In our glaringly unequal world, commercial success seems a panacea. It frees the infinitesimally few writers who achieve it to write: NYT

Mohsin hamidFor writers in our thoroughly marketized global culture and economy, the draws of commercial success are clear. As Virginia Woolf wrote 85 years ago: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” circumstances likely “out of the question, unless her parents were exceptionally rich or very noble.”

Her words apply to men today as well. Ours is a glaringly unequal world. Money and a room of one’s own are distant prospects for many young writers. Commercial success seems, therefore, a panacea. It frees the infinitesimally few writers who achieve it to write.

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Mohsin hamidThe appearance of the expression ‘global novel’ is recent and strange, said Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist. He was speaking at the session Beyond the Global Novel on the second day of the Lahore Literary Festival on Saturday.

Hamid said some people considered globalisation to be contaminating for artists. “I think art comes out of [such] contamination”, said Hamid. He said modern technology and social media were changing the writing styles of the youth. “The way they write today is very different from how people used to write 10 or 15 years ago”.

Mohsin Hamid recommends books that feature alien life-forms: The Telegraph

Mohsin hamidIf it’s a pre-9/11 sensibility you’re hankering for, that bygone era when Arab-seeming tribes of natural-resource controlling jihadists could still be cast as heroes in an American bestseller, look no further than Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965). For advice, check out Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series (1979-1992), in which you will be informed that the secret to flying is throwing yourself at the ground and missing. To transcend gender, crack open Ursula K LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969). To enter a family (while leaving, or at least twisting, the space-time continuum), seek out Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (1962).

kamila shamshiePakistani writers writing in English are making a mark globally. Books from the most beautiful minds of Pakistan, arguably, are from names like Muhammad Hanif, Kamila Shamsie and Mohsin Hamid. A concerned member of the audience says that these books talk about a girl slapping her grandmother, a woman having a full-fledged extra marital affair and detailed accounts of a rape. Are these books depicting the average Pakistani’s thought process? Are the characters of these books ones the average Pakistani can identify with? Are Pakistan’s cultural sensibilities being taken into account here or are we seeing the emergence of literature targeted at a specific readership?

Mohsin hamidThis year’s Singapore Writers Festival is bound to have something to satisfy every type of literary appetite: The Star

When it comes to literature, the terms “utopia” and “dystopia” are typically associated with the fantasy or science fiction genres. In an increasingly technology-saturated and borderless world, however, where what was once science fiction is now simply science, and fantasy is often rapidly transformed into reality, such delineations may no longer apply.

Rather, ideas on what makes a utopian or dystopian society have long permeated discussions on culture, national identity and government.

Hence, this year’s Singapore Writers Festival’s (SWF) theme, “Utopia/Dystopia”, seems quite astute, both from a marketing point of view and as a genuinely relevant area to explore. On a practical level, the theme allows the festival organisers to include, in what is perceived as a more “literary” event, more popular genres such as crime and fantasy.