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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Isa Kamari

By Aminah Sheikh

isa kamari

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

I write when I am disturbed by issues or ideas. I then do a bit of research on the subject matter. I begin to write if I have a sense of resolution and only if I can offer windows for readers to ponder upon the issues and form their own thoughts or opinions on them. In that sense I write to grow and validate my own existence.

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

In my next novel I am exploring the need for religion to grow naturally with cultural practices. This is to ensure that the practice of religion is relevant, meaningful and not alienated from the lives of the adherents. Much of what we see today is the opposite. Religion is very much an imposition or a borrowed phenomenon imported from peoples of different cultural backgrounds. This has resulted in unnecessary tension and alienation.

Describe your writing aesthetic. 

I try to write simply, yet offer layers of interpretation on my work.

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The magic of allegory

By Shafey Kidwai

Isa Kamari’s “Tweet” is a modern-day fable that juxtaposes human condition with natural environment

tweet-jkt

Does the much-needed sense of contentment elude zillions of children who seek uninterrupted amusement through mobile and internet? Does prattling of birds soothe their inflamed nerves or does it symbolise ungainliness of their tweeter ? Do they now look for super birds when they find themselves surrounded by birds? Is it the time to ponder over ‘tweet’ instead of concentrating ‘twitter’ for conveying one’s feelings instantly? Should we look beyond twitter that has become the muse of many artists of our time? These unsettling questions, coupled with a deep sense of bewilderment and dislocation that breathless ubiquitous techno-culture produced, are creatively explored by an eminent Singaporean writer Isa Kamari in his recently published novel “Tweet”.

It is his first novel in English though he has published nine novels, two collection of poems, a collection of short stories and a number of theatre scripts in Malay. Read more

Source: The Hindu


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Author Isa Kamari on his novella Tweet

Author Isa Kamari discusses his novella Tweet with Michelle Martin at 938LIVE.

Have a listen!

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About the Book:

Published by Kitaab International, Tweet is Cultural Medallion winner Isa Kamari’s new novella. Tweet, is a high-quality work of imaginative fiction that marries traditional storytelling with a modern theme. The novel is set in Singapore’s bird park, an international tourist destination and an iconic bird sanctuary. Isa Kamari, through a dialogue between a Singaporean grandfather and his grandchild, ponders over the stress and demands of our modern human existence. Through the grandchild’s innocent questions, the author exposes us to the frailties of our modern life. Intermixed in the narrative is the famous fable of Simurg, the legendary bird, that some of the birds of the bird park are deliriously desirous of meeting. They embark upon a journey that brings them face-to-face with a reality that they had not imagined even in their dreams. In his first ever English language work, Isa Kamari shows us a new facet of his storytelling abilities, which is part philosophical and part imaginative.

About the Author:

Isa Kamari has written in Malay, 9 novels, 2 collections of poetry, a collection of short stories, a book of essays on Singapore Malay poetry, a collection of theatre scripts and lyrics of 2 song albums. His novels have been translated into English, Turkish, Urdu, Indonesian and Mandarin. His collections of essays and selected poems have been translated into English. Isa was conferred the S.E.A Write Award in 2006, Singapore Cultural Medallion in 2007 and the Anugerah Tun Seri Lanang in 2009.

To Buy: Tweet

 


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New Release: Tweet by Isa Kamari

tweet-jkt

Published by Kitaab International, Tweet is Cultural Medallion winner Isa Kamari’s new novella. Tweet, is a high-quality work of imaginative fiction that marries traditional storytelling with a modern theme. The novel is set in Singapore’s bird park, an international tourist destination and an iconic bird sanctuary. Isa Kamari, through a dialogue between a Singaporean grandfather and his grandchild, ponders over the stress and demands of our modern human existence. Through the grandchild’s innocent questions, the author exposes us to the frailties of our modern life. Intermixed in the narrative is the famous fable of Simurg, the legendary bird, that some of the birds of the bird park are deliriously desirous of meeting. They embark upon a journey that brings them face-to-face with a reality that they had not imagined even in their dreams. In his first ever English language work, Isa Kamari shows us a new facet of his storytelling abilities, which is part philosophical and part imaginative.

About the author: 

Isa Kamari has written in Malay, 9 novels, 2 collections of poetry, a collection of short stories, a book of essays on Singapore Malay poetry, a collection of theatre scripts and lyrics of 2 song albums. His novels have been translated into English, Turkish, Urdu, Indonesian and Mandarin. His collections of essays and selected poems have been translated into English. Isa was conferred the S.E.A Write Award in 2006, Singapore Cultural Medallion in 2007 and the Anugerah Tun Seri Lanang in 2009.

