Tag Archives: Jonathan Franzen

The Sacrifice: The Script takes a dark twist with a hooded, mysterious Shishir Sharma

By Gargi Vachaknavi

IMG_0689A private viewing of a film?

That sounds exclusive and enticing… made one feel like a star. But it was just a start — a start to showcase what a small group of talented individuals can do.

The idea for the fourteen-and-a-half-minute film brewed over a cup of coffee where writer Tanuj Khosla shared his story with actress Renita Kapoor. Kapoor said she always wanted to play a dark character and the story offered that.

Set in an indeterminate interior, in this case Kapoor’s house in Singapore, the film mapped the life of a stand-up comedian couple in India (and there is no way to figure out where the locale is if it is all within a room). We know the country because the dialogues mention the fact that the husband is a top comedian in India. The movie is mainly conversation between the couple — in a mix of colloquial Hindi with a smattering of English — the way any person would in a well-to do Hindi speaking Indian home.

The story takes a strange twist.

The wife is Kapoor. And the husband? The husband is no less than actor Shishir Sharma, a well-known actor on stage, television and Bollywood in India.

For fifteen minutes, no one spoke. No one moved. And all eyes were glued to the screen that told a gripping tale with a strange twist at the end.

Zafar Anjum, the founder of Kitaab and Filmwallas made his grand debut as a director of this film – The Sacrifice. Why would Zafar Anjum — a writer with a number of books under his belt and some published by Penguin — move to direction and filmmaking? Read more

Neil Gaiman joins authors in urging Chinese president to release jailed writers

More than 40 authors, including Jonathan Franzen, Neil Gaiman and Ian McEwan, have written an open letter to Xi Jinping, ahead of his first US state visit, expressing ‘concern about the deteriorating state of free expression in China’: The Guardian

Neil Gaiman, Ian McEwan and Jonathan Franzen have put their names to a letter calling on China’s president Xi Jinping to release the Chinese writers who “are languishing in jail for the crime of expressing their opinions”.

In an open letter to Xi, published just before the Chinese president’s first US state visit this week, more than 40 authors have come together to express their “deepest concern about the deteriorating state of free expression in China”. The letter highlights four cases of writers who are currently imprisoned in China: Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti, sentenced to life in prison “for voicing his views online about the treatment of Uighurs”, according to PEN American Center; investigative journalist Gao Yu, a 71-year-old in ill health who was sentenced to seven years in prison earlier this year; literary critic and writer Liu Xiaobo, sentenced to an 11-year term in 2009 over calls for political reform; and his wife Liu Xia, a painter, poet and photographer who has been under house arrest for nearly five years, according to PEN. Read more

William Dalrymple’s notebook: How I lured Jhumpa Lahiri and Jonathan Franzen to Jaipur

william_dalrympleIn 2004, ten days after I moved my family to a new life in India, I gave a reading at a small palace on the edge of the ‘pink city’ of Jaipur. Fourteen people turned up, of whom ten were Japanese tourists who had got lost. The next year, I helped organise a modest literary programme of 18 authors. Two failed to arrive, but with the aid of my co-director, Namita Gokhale, we gathered a respectable audience of nearly 100. Eight years later, however, by some strange yogic sleight of hand, the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival has shape-shifted into the largest free litfest in the world and the largest literary event in the entire Asia-Pacific region. Read more

There is a gender imbalance in the valuation of literature: Jonathan Franzen

Abhimanyu Arni interviews the American writer in the TOI

FranzenYou comment quite frequently about the power of bankers and the theme of financial corruption is present in your writing. Are you angry with the state of democracy in the West? 

