that haunts her like a curse. In ‘Toilets’, a woman recounts in stunning, visceral detail how access to the most basic human space has been regulated by trauma, shame and the male gaze. In ‘The Orbit of Confusion’, a daughter writes a heartbreaking letter, struggling to come to terms with her anger and love for the woman who raised her. In these and five other emotionally charged stories that are at times humorous, even spooky, Salma crafts exquisite and contradictory inner worlds like Alice Munro with the playfulness and spirit of Ismat Chughtai—in a voice that is entirely her own. Available together for the first time in English—in a lively, nimble translation by Kalyan Raman—these stories will grab you by the throat and leave you fundamentally changed.
Rituparna Mahapatra in conversation with Avni Doshi talking about her journey, the writing process and the future plans.
The first sentence came to me as a revelation, within it was the shape of the whole story. I wanted to begin with something powerful!
Avni Doshi, writer of Indian Origin, longlisted for Booker 2020.
Not many can claim their debut novels to make it to the list of the World’s most prestigious literary awards. Dubai based Indian novelist Avni Doshi has done that; her debut novel ‘Burnt Sugar’ has been long-listed for the 2020 Booker prize. The novel made it to the ‘Booker Dozen’ after judges assessed 162 novels, published in the UK or Ireland between October2019 and September 2020.
‘Burnt Sugar’ was earlier released in India under the title ‘Girl in White Cotton‘ to critical acclaim. The judges at the Booker panel called it an “‘utterly compelling read’ that examines a complex and unusual mother- daughter relationship with honest , unflinching realism” it is “emotionally wrenching but also cathartic, written with poignancy and memorability”.
Rakhi Dalal observesThe Machine is Learning by Tanuj Solanki, which poses the question of human redundancy as AI/ML make headway in the techno savvy Capitalist world. (Published by MacMillan, 2020)
Tanuj Solanki’s first book Neon Noon was shortlisted for Tata Literature Live! First Book Award. For his second book Diwali in Muzaffarnagar, he was awarded the Sahitya Academy Yuva Puraskar in 2019. The Machine is Learning is Solanki’s third book.
In the third chapter of the novel, the narrator recalls the famous game of Go, between Lee Sedol and Google Deepmind AI’s AlphaGo, where in the five match series AlphaGo had defeated Sedol, one of the best Go players of all time, by 4-1. He remembers how the IT buzzwords, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) were began to be used aggressively by IT sellers and how Lee Sedol’s loss was employed by the so called thought leaders to create hype by declaring the advent of a final Industrial Revolution where machines would become so smart that they would replace humans.
A preview of Osman Haneef’sdebut novel,Blasphemy – The Trial of Danesh Masih, where a Christian boy in Pakistan is accused of blasphemy―a crime punishable by death. (Published by Readomania, April 2020)
‘So, why is Islam the best religion?’ Sir Amjad, the substitute teacher, asked. The seven- and eight-year olds relaxed. They knew the answer because Mrs. Bukhari had taught them the answer. Mureed, a young boy who was keen to impress, raised his hand and was promptly called on.
Mureed stood up and gave the rote-learned answer that had been drilled into each of them. ‘It is because the Prophet was illiterate and uneducated yet the recitations of the Koran are more poetic and more beautiful than even Shakespeare! How could the Prophet, an uneducated man, come up with such beautiful poetry all by himself?’ the eight-year-old asked, clenching his sweaty palms. Once Mureed had finished his explanation, Sir Amjad, with a calm unchanging expression, motioned for the boy to sit down.
Gone Away: An Indian Journal by Dom Moraes (with an introduction by Jerry Pinto)
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
Year of publication: 2020
Price: INR 294 (E-book)
One of the most unconventional travelogues ever written, Gone Away covers three months of Dom Moraes’ life spent in the subcontinent at the time of the Chinese incursions on the Tibetan border in 1959. In that short time, a remarkable number of memorable things happened to him, some of them the sort of fantastic situations that could only enmesh a poet, perhaps only a young poet—a visit to a speak-easy in Bombay; an interview with Nehru and an hour spent closeted with the Dalai Lama in Delhi; and a meeting with the great Nepalese poet, Devkota, whom he found already laid out to die by the side of the holy river Basumati. After a short stay in Calcutta, where he tried, with limited success, to investigate the lives of prostitutes, he went up to Sikkim, the north-eastern border state into which no visiting writer had been allowed for almost a year.
Vibrant and Dusty- A Book Review of Bhaunri: A Novel and Daura: Excerpts from the Confidential Report on the Collector of a district in Rajasthan by Pallavi Narayan
The covers of Bhaunri and Daura, with the silhouette of a tribal girl on the former and a tree with roots and flowering branches on the latter, are inviting. The earthy colours of claret and mustard on both bring to mind the rolling deserts of Rajasthan, which is where the narratives are based. Indeed, the descriptions of rural living are minute and bring the reader right into the homes of the characters in Bhaunri, and into the tehsildar’s bungalow in Daura. While the novels are not intertwined, they speak to each other, taking the reader through the timeless vistas of Rajasthan and then plunging into a roiling mass of emotions.
