… word ‘Russia’ is enough to make some Bengalis teary-eyed. They made me recite my poems at great length in Russian, although they didn’t understand a word. In return some of the men recited Bengali poems. I was surprised to learn that the plant boss had given permission for this exchange and that the whole factory had come to a halt for the duration. I live in Boston where poetry is an obscure priestly pursuit. I thought to myself, Calcutta’s air is thick with a million fumes but here a poet can breathe easy. Perhaps I’d been affected by Bengali sentimentality, after all I’m Russian.
After that first visit I returned several times. I’ve travelled in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra and stayed in ashrams in Delhi, Benares, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Dehra Doon, and rural Bengal. A pilgrim’s progress and a poet’s progress. I learned Urdu and Hindi to the point of some fluency. When I visit India, which isn’t as often as I’d like, I use Calcutta as my base and branch out from there to Delhi, Bombay, Madras.
I met Xavier and Doss toward the end of my first visit when I attended the poetry conference. I had done some translation, Pushkin, Mandelshtam, Brodsky. When Xavier asked if I could contribute to the anthology I thought he wanted my translations from the Russian. But why would he want Russians in an anthology of Indian poetry? When I realized what he was getting at I didn’t agree right away. I didn’t know if my Urdu was good enough to translate poetry into English. Of course that was the point. Doss and Xavier came up with the idea of anthologizing the kind of poets who had never before been anthologized, outliers, rebels, hermits, dangerous faces unwelcome in polite society. They found poets no one had ever heard of, or had heard of once and quickly forgotten, or had heard of many times over a period and then never heard of again.
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
By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?
To do otherwise would be to deny an integral part of myself. I write because I must, because of my addiction to the feel of an ink pen between my fingers scribbling word-code onto one blank page after another. To me, writing is an aesthetic pleasure that sets every fibre of my being into vibration, when I’m actually doing it. The other reason I write is to be able to make sense of my own thoughts and feelings, and creatively express them onto the page or screen. Sometimes, just the writing process is a form of catharsis for me, even though my scribbles make no sense.
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
My last book, Afterlife: Ghost stories from Goa, published by Rupa (2012) is a novel that follows the lives of X generations within a Goan family. At a get-together to celebrate the patriarch’s 75th birthday, there is a powercut that leads organically to the family swapping ghost-stories. Through the process or sharing oral histories, the family history and some secrets are revealed. The structure became an important part of telling the story of the family; I used a frame narrative device to interlink the individual stories. It’s more of a commentary about the social mores of South Goan society, diasporic culture and religious aspects among other things. My intention was to create a story that wasn’t just about ‘ghosts’ but about the things that haunt us emotionally and psychologically.
Describe your writing aesthetic.
Excavating words to reveal complex layers of emotion. At least, that’s the aspiration!
After the success of his debut novel Narcopolis (2012), poet Jeet Thayil has turned to songwriting. A part of the Sridhar-Thayil duo, he is also cutting an album with his six-piece band called ‘Still Dirty’, which would perform at the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival 2015 on Thursday. At the sidelines of the festival, Thayil spoke exclusively with dna about life after Narcopolis and why he is putting off writing another novel.
“There is also a novel in the offing,” he said. “I’d better not talk about it. The last time I talked about it, I jinxed it a little. That’s writing. Writers tend to be a suspicious bunch. Obsession, anxieties, rituals, appalling discoveries about your worst inner recesses, hopefully, served up with black humour. The kind of humour that doctors share.”
The Hindustan Times has published a list of the greatest Indian novels ever written. The paper says, “It might feel incomplete (only books written in English or translations of works in Hindi and other regional languages figure here). It might seem biased (they’re personal picks from the best literary minds of our time). It might even appear as though we’ve missed your personal favourite (lists tend to do that). But for anyone looking to jump into the rich world of Indian writing, it’s a beautiful and imperative start. ”
A jury of eight – writers, publishers, academics and book critics – nominated 10 books each. The jury comprised of Amitava Kumar, Chiki Sarkar, David Davidar, Harish Trivedi, Jeet Thayil, Jerry Pinto, Ravi Singh and Sunil Sethi. Read more
Reticent author Cyrus Mistry on Saturday beat off stiff competition from five other writers to become the fourth winner of the $50,000 DSC prize for South Asian literature on Saturday for his book “Chronicles of a Corpse Bearer”.
The prize, is given to the best work or translations of a work on or about the South Asian region. Last year the award was won by Jeet Thayil for his debut debut novel “Narcopolis”.
Mr. Mistry was presented with the award at a ceremony at the Jaipur Literature Festival here this evening by Gloria Steinem.
“I have tried to keep myself as detached as possible with the possibility of winning this prize, so am not so enthusiastic but happy about the win,” Mr. Mistry said after receiving the award.
Other books in the running were “Anand: Book of Destruction” (Translated by Chetana Sachidanandan) “Benyamin: Goat Days” (Translated by Joseph Koyippalli), Mohsin Hamid: “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia”, “Nadeem Aslam: The Blind Man’s Garden” and Nayomi Munaweera: Island of a Thousand Mirrors.
Author Jeet Thayil says he wrote Narcopolis as a way of reclaiming Bombay’s history
Bombay. Mumbai. Bambai. City of secret yearnings, nascent dreams, timorous memory. Steeped in glamour and restless energy. Swathed in timeless magic and fairy lights. Beneath it all, her heart of darkness. Bollywood and brothels, paucity and opulence, despair and sanguinity, grime and purity—everything is allowed to exist, everyone is allowed to be and therein lies her beauty. Like a woman of the night who paints her face, sheds her skin and shrouds her soul as she flits from lover to lover, Bombay belongs to everyone because she is owned by no one at all.
Booker nominee Jeet Thayil, who has won the Sahitya Akademi and the DSC South Asian literature awards, leads the Indian race for the 2013 Commonwealth Book and Short Story Prizes.
He is among six writers from the country who figure in the shortlists announced for the awards, which no Indian have won till date.
Author Jeet Thayil has won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature-2013 for his debut novel Narcopolis based on the theme of drug addiction destroying the poor, deranged and marginalised people in Mumbai during 1970s and 80s. He was presented the coveted prize at a ceremony in the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival here on Friday.
The prize, carrying a cash award of $ 50,000, is given every year to an international author or shared with the translator for a work of fiction thematically linked to the South Asian region. Mr. Thayil is the first Indian to win the prize, running into its third year.
Narcopolis was also nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2012. Fifty-three-year-old Thayil, one of the six shortlisted authors for the DSC prize, was born in Kerala and is also known as a performance poet and musician. He earlier worked as a journalist in New York, Mumbai and Bangalore and his poetry collection, These errors are correct, was given the Sahitya Akademi award for English last year.
Indian author Jeet Thayil’s debut novel “Narcopolis” is among five other works shortlisted on Wednesday for the USD 30,000 Man Asian Literary Prize.
The five novels showcasing the diversity and depth of writing from Istanbul to Tokyo were announced in Hong Kong, listing distinctive and celebrated writers for the first time in a region-wide context.
The shortlist, which includes writers from five different countries, champions a debut novelist alongside a Nobel laureate, translated work as well as original writing in English, and includes smaller regional publishers as well as larger international houses.
The other shortlisted novels, selected from a longlist of 15, are “Between Clay and Dust” by Musharraf Ali Farooqi (Pakistan), “The Briefcase” by Hiromi Kawakami (Japan), “Silent House” by Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk (Turkey) and “The Garden of Evening Mists” by Tan Twan Eng of Malaysia.