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Delhi will lose the literary war

What’s the point of writing a book without a compelling story? It is depressing that this high-brow claptrap is as bad, or worse, than the low-brow claptrap by Chetan Bhagat et al put out by Indian publishing, says Aditya Sinha in this review of Raj Kamal Jha’s novel, She will Build Him a City

CityThere is only one word to describe Raj Kamal Jha’s latest novel: pretentious. It ought to have been titled “He Will Write Us a Shitty”. It is 339 pages of three intertwined stories called “Man”, “Woman” and “Child”; Man has sexual fantasies in his empty home, Woman returns home to her mother after a long gap of years, and Child needs a home. Yes, the three are obviously linked and though you see this linkage coming a mile away, the connection appears only towards the end of this tedious story. (Sorry, this novel does not deserve a spoiler alert.) Here is a list of what is wrong with She Will Build Him a City. Continue reading


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“I write dead novels”: Allan Sealy

Authors David Davidar, Eleanor Catton, Damon Galgut and I. Allan Sealy spoke about humankind’s need for narratives to make sense of our world: The Hindu

EleanorCatton1From V.S. Naipaul to Tom Wolfe and Will Self, naysayers have foretold doomsday for the novel for a few generations now. While on one hand breathing its last, and on the other, powerful enough to warrant death threats, the novel swings along a wide continuum in our times. And it is this vast spectrum that David Davidar explored with Man Booker winner Eleanor Catton, two-time Booker nominee Damon Galgut and 1998-Booker nominee Irwin Allan Sealy, in their session, ‘The Deeper Truth of Novels’. Continue reading


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Tea and other niceties: Shahid Siddiqui and his first novel “The Golden Pigeon”

Shahid Siddiqui can whip up magic with both a pen and a spoon in his hand: The Hindu

It is truly exhilarating to speak to Shahid Siddiqui! Away from the chaos of politics, he is a fascinating man, one who understands the subtleties of tea like few others; a man who loves to design clothes, a man who loves to be a playwright — by the way, his first English novel, “The Golden Pigeon” recently hit the stalls. He is a wonderful mimic too. Without a pause he can reproduce the accents of people in different lanes and bylanes of Delhi, the Jatland of Uttar Pradesh, the Patna boys, the Madrasi men. “I can speak English in all Indian accents,” he informs me with a little twinkle in his eyes. And when he is through with all that, he can play a good host too. But today, I am hosting him over lunch at Le Meridien’s Monsoon restaurant, the adults-only food corner that encourages conversation over food and drinks.  Continue reading


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Occupy the Novel: Review of ‘The Gypsy Goddess’ by Meena Kandasamy

There are some rough patches in Meena Kandasamy’s novel The Gypsy Goddess (Atlantic Books, 2014, pp 283) but the author’s spontaneity, coupled with a radiant wit makes this a memorable novel. Beyond the hard-hitting storyline, the variety of experiments with form would keep one engaged, marking out this book as an important debut of the year, says Rajat Chaudhuri.  

Gypsy GoddessThe Wikipedia entry on the Kilvenmani massacre is a mere 800 words long while the Economic and Political Weekly article that pops up in a JSTOR search, at two and half pages, offers a slightly better word count. A couple of documentaries on YouTube, a few stray newspaper reports from the past, is about all that Google manages to throw up about this barbaric killing of poor unarmed Dalit villagers of Kilvenmani in Tamil Nadu, southern India that happened on Christmas day, 1968. Now that someone has written a fictionalised account in English about this half forgotten incident, buried deep in the annals of peoples’ struggles, was reason enough to get hold of a copy of The Gypsy Goddess. Hardbound, with a brilliant crimson cover with gold lettering and wrapped up in a beautifully designed dust jacket, it appeared in my mailbox exuding vintage chic.

The story is about the cold-blooded massacre of forty two people of Kilvenmani village by caste Hindu landlords and their goons just as Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 was about the mindless bombing of Dresden by the allied forces. And obviously it is an immensely difficult story to tell because wanton killing doesn’t lend itself well to traditional forms of storytelling. Continue reading


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Haruki Murakami and the marketing madness of publishers

Murakami’s new book will come with a free sticker set so (adult) readers can decorate the novel. Can you come up with a better – or worse idea?: The Guardian

Haruki MurakamiThe honour for the most ludicrous marketing initiative of all time has to belong to the Stranglers’ record company. It cooked up a plan to boost the profile of the band’s famous hymn to heroin abuse, Golden Brown, with a giveaway of Breville Snack’n’Sandwich toasters. But publishing has provided some competition.

The latest contender comes in plans to herald the coming of the newHaruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. First editions of the novel, it was announced at midnight, will include a special sheet of stickers designed by five Japanese illustrators.  Continue reading


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Retired Hokkaido farmer describes rural plight in novels

Novelist Hiroshi Tamai, a 79-year-old self-described “peasant writer,” is proud that he persisted with his craft through the toughest years as a cattle farmer in Betsukai, eastern Hokkaido.

In the mid-1950s, the Japanese government sought young people to join a pilot project to cultivate the wild Konsen plateau and increase food output as Japan recovered from war. Continue reading


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India: ‘The Storm In The D’Cruz Ocean’

The Indian publisher says Navayana has been thinking and reflecting on its recent decision to not publish Joe D’ Cruz’s novel: Outlook India

Navayana has been thinking and reflecting on its recent decision to not publish Joe D’ Cruz’s novel (Aazhi Soozh Ulagu, “Ocean Wringed World”). Well-wishers, friends and critics have asked us to review our decision to make sure that this is what we want to do. Meanwhile, the translator of Aazhi Soozh Ulagu, V. Geetha, has been in touch with us, and this is what she has to say.

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I Am The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti

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At age sixteen, I wanted nothing more than to leave my home in Utica, New York for some place, any place that would offer freedom and adventure. My parents, liberal, strongly Zionist Jews, were more than protective; the line between mothering and smothering, had become intolerable. Finally they agreed to send me to Israel to study Judaism and Hebrew with our rabbi’s perfectly well behaved and obedient daughter Miriam. I was sixteen-years-old and it was the summer of 1982.

Other than the blue-and-white tin Jewish National Fund sedakah box my family kept in the kitchen and the money we gave to plant trees in Israel, all I knew was that after the Holocaust, the Jews found a land without a people for a people without a land and made the desert bloom. In retrospect, the sedakah box and the tree planting were a very smart way to create Jewish attachment to Israel. We saw the box every day in the kitchen and were reminded that Israel and our fate were the same. Planting trees was also brilliant, reinforcing the idea that Palestine was a barren land before the Jews arrived. Continue reading