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Indian-American authors join anti-travel ban chorus

By Lalit K Jha

Washington, Feb 22 (PTI) Indian-American authors Jhumpa Lahiri and Anish Kapoor joined scores of other writers to oppose the controversial travel ban by US President Donald Trump, asking him to “rescind” his last months executive order.

“In barring people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the US for 90 days, barring all refugees from entering the country for 120 days, and blocking migration from Syria indefinitely, your January Executive Order caused the chaos and hardship of families divided, lives disrupted, and law-abiding faced with handcuffs, detention, and deportation,” about 70 eminent American writers and artists wrote to Trump.

They called on the US President to “rescind” his executive order of January 27, 2017, and refrain from introducing any alternative measure that similarly impairs freedom of movement and the global exchange of arts and ideas.

In doing so, the executive order also hindered the free flow of artists and thinkers ­ and did so at a time when vibrant, open intercultural dialogue is indispensable in the fight against terror and oppression, the writers and artists said in a letter dated February 21. Read more

Source: India Today


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Why Jhumpa Lahiri writing on book jackets is bad news for the writer and the reader

By Utpal Kumar

clothingJhumpa Lahiri’s latest book, The Clothing of Books, is all about book covers. Advocating what she calls “the naked book”, the Pulitzer winner emphasises that “the dressed book no longer belongs to me”.

She writes, “Today the relationship between the reader and book is far more mediated, with a dozen people buzzing around. We are never alone together, the text and I. I miss the silence, the mystery of the naked book: solitary, without support.”

A closer look shows the preference for a naked book also marks the transition of the author.

Lahiri thinks she isn’t just another writer now. She seems to have graduated to the league of extraordinary authors who doesn’t need any introduction. The very things that would fascinate a budding writer now, annoy her boundless. Read more

Source: DailyO


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Judging a cover by its text

By Mini Kapoor

Jhumpa Lahiri explains why the first time she sees a cover for her books is always upsetting

It never fails to shock or thrill me when I see a new, re-jacketed edition of a favourite book. And in this age of rapid re-jacketing, with publishers more keenly aware of the power of cover design to attract the reader to a book and perhaps away from its e-book variant, it’s a trick that keeps giving. Chancing upon a new cover for a much-read book in a bookshop or a library will stop me in my tracks to at least browse for a few minutes, making fresh acquaintance with a familiar text. Sometimes it’ll invite a deeper, even different reading of the book; at other times it’ll disorient me enough to go right back to the original edition; and, of course, most times it will be just a few minutes meditatively spent but without changing my longer engagement with the book. All told, it’s yet another nudge to consider a little appreciated aspect of the reading experience, the book cover. Read more

Source: The Hindu


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Penguin celebrates its 30th year of publishing in India

Leading publisher Penguin completes 30 years in India and to commemorate its journey, Penguin said it will unveil ‘Penguin30’, a selection of India’s most brilliant and visionary writing in the English language published over the years.

penguin

Some of the thirty books include timeless classics like Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhavam and Nehru’s An Autobiography as well as much-loved fiction like Vikram Seth’s The Golden Gate, Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies and Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth among others. “The beauty of these titles lie not just in the text but the distinctive cover design done up in a sumptuous colour palette to brighten up any bookshelf, and which will be a delight to possess and recommend,” the press note said.

Started in 1985, Penguin is currently the largest English language trade publisher in the subcontinent. It ban publishing in 1987 with the first six books. The company publishes over 250 new titles every year and has an active backlist of 3000 titles.

The anniversary festivities will kick-start at the Jaipur Literature Festival with the Keep Reading campaign – an idea to promote reading anywhere, anytime, and provide a variety of reading content across genres to reading enthusiasts. Being introduced in India as part of Penguin’s Keep Reading initiative, the Pop-up Cart will be a hub of 30th anniversary activities throughout the year, starting with the Jaipur Literature Festival. The 30th anniversary logo will be unveiled at the festival.

The publisher will launch a whole new range of Penguin collectibles and quirky merchandise – bookends, tea coasters, magnets, passport holders, mugs, and bags among others.

To keep updated on the year-long events visit: www.penguin30.com

 


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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Shazia Omar

By Farah Ghuznavi

shazia

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

Writing is my favourite form of self-torture.  Playing with words is pleasurable, fantasizing plotlines from foreplay to climax is enjoyable, but then… getting the words to convey the plot, now there’s the hair-yanking, teeth-grinding, eye-gouging challenge.  Still, the creative process is exhilarating, and in the end it allows me to share thoughts and ideas with others.

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

I have published two books this summer with Bloomsbury India. Dark Diamond is a historical fantasy set in 1685 about the Mughal Viceroy of Bengal, Subedar Shayista Khan, who built the Lal Bagh Fort.  I was looking for a time in history that Bengalis could be proud of and a hero who could inspire our youth.  I wanted to look beyond 1971, to remind our youth of our rich, secular, pluralistic past. On another note, I wanted to portray the outer, inner and secret meanings of Islam that come under threat when radical power structures are in place.

