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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Jayanthi Sankar

By Aminah Sheikh

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

As is the case with most of us, constant inner exploration with strings and strings of questions ushers me towards the world of fiction, I suppose. And that subsequently widens my imagination more and more.

Fiction always fascinates me, both to read and to write. For me, it is like living one life in reality but tens of thousands in the fictional space.

I write for the creative experience itself more than the politics in, out of and behind the issues although I do appreciate and enjoy them all while reading others’ works. I’ve found myself narrating mostly with an anthropological approach but the characterization and dialogues in my fiction certainly don’t shy away from the political side of the issue. I let them be as political as required. So, naturally I’ve never believed in creating an ideal world through fiction nor have I ever tried to give any solutions to the issue. The characters take my stories forward. This could be one of the reasons for readers and critics’ ‘author is absent in the narration’ experience and comments.

Like I always say it is the creative experience that I always long for that has been helping me evolve spiritually, the person that I am and will be. It’s one of the important byproducts of my reading and writing fiction for twenty two years.

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

With only two or three stories left to be written, ‘Dangling Gandhi and other short stories’ in English, is forming decently well. Although few of them talk of the contemporary issues in Singapore, some of the important stories transcend beyond eras and geographies. Thus the weaves, I hope, would subtly raise many intricate questions on several social issues of not just the modern multicultural societies and human migrations in this shrunken world, but also of the colonial India, Malaya and Singapore.

Zafar Anjum, the publisher cum writer with such a beautiful theme of ‘empowering and connecting Asian readers and writers, everywhere’, has been gracious to have launched ‘Horizon Afar and other Tamil short stories’ of mine, the second of its kind, at SILF16 at Kishanganj. How well he knows about the role of translation in filling the gaps and also in cultural sharing. I owe it very much also to the earnest and enthusiastic translator and writer P.Muralidharan of Chennai, and the editor of the book for her help in improving the text.

It may sound too ambitious or a little pre mature to say I wish to write a novel based on my transit experience at Delhi amidst the first week of demonetization woes, the SILF16 (Seemanchal International Literary Festival 2016), the town of Kishanganj, Bagdogra, Darjeeling but I hope some creative magic really happens.

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Book Review: A History of Modern Chinese Fiction by CT Hsia

ct-hsia

Those with an academic interest in Chinese literature are undoubtedly aware of the CT Hsia classic History of Modern Chinese Fiction which has just been reissued by the Chinese University Press. Those who aren’t might find the thought of a 600-page tome of literary criticism to be more than a little daunting; that would be a pity, for the volume is an example of erudition and clarity of expression.

Given that this edition follows the 1971 second edition, the “modern” in the title is a relative term. One won’t find here any of the recent flowering of Chinese fiction: there’s no Mo Yan, Yu Hua, Su Tong or Han Shaogong. Further, names are in the Wade-Giles transliteration, so a writer like Lu Hsün may not be immediately recognizable to those familiar with the more currently common spelling of Lu Xun. It was only when I read that Yü Ta-fu became a newspaper editor in Singapore in 1938 and fled to Sumatra in 1942 that I linked him to the Yu Dafu who figured in a number of Ng Kim Chew’s stories in Slow Boat to China.

This is as much a history as it is a work of literary criticism and analysis. Given the intermingling of literature and politics, everywhere but especially in China in the turbulent 40 years covered, it is inevitable that the book should itself been the subject of political analysis, a subject treated in detail in an introduction by Harvard’s David Der-wei Wang. Read more


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Nobel Prize winner for Literature Mo Yan to talk at San Marcos

Mo_YanThe Chinese author, Mo Yan, will be speaking at a conference on May 23 at San Marcos in Lima.

“The Republic of Wine” author Mo Yan, will be paying a visit to San Marcos University of Lima, Peru this Saturday May 23.

Winner of the Nobel Prize of Literature, the acclaimed Chinese writer will be participating in a conference of literature entitled, “Meeting of San Marcos with the writers of the Popular Republic of China.” The event will be held in the Auditorium José Antonio Russo Delgado of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. Continue reading


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Mo Yan’s novels failing in China?

MoYan_WSJ

Bookstores across China returned thousands of copies of writer Mo Yan’s novels to his publishers at the end of last year. Is literature facing a crisis?

Mo Yan’s novels are not doing well.  According to Wen Hui Daily, a Shanghai-based newspaper with a tradition of reporting onculture, bookstores around China returned copies of the Nobel laureate’s books – valued at 9.5 million yuan ($1.53 million) based on their prices – to his publishers at the end of 2014. They account for 10 percent of the total printed copies of his books.

The price of a Mo Yan book ranges from 30 to 40 yuan at local bookstores.

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List of richest Chinese writers revealed

The top winner is 34-year-old Zhang Jiajia, writer and playwright who soared to fame with a collection of short stories that is circulated widely and known for its soothing power for young readers struggling to find their place in society: China Daily

The richest Chinese writer reaped 19.5 million yuan ($3.14 million) in royalty gains in 2014, as the China Writers Rich List was launched on Dec 20 in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

According to the list, 50 Chinese writers have gained more than 1 million yuan in royalties from their works in print. Continue reading


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Mo Yan awarded highest honor of oldest Bulgarian university

Mo_YanMo Yan, a Chinese writer and Nobel Prize winner, was awarded the honorary degree Doctor Honoris Causa, the highest honor of Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski.”

Mo, the first Chinese laureate of this honor in the 125-year history of the oldest Bulgarian university, received the award in presence of Chinese Ambassador to Bulgaria Wei Jinghua, Bulgarian caretaker Prime Minister Georgi Bliznashki and hundreds of admirers.

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China: Looking for the next Mo Yan

A group of Sinologists have “nominated” the most promising Chinese candidates for the 2014 Nobel Prize in literature, which is expected to be announced in October. Most said novelist Liu Zhenyun is the strongest candidate to win the prize. The Sinologists made the nomination during a symposium on Chinese literature and translation last month in Beijing. Chinese writer Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize in literature in 2012.   Continue reading


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Chinese literature going global; translation first

Ma_JianIn considering Mo Yan’s award of the Nobel Prize for Literature and the popularity of Mai Jia’s novels overseas, the contribution of foreign translators cannot be ignored. Their excellent language capabilities and unique perspective tailored for western readers have helped introduce Chinese literature to the world.
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The best books on China: start your reading here

From a previously banned novel about rural hardship to a collection of short stories exploring everyday lives: The Guardian

MDG : World Library : China

Best books on China: The Garlic Ballads by Mo Yan; A Thousand years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li; and Tiger Head Snake Tails by Jonathan Fenby

The Garlic Ballads by Mo Yan

Blood, sweat and tears – and the pungent smell of garlic – run through Mo’s gritty tale of penury and powerlessness in rural China.

The story, set in the late-1980s, is inspired by a real incident. Poor farmers in the ironically named Paradise County are encouraged by officials to plant garlic. But when a glut ensues, the corrupt officials, who have lined their pockets, refuse to buy any more of the crop and it is left to rot in the fields.

Facing ruin, the enraged farmers riot and burn down the county offices. Official retribution is swift and savage. The “revolt” is crushed, and the alleged ringleaders beaten and jailed.

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