Kamila Shamsie and Pankaj Mishra discuss the absence of political anger in Western literature and why we shouldn’t be so quick to condemn writers like Mo Yan: Guernica
Kamila Shamsie: The decision to give the Nobel Prize for Literature to Mo Yan was heavily criticized by many writers, not because of his work’s literary merit, but on the grounds that he had refused to sign a petition calling for the freedom of Liu Xiaobo, a fellow laureate. The criticism grew even stronger when Mo Yan defended censorship, comparing it to airport security. You’ve always been politically outspoken, and have expressed your frustration with writers who remain quiet over political issues. You might have been expected to join the chorus of disapproval. Instead you turned around and criticized those who were criticizing Mo Yan. Is there a contradiction here in your own position?
I first visited Indonesia in 1995. For someone from India, as I was, to arrive in a country that was once part of the Hindu-Buddhist ecumene was to drift into a pleasurable dream where minor figures familiar from childhood readings of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata loomed over city squares. The Dutch, unlike the British in India, had inflicted few obviously self-aggrandising monuments on the country they exploited. Squatters now lived in the decaying colonial district of Kota in Jakarta where the Dutch had once created a replica of home, complete with mansions, canals and cobbled squares. By the time I visited, the language of the colonial power had been discarded and a new national language, Bahasa Indonesia, had helped pull together an extensive archipelago comprising more than 17,500 islands and including hundreds of ethnic groups.
Pankaj Mishra and Eliot Weinberger discuss world literature at Hay Festival, Dhaka: The Daily Star
While the lawns of Bangla Academy soaked in the early winter sun’s glory, curtains to the Hay Festival rose with an insightful session, titled “Is there a World Literature?”, featuring Pankaj Mishra and Eliot Weinberger. K Anis Ahmed welcomed the audience to the first session of the day, right after the inaugural.
The Tata group and Literature Live! today announced the 2013 edition of Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai International LitFest. Over 120 writers and thinkers from all over the world are expected to participate in the fourth edition of Mumbai’s premier literary festival.
Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest will run from November 14 to November 17, 2013, at the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai. The festival’s various events will be spread across the NCPA’s Tata, Experimental, Godrej and Little theatres, as well as the outdoor Sunken Garden.
Pankaj Mishra explores Japan’s tormented relationship with its modernity in The Caravan
Tokyo these days looks like Asia’s oldest metropolis—at least to those accustomed to the shinier buildings, grander avenues, and the more garish newness of Shanghai. Compared to the upstart countries of Asia today, much of Japan presents a spectacle of aged modernity: brown plains marked by a clutter of small houses, and crisscrossed by giant power pylons. Even the wild beauty of the country’s coastal areas is now touched, after the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima, with menace. And it is with some shock that you recall that Japan was where once the future lay, before its bubble burst in the early 1990s, and the country, pushed inward by adversity, became a strange absence in our lives.