To buy: Tweet 

 


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Seemanchal International Literary Festival- Taking Literature to the Grassroot India

Source: Kractivist.org

By Rahman Abbas

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Zafar Anjum, PN Balji, Jayanthi Sankar, Debanjan Chakraborty and Isa Kamari

I was surprised when Singapore based English author and publisher Zafar Anjum Emailed me and invited to attend Seemanchal International literary festival on 17-19 November in Kishanganj, Bihar. I kept thinking for hours that how this festival would take shape in one of the most backward regions of our country. On the other hand I was happy over the idea that festival of literature was shifting from superficial glare of metros and lights of hotels to rural India and amid people devoid of cultural activities.

On 16th November, I board flight from Mumbai to Delhi. At Delhi airport waiting for next flight for Bagdogra I met well known Urdu critic Shafey Kidwai and literary critic Nazia Anjum who is also English lecturer at AMU. We shared coffee and talked about festival and Kishanganj. Shafey was worried if there would be any audience, especially to attend sessions about gender discriminations and role of literature in contemporary society on which various foreign authors had to speak.  When we reached Bagdogra airport (West Bengal) we met English author and poet Abha Ayengar, senior journalist Ziya-us-Salam (The Hindu). From West Bengal to Kishanganj our journey was of two hours.  During the journey we saw beautiful tea gardens and green pastures. When Bihar approached greenery turned into dust and road into dilapidated state. We were chatting about festival and thinking what was there in store for next morning.

The venue was famous’ Insan school’ ground and stage was set for two days festival. We were around 20 authors mainly of English, Hindi, Urdu and Malay languages from India, Singapore and UK. Read more


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Kitaab launches ‘Kafka in Ayodhya’ and ‘Loss and Laws’ at Singapore Writers Festival 2015

Book launch

The titles were unveiled by renowned Singaporean writers Suchen Christine Lim and Isa Kamari.

KafkaFC

Singapore-based independent publishing company Kitaab launched two of its latest titles at the Singapore Writers Festival on Saturday, 7 November 2015.

The newly released titles were ‘Loss and Laws and Other Tamil Short Stories’ by Jayanthi Sankar & Usha Nagasamy (translator) and ‘Kafka in Ayodhya and Other Short Stories’ by Zafar Anjum.

The titles were unveiled by renowned Singaporean writers Suchen Christine Lim and Isa Kamari. Appreciating Kitaab’s efforts at translation, Suchen said that Kitaab was doing a great job of connecting Asian writers worldwide. She is on the advisory board of Kitaab.

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Anjum, who is also the publisher and editor-in-chief of Kitaab, has dedicated his book to “the wounded ‘Idea of India’”.

“My dedication is in solidarity with the writers, filmmakers and intellectuals of India who are protesting against the rising tide of intolerance in India,” Anjum said. “I was recently traveling in India, and across cities, I found people disturbed over elements that threatened the harmony of the country. The good news is that people of India are fighting back such elements and they will not allow the secular character of the country to be changed.”

Anjum is the author of many best-sellers such as The Resurgence of Satyam, Iqbal: The Life of a Poet, Philosopher and Politician, and more recently, Startup Capitals: Discovering the Global Hotspots of Innovation. His earlier collection of short stories, The Singapore Decalogue, was supported by the National Arts Council of Singapore with an Arts Creation Fund grant.

‘In the title story, Kafka in Ayodhya, the legendary German language writer who was born in Prague, travels to Ayodhya at a time when the country was tense and waited for the Supreme Court Judgement on the Babri Masjid-Ramjanambhoomi dispute with bated breath,” Anjum said. “It is a surreal story with a comic touch but it has a serious message of peace in it. The collection has eight stories, some real and some surreal, set in either India or Singapore.”

Sankar, who is a journalist on a local Tamil paper in Singapore, said that ‘Loss and Laws and other Tamil Short Stories’ is based on the observations and experiences of the author’s 26 years of life spent in fast-changing Singapore. The author has been writing for 20 years. There are 17 short stories in this collection–all chosen from the 99 short stories written by the author over a period of 17 years. The title story, Loss and Laws, is based on the experience of a domestic worker from India who comes to Singapore, and unknowingly, becomes the victim of the strict laws of Singapore. Sankar also said that one of the stories in collection, titled ‘The Teahouse’, is based on the experiences of a Chinese old man in Yishun who would share tales with the author.

Usha Nagasamy, a Further Education college lecturer who lives in London, could not attend the launch.

 

 

 


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Eye/Feel/Write About Art and Language: The Ekphrastic Experiment

EFW 2015 Cover 18 Aug 2015 Front OnlyWhat happens when art meets literature? At the Singapore Writers Festival, Eye/Feel/Write will launch its second installment, with the publication of a beautiful anthology, titled “Eye/Feel/Write: Experiments in Ekphrasis”, as well as curated walking tours at The National Gallery.

