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Perpetual motion

(From the Times Literary Supplement. Link to the complete article is given below.)

What, then, shall that language be? One-half of the committee maintain that it should be the English. The other half strongly recommend the Arabic and Sanscrit. The whole question seems to me to be – which language is the best worth knowing?” So asked Lord Macaulay of the British Parliament on February 2, 1835. He went on, of course, to answer his own question; there was no way that the natives of the subcontinent over which they now ruled could be “educated by means of their mother-tongue”, in which “there are no books on any subject that deserve to be compared to our own”. And even if there had been, it did not matter, for English “was pre-eminent even among languages of the West”. English, it was decided, would be the language that would be taught to the natives. By 1837, English replaced Persian as the language of courtrooms and official business in Muslim India and took with it the cultural ascendancy of the Persian speakers.

This sordid story of tainted beginnings is aptly recounted in Muneeza Shamsie’s Hybrid Tapestries: The development of Pakistani literature in English, which traces the history of an often vexed but always intriguing literary lineage from the nineteenth century until today. It is a tricky tale to tell, not least because the moment of origin is also the moment of im­position and conquest. The development of Pakistani literature is directly linked to those deposed Muslims and their cherished Persian, which adds further flavours of resentment and betrayal to the mixture. The Indian Muslims who had dominated cultural production until then felt the demotion, and hence the inauthenticity and subjugation of adopting a foreign language, more acutely; Hindus less so, perhaps because they were merely exchanging one set of conquerors for another. The bifurcation, with each group turning to a different vernacular language to anchor their evolving identity, would have more than just linguistic consequences: it would result in two separate nation states.

Read more at the TLS page here

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Salman Rushdie: ‘I couldn’t finish Middlemarch. I know, I know. I’ll try again’

The author on meeting Pynchon, why Kafka is unbeatable – and the trouble with Trollope

The book I am currently reading
I recently visited the old mansion where Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks was set, that great house with the words “Dominus providebit” inscribed over the front door, and was immediately inspired to download the novel on to my iPad and plunge in. The pleasure of re-reading Buddenbrooks was so deep that I resolved to embark on a year of re-readings, which is why I now find myself about halfway through the first book of Don Quixote, in the terrific Edith Grossman translation. This is proving to be a more complicated encounter. On the one hand, the characters of Quixote and Sancho Panza are as beautifully realised as I remember them, and the idea of a man determinedly seeing the world according to his own vision, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, feels strikingly contemporary. On the other hand, how many more times are the Knight of the Dolorous Countenance and Sancho going to get beaten up and left in pain in various roadside ditches? The “greatest novel ever written” – I voted for it myself once – turns out to be just a little bit repetitive. To make the reading easier, I’m breaking it up and reading other books by other authors after every couple of hundred pages of Cervantes. At present, that interposed book is David Grossman’s wonderful A Horse Walks into a Bar.

The book that changed my life
Truthfully, the books that changed my life were books I wrote myself, not books I read. When Midnight’s Children was published in 1981 I was hoping that a few people who were not friends or relations of mine might read and like it. I was completely unprepared for what happened. It gave me the life I had always wanted, a writer’s life, and for most of the 1980s I lived that life with real gratitude and happiness. Then in 1988 another book changed my life in another way. But in spite of everything that followed the publication of The Satanic VersesI remain proud of it. And strangely I’m grateful for it, too. Its troubled pathway has taught me a lot about how to live, and what to live for.

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What Makes for “Lasting Literature”

What makes a book tick? What keeps readers coming back to a book again and again, thumbing through dog eared pages and inhaling the cloying smell of well-worn paper? What, indeed, makes one want to re-read Anna Karenina, 1984, Midnight’s Children, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, The Great Gatsby, One Hundred Years of Solitude, On the Road, To Kill a Mockingbird, Malgudi Days, Gora, The Jungle Book, Samskara… the list is endless. What gets books into ‘Must Read’ lists? The criteria will often vary, but there are constants that explain what makes a book a treasured experience.