Flashes of iridescent colour, the swish of lehengas, the sweat of day-to-day living, the thirst that the desert induces in the subconscious take due precedence in the rendering of the characters. The portrayal of the landscapes is bound into quiet, controlled prose. Mystical experiences are brought alive by a lone flute amongst the dunes swaying with camels in its sway; a smattering of kohl that transforms beckoning eyes into that of a jadugarni, a female magician. Seemingly everyday occurrences are granted significance in the wee hours between day and night. The fineness of the prose is undercut by the intensity that the female protagonists bring to the novels.
Long years ago, when I began working in publishing, it was an almost entirely male world. Women were to be found in some publishing houses, but mainly in administrative and secretarial positions. The bosses were all men – at least in English language publishing in India – and so were the editors. There was something about their anatomy that seemed to qualify them more to work in the business of creating and disseminating knowledge – an activity that is generally governed by the brain, something that lies between the ears (and not the legs) and looks the same no matter what sort of bodily shell it’s placed in.
As women, we – the handful of us who joined the industry at that time and who slowly made our way to becoming editors – knew well we would never rise to the top of our professions. My bosses at the Oxford University Press were concerned that I was a woman: “We’ve never employed a woman in an executive position,” they told me. “They get married and go away.” They made it sound like a crime – one, clearly, that the men never had to answer for.
The Oxford University Press, where I began work, was filled with kind and caring men: Charles Lewis, Santosh Mukherjee, Ravi Dayal, Adil Tyabji, Adrian Bullock, Dipen Mitra. Yet none of them ever had to answer to the kind of questions posed to me. None of them needed to worry about how they would get home at night if they had to work late. None of them needed to be concerned about the safety of seedy hotel rooms when they travelled on business. None of them had to defend themselves against leering printers who wanted to take you out to coffee when all you wanted was to get a book printed. Not surprising then that their paths to the top were smooth, whereas ours were non-existent.
Controversial politicians. Celebrity cricket players. Spiritual gurus. India’s publishing industry, like the country’s broader economic story, has a lot to work with.
So it’s perhaps no surprise India’s GDP growth of 7.1 percent — the fastest among major economies — is fueling a boom in book sales. Indian publishing successes, in return, can help provide insights into the country’s growth and consumer confidence. It is a land where the travails of a saucy, soon-to-be-married Goldman Sachs Group Inc banker — in Chetan Bhagat’s fictional One Indian Girl — is a runaway best-seller.
Nielsen estimates the sector is now worth $6.76 billion. Led by educational books, the sector is set to grow at an average compound annual growth rate of 19.3 percent until 2020. That compares to compounded growth of less than 2 percent for global book publishing over the next five years, according to PwC. Read more
The last few years have witnessed a deluge of mass market writers in India: Ravinder Singh, Durjoy Datta, Sudeep Nagarkar and more recently, Savi Sharma and Ajay K Pandey. While many people attribute this trend to the unprecedented success of Chetan Bhagat’s debut novel Five Point Someone, others say that it is because of the country’s ever expanding young, aspiring reader base, which has an insatiable appetite for these light, undemanding reads.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that this brand of writing has completely changed the different aspects of publishing, be it commissioning, retail or marketing. Editors no longer acquire books in isolation or on the basis of their individual tastes, but in close consultation with a sales team.
“Until Neilsen arrived in India, very few people were aware of the mass market phenomenon that was going on. The communication channels between sales and editorial were also not that great,” Sachin Garg, a bestselling writer and publisher of Grapevine books told me. In fact, distributors only started taking Grapevine seriously once their author Durjoy Datta’s book debuted at number 3 on the Neilsen Charts. ‘The sales figure of a book started being used as a metric for acquisitions and books were acquired for reasons other than the traditional reason of it being a well told story from the editor’s POV,’ says Anish Chandy of Juggernaut Books. Read more
India publishes approximately 90,000 books each year in 24 different languages. We have over 16,000 publishers, and are one of the top nations for English book publishing in the world. Clearly we are a nation which values and fosters a culture of reading and passing on knowledge in different domains ranging from literature, to yoga, language, education, science, fiction and many others. We are also the world’s second most populous nation with an extremely large population with disabilities, including persons with print impairments. However, the total number of books accessible to the print impaired in India is only 19,000, a fraction of what is available yearly to the general public. How is it that despite our prowess in publishing and technology, persons with print impairments in India remain deprived of access to books and other forms of information which are key to an inclusive and fulfilling life?
Before going further into this question, let us understand the term “print disability”. Very broadly, print-impaired persons are those who cannot access printed material due to some form of disability, such as blindness or low vision, dyslexia, autism etc. For these persons to be able to read, the material needs to be converted into some other format such as Braille or accessible electronic formats which can be read using some assistive device like a screen reader or e-book reader, fitted in a laptop, mobile or stand alone device. For assistive technology to be able to read the content, it needs to conform to universal standards such as Unicode for Indic font or EPUB 3.0. Read more