A special commission by the National Arts Council, Eye/Feel/Write is a two-year ekphrastic project that has invited distinguished writers in Singapore to pen texts inspired by artworks exhibited at museums here. In the first year, ten writers — Alvin Pang, Edwin Thumboo, Isa Kamari, Jollin Tan, Joshua Ip, Ovidia Yu, Ramanathan Vairavan, Robin Hemley, Tan Chee Lay, and Yeow Kai Chai — created texts that dialogued with artworks at Singapore Art Museum’s Medium at Large exhibit. Ten poems were printed on broadsides as limited edition collectibles, housed in blank journals with an invitation to readers to engage in their own ekphrastic experiments.

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Kitaab kicks off its Asian Literature in Translation Project with Isa Kamari’s seminal novel, “Intercession”

IntercessionOne of the aims of Kitaab is to celebrate Asian writing through translations, and make great literature available in various Asian languages.

Kitaab made its foray into publishing with a book of Urdu poetry, translated into English. Urdu Poetry—An Introduction was published in 2013 and was released at the Singapore Writers Festival in the same year.

“We are kicking off Kitaab’s Asian Literature in Translation Project with Isa Kamari’s seminal novel, Intercession,” said Zafar Anjum, founder-editor of Singapore-based publishing company, Kitaab. The novel was published in Malay as “Tawassul”.

Kitaab will get the novel translated into Urdu and Hindi languages and will get it published.

Singaporean writer Isa Kamari is a Cultural Medallion winner (2007) and has written nine novels in Malay: Satu Bumi, Kiswah, Tawassul, Menara, Atas Nama Cinta, Memeluk Gerhana, Rawa, Duka Tuan Bertakhta and Selendang Sukma. Seven were translated into English: One Earth (Satu Bumi), Intercession (Tawassul), Nadra (Atas Nama Cinta), Rawa (Rawa), A Song of the Wind (Memeluk Gerhana), 1819 (Duka Tuan Bertakhta) and The Tower (Menara). He has also published two collections of poems, Sumur Usia and Munajat Sukma, a collection of short stories, Sketsa Minda and a collection of theatre scripts, Pintu. Isa has also been honoured with  the S.E.A. Write Award (2006) and the Anugerah Tun Seri Lanang (2009).

“The publication of Tawassul (Intercession) in Urdu and Hindi is indeed a breakthrough after 13 years of its first publication,” said Kamari. “I would like to thank Kitaab for this wonderful opportunity to present it to an audience that it deserves and beyond. It is timely and crucial. You have to read it to understand why.” Continue reading


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Essay: The Malay Problem – The Myth of the Lazy Native Re-Visited

 

By Isa Kamari

  1. The Myth of the Lazy Native

Isa KamariIn 1966, the sociologist and researcher Syed Hussein Alatas began pondering the question of why Western colonialists had, for four centuries, considered the natives of Maritime Southeast Asia to be generally lazy. His research eventually produced The Myth of the Lazy Native, a book which was published in 1977. In the book, he cited one instance of a “denigrating” view of the natives, when a German scientist suggested that the Filipinos made their oars from bamboo so they could rest more frequently: “If they happen to break, so much the better, for the fatiguing labour of rowing must necessarily be suspended till they are mended again.” Syed Hussein criticised such beliefs in the book as ranging “from vulgar fantasy and untruth to refined scholarship.” He also asserted that “[t]he image of the indolent, dull, backward and treacherous native has changed into that of a dependent one requiring assistance to climb the ladder of progress”.

Syed Hussein wrote and published another book in 1971, Thomas Stamford Raffles, 1781-1826: schemer or reformer?. It is an account of Raffles’ political philosophy and its relation to the massacre of Palembang, the Banjarmasin affair, and some of his views and legislations, during his colonial career in Java, Sumatra, and Singapore.

Let us see whether such notion or image of Malays persists in post-colonial Singapore and whether Raffles’ scheming and colonial policies have planted and entrenched the myth in the lives of the Singapore Malays till today.

  1. The Malay Problem – Definition

At this juncture, I would like to introduce to you the phenomenon of the ‘Malay Problem’.

Malays who are a minority in Singapore poses a strong challenge to the Singapore Government. It is a fact that in the development of Singapore history, Malays are relatively backward in the economic, social and political spheres. As an under-privileged lot in a country dominated by the majority Chinese who are aggressive in the economic field and who are agile and resilient in the modernization process, the presence of Malays poses complex challenges and instil tension in inter-racial relations (Betts, 1975). This phenomenon has been rightly or wrongly called the ‘Malay Problem.’ Continue reading