These are books that would be categorized as “lasting literature” that readers would not just read but reread, discovering something new each time, finding in them the sense of wonder and new interpretations, messages and meanings with each reading. These are books that continue to influence readers and writers and help them understand their own writing and the world in general a little more.

Listen to Salman Rushdie on bigthink.com: The Difference Between Pulp Fiction and Lasting Literature

 


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Salman Rushdie Plays the Trump Card

Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie

In the pantheon of literature, the best novels manage to feel timeless even as they capture a snapshot of history, from Jane Austen examining Regency-era social mores in Pride and Prejudice to John Steinbeck depicting the Great Depression in The Grapes of Wrath. But writing about the present is a delicate balance — include too many gadgets, apps and cultural reference points and your story quickly feels irrelevant.

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Rushdie stresses importance of literature

By Brittany Ruess

Salman RushdieIn times when the politically powerful attempt to smother speech, renowned author Salman Rushdie said writers often ask themselves how to keep pushing forward.

The answer is to keep writing, he said.

“If we are not making the beauty, we have nothing to defend,” Rushdie said.

The keynote speaker of the second annual Unbound Book Festival, Rushdie spoke to a crowd packed inside Jesse Auditorium on the University of Missouri campus Friday about the “ancient conflict” between writers and politicians. While both tell stories, Rushdie said, writers are upfront about their fiction and politicians often don’t tell the truth while pretending that they are. Read more

Source: Columbia Tribune


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Why an increasing amount of South Asian writers are getting picked up by publishers

Gone are the days when readers would look up to international authors who had earlier set a benchmark for sophisticated literature. With Indians picking up more and more desi literature in English off the shelves, the sale of South Asian books has shot up over the decade.

South Asian writers, apart from harking their original, authentic and rooted voice, call for a diverse set of readers who not only relate to the regional synergies, but also crave for elegant storytelling. This is one of the reasons South Asian writing has increasingly become more popular among readers as well as publishers.

Bookshops across India and publishing companies report that readership for South Asian literature is constantly on the rise, making it one of the most popular genres at the moment, the sixth largest in the world and second for the English language. Read more

Source: Times of India


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Can Rushdie and Roy save the novel in the age of Trump and Modi?

By Angshukanta Chakraborty

2017 comes bearing gifts.

At a time when the United States stands “unpresidented” and Donald Trump is unable to string a simple sentence together without committing grave factual or lexical errors, we have the return of Arundhati Roy, the novelist, and Salman Rushdie, with his grand American book about a family of Indian immigrants.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Roy and The Golden House by Rushdie are easily the most anticipated works of literary fiction to be published this year. This, at a time when literature itself is at its most disavowed, when language, under the barrage of social media, is increasingly failing to convey the shifts and churns posed by technology and politics, and the past is coagulating into imagined purity that prescribes exclusionism as the cure – is a source of hope. Read more

Source: DailyO


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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Swati Sengupta

By Aminah Sheikh

swatisengupta

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

I write because I have stories to tell. Because I want to tell these stories in a particular way. Some characters, and a vague, blurry indication of their predicament just pop up inside my head and I have no idea how they got there. Together, my characters and I, we embark on this journey to find out. This entire process – unpleasant at times but mostly exciting – provides me with the rush of air that keeps me going.

Sometimes though, I meet my characters in the real world. I may have heard about them from someone, so I go and meet them and find out their stories. I am talking about my non-fiction and reportage work here.

Basically, I am quiet, introverted and a loner. There’s silence all around me. Writing helps me to survive because I can’t talk much. I like to dwell in my own world in the company of my books, very few people I can relate to, and, the only way I am able to give vent to what’s buzzing inside my head is through the written words – whether it is published or what remains in the closet.

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

My recent book, Out of War (non-fiction), published by Speaking Tiger Books, is about the narratives of surrendered CPI (Maoist) cadres. I spent two years travelling through different parts of India – Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. I located them, talked to them for hours, and I’ve remained in touch with many for four years now. I tried to understand their lives and stories. In my book, I look at the Maoist movement, its successes and failures, the passions and sacrifices, through the struggles of individuals – their individual needs, personal longings, sufferings and self-respect.