You have elected representatives saying, ‘Let’s do this’ and the bankers come in and say ‘This is what we’re going to do’ and that’s what happens. What the bankers want is what we get. It goes against the very notion of national sovereignty, especially in Western Europe.  Read more

India: Muse for a literary lad

In Jaipur in winter, master wordsmiths regale readers in the grip of booklust: Satish Padmanabhan in The Outlook

Franzen is a big man with a slow, gentle demeanour and a deep, American Midwest drawl, who rarely makes eye contact and speaks mostly looking down at his knees with his hands hunched together. He reminds you of Stephen King with more kempt hair. He lingers thoughtfully on what he is trying to say, as well as what you’ve asked him. He talks about short stories and how it’s a most difficult art form. “Reading a short story is like confronting death. You know it’s going to end soon and my eyes start to moisten.” His standout moment of last year was when Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for literature and he wonders why her stories are not made into films. Read more

Writers attack ‘overrated’ Anglo-American literature at Jaipur festival

Xiaolu Guo warns that English-language mainstream has warped a broader ‘reading habit’, on panel with Jhumpa Lahiri and Jonathan Franzen: The Guardian

Xiaolu GuoAmerican literature is “massively overrated”, the award-winning author and film-maker Xiaolu Guo told the Jaipur literature festival – and fellow panellist and US novelist Jonathan Franzen – this weekend.

A session on the global novel in Jaipur on Saturday saw the Chinese/British writer Guo, one of Granta’s best of young British novelists who has also been shortlisted for the Orange prize, attack the way “our reading habit has totally been transformed by the mainstream”. Read more

JLF: Sen and Franzen

Highlights From Day One of the Jaipur Literature Festival: WSJ

AMARTYASENHarvard economist Amartya Sen opened this year’s festival of books in Jaipur with a keynote address entitled “A Wish a Day for a Week.”

His speech took the form of an imagined dialogue between the 80-year-old Nobel laureate and what he called “the goddess of medium things,” in which he set forth his seven wishes for India.

The first: A revival of classical education. The study of Sanskrit and other ancient languages, of great books, music and art. It’s all fallen off the map, Mr. Sen said. Bright students everywhere in India go for science and technology and look down on the humanities, he lamented.

“A novel can point to a truth without pretending to capture it in some exact way,” the economist added.

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JLF: The rise of the “Global Novel” and “The Nonfiction Renaissance”

Fiction, Nonfiction and the Space in Between: WSJ on JLF’s Day Two

JhumpaThe first session on the Jaipur Literature Festival’s Front Lawns on Saturday was entitled “The Global Novel,” and for an hour, the six international panelists circled their subject warily, never quite agreeing upon what they should debating. But the slippery topic did yield some firm insights.

Moderator and author Chandrahas Choudhury began by proposing that the novel has been global for as long as it has existed. But he asked whether was something different today, now that, thanks to technology and globalization, authors can have a larger and farther-flung audience than previously imaginable.

American novelist Jonathan Franzen feared that his upbringing made his viewpoint necessarily circumscribed. “I was born in the center of the great colonial power of my era,” Mr. Franzen said. “Certain questions of identity and concern about the rest of the world didn’t necessarily apply in the Midwest of the U.S. in 1959.” Read more

JLF: Meet Jonathan Franzen, a poster boy for his generation of novelists

FranzenHumorous is not among the first adjectives one would use to describe either the two books or Franzen himself. The books are ambitious, exhausting and deeply moralistic, and he has a reputation for being cranky, belligerent and patronizing in his interviews and essays, particularly on the internet. In a 6,500-word excerpt from his recent book in the Guardian last year, titled “What’s Wrong With the Modern World”, he dismissed with withering scorn Amazon, Twitter and Salman Rushdie for being on  ..

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JLF: Is Jaipur Literature Festival just about being cool now?

The Jaipur Literature Festival has become rather popular – some come here seeking intellectual stimulation and others to chill, socialise and get ‘cool-zoned’ by friends just by marking their presence. During a session by authors Jonathan Franzen and Chandrahas Choudhury in the colourful and overcrowded Char Bagh tent, a lady sitting next to me tells her son that “they’re talking about novels and how characters are sketched,” and gets up to leave as the boy happily ‘checks in’ on Facebook.  Read more

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