Intentional Smile: A Girl’s Guide to Positive Living is a mind, body, spirit book about staying happy and healthy.  It is based on my experience as a yoga instructor and a social psychologist, and a working mother who has struggled with chronic depression.  My co-author, Merrill Khan, is a school counsellor and a life coach.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

In my first novel, Like a Diamond in the Sky, my protagonist was a young junkie who loved rock ‘n roll. Inspired by the Beatniks and folk musicians of America, I tried to simplify and pare down my sentences and paragraphs as much as possible.

The protagonist of Dark Diamond, on the other hand, is a Sufi warrior and swashbuckling hero.  I allowed my writing to be inspired by Sufi poets, but also kept characters like Indiana Jones in mind.

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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Jessica Faleiro

By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

jessica-faleiro-pix

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!

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In Altre Parole: Kitaab Review of Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words

If Jhumpa Lahiri had not been so celebrated already as a fiction writer par excellence, this book from her would be a decent offering in English and perhaps a remarkable one written in Italian by a non-native speaker of the language. 

by Chandra Ganguly

JhumpaEverything in the book In Other Words written by Jhumpa Lahiri is written in Italian, with translations in English on the adjacent page, by Ann Goldstein. And even before I open the book, I am intrigued. I am about to read Jhumpa Lahiri in translation. How much would be lost in translation? And how much transmitted? And why was the title of the book not in Italian? The more I thought about it, the more it troubled me, why would a book in Italian not have the title in Italian? The answer is perhaps that the book was imagined as a translation of her from Italian into English versus simply a work in Italian that would and could stand on its own.

The tale of alienation and immigration, of loss and search for identity, voice and place in a new world is a story every person living in exile can identify with. Characters in all of Jhumpa Lahiri’s previous works have inhabited that space. And what takes a moment to absorb when reading this book is that this is Lahiri at her most honest and vulnerable. This is a first hand account of immigration, these are confessions, thoughts, ruminations written in her diary, later translated and formulated into a book by her publishers. I am both enchanted and a little embarrassed by the intimacy of her revelations, by her raw appeal for acceptance, “I ask of Italian, with a slight impatience: Permesso? May I? (p.17)…. Relationship takes place in exile…. In a state of separation… I have no friends in Rome. (p.35) I trade certainty for uncertainty. (p.37) My sole intention, along with a blind but sincere faith, is to be understood, and to understand myself. (p.59) Those who don’t belong to any specific place can’t, in fact, return anywhere.” (p.133) Continue reading


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Jhumpa Lahiri: ‘I am, in Italian, a tougher, freer writer’

The author’s new book, written in Italian and accompanied by English translation, is the result of an infatuation with Italy that began with her first visit in 1994. Here, the Pulitzer winner recounts her journey towards fluency, and answers our Q&A: The Guardian

Jhumpa“Returning to America, I want to go on speaking Italian. But with whom? I know some people in New York who speak it perfectly. I’m embarrassed to talk to them. I need someone with whom I can struggle and fail.

One day, I go to the Casa Italiana at New York University to interview a famous Roman writer, a woman, who has won the Strega prize. I am in an overcrowded room, where everyone but me speaks an impeccable Italian. The director of the institute greets me. I tell him I would have liked to do the interview in Italian. That I studied the language years ago but I can’t speak well.

“Need practising,” I say. “You need practice,” he answers kindly.

In 2004, my husband gives me something. A piece of paper torn from a notice that he happened to see in our neighbourhood, in Brooklyn. On it is written “Imparare l’italiano”—“Learn Italian.” I consider it a sign. I call the number, make an appointment. A likable, energetic woman, also from Milan, arrives at my house. She teaches in a private school, she lives in the suburbs. She asks me why I want to learn the language. I explain that I’m going to Rome in the summer to take part in another literary festival. It seems like a reasonable motivation. I don’t reveal that Italian is an infatuation. That I cherish a hope – in fact a dream – of knowing it well. I don’t tell her that I am tortured, that I feel incomplete. As if Italian were a book that, no matter how hard I work, I can’t write.”

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How Jhumpa Lahiri Learned to Write Again

Jhumpa Lahiri decided to learn Italian. Then she moved to Rome and stopped writing in English altogether. Her new memoir, ‘In Other Words,’ is an account of that linguistic pilgrimage—and her newfound freedom: WSJ

JhumpaAs a child, I thought nostalgia was—you didn’t want to go near that stuff because that’s what my mom had. She thought about Calcutta all the time. She wanted to go back there. She wanted everything to remind her of Calcutta. Coming back from Italy, I recognized those behaviors. Hearing someone speak Italian on the street and almost starting to cry, going up to them and saying, “Can I please just talk to you?” These kind of desperate behaviors. But I think what makes my case interesting, or peculiar, is that of course all of this is a fiction. All of this is constructed. My nostalgia for Rome, my attachment to the language, all of it is something that I created, I have willfully created, unlike my mother’s experience. I come from a family where my father actively left his homeland and had his experience, my mother passively followed and had her experience, I actively left the world that was familiar to me, the United States, I went away. I found something I had been looking for my whole life, which was happiness, you know? And then I came back here, and I’m grieving because I don’t have that same happiness here. I wasn’t able to feel that happiness here, the freedom to feel happy. And so strangely the point of all this is that even though the nostalgia has been crushing at times in the past three months, I’m strangely proud of it. Because the fact of having it means I belong somewhere.

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