How do these foot-soldiers themselves view the Maoist movement? Is the movement free from hierarchies and compromise? Are the soldiers free to visit their parents, partners, children? What about those that trust the police with the promise of a safe life and opt out? I visited their homes, heard their stories – stories of abuse, poverty, suffering, hurt, deceit, joy, love…

I worked hard to get these stories. The research was also emotionally taxing for me. It wrung out all my energy. These people and their stories deeply influenced me. Now I know why people turn to the Maoists for support, I know why they become Maoist cadres.

Professionally, I’ve achieved only that much – I’ve written the book, pouring my heart into it.

But personally, I’ve achieved much more. Without expecting to. It was incidental. There was a time when I worked full-time with a reputed newspaper, earned a fairly decent salary and felt happy about certain material comforts. I quit my job to write this book, but the cravings for material things had remained. Bit by bit, in the last four years that I worked on this book, the attachment to material things has gone, and I hope for good.

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Major new novel from Salman Rushdie to be published this year

Salman_RushdiePenguin Random House India to publish a new novel by Salman Rushdie, The Golden House, in September 2017

Simultaneous publication: Penguin Random House India, Random House US, Jonathan Cape UK, and Penguin Random House Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Forthcoming from Salman Rushdie is a breathtaking new novel on a sprawling canvas. A modern-day thriller, it follows a mysteriously wealthy family from Bombay that is desperately seeking to forget the tragedy they left behind as they feverishly reinvent themselves in New York City. Copiously detailed, sumptuously inventive, brimming with all the razzle-dazzle that imbues his fiction with the lush ambience of a fable, The Golden House is about where we were before 26/11, where we are today and how we got here. Here is a book that asks us – in a post-truth world – if facts and authenticity are necessarily the same thing, while never ceasing to be both resonant and entertaining.

Meru Gokhale, Editor-in-Chief, Literary Publishing, at Penguin Random House India, who acquired Indian subcontinent rights from The Wylie Agency says, “This is Salman Rushdie at his finest. The Golden House is a masterclass on the confusing world we have brought upon ourselves. The book dissects the cultural and political vacuum in which a generation – whose frame of reference for globalization has increasingly been coloured by conflict – must perform an intense balancing act. It is a terrific story, told at every step of the way with originality and nimble, impeccable plotting.”

Sir Salman Rushdie is the multi-award winning author of twelve previous novels: Midnight’s Children which won the Booker Prize (1981) and the Best of the Booker Prize (2008), Grimus, Shame, The Satanic Verses, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, The Moor’s Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Fury, Shalimar the Clown, Luka and the Fire of Life, The Enchantress of Florence and his recent Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights. His memoir, Joseph Anton, published in 2012, became an acclaimed bestseller, praised as “the finest memoir […] in many a year” (The Washington Post). He has also published one collection of short stories, East, West, and three works of non-fiction: The Jaguar Smile, Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991 and Step Across This Line. Rushdie has also co-edited two anthologies, Mirrorwork and Best American Short Stories 2008. His books have been translated into over forty languages. He is a former president of American PEN.

Source: Penguin India

 


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Literary agent Gillon Aitken of Aitken Alexander Associates passes away

gillon

Literary agent Gillon Aitken of Aitken Alexander Associates has died.

Aitken died peacefully this morning (28th October) after a period of ill health.

Clare Alexander said: “A towering figure in so many of our lives, publishing has lost a great agent from a brilliant generation. He was a wise counsel, a true intellectual and an irreplaceable friend.”

She added: “I am sure he would wish to be remembered in the words of some of the many authors who valued his guidance deeply and who came to love him so much.”

Novelist Sebastian Faulks said: “Gillon was one of my closest friends. He was also my literary agent for 30 years. He was a wonderful mixture of the grand and the modest: lofty, amusing, well-connected but warm in friendship and with little personal pride. The way he lived his last years after the loss of his beloved only child, Charlotte, was a lesson in stoicism and dignity that I shall never forget. As an agent, he was creative, mischievous and drove a hard bargain; but he was also realistic. For my wife and for me, there was no one like Gillon – and there never will be again.” Read more