Leave a comment

Seemanchal International Literary Festival- Taking Literature to the Grassroot India

Source: Kractivist.org

By Rahman Abbas

15170993_10207919591009643_5213058396377573710_n

Zafar Anjum, PN Balji, Jayanthi Sankar, Debanjan Chakraborty and Isa Kamari

I was surprised when Singapore based English author and publisher Zafar Anjum Emailed me and invited to attend Seemanchal International literary festival on 17-19 November in Kishanganj, Bihar. I kept thinking for hours that how this festival would take shape in one of the most backward regions of our country. On the other hand I was happy over the idea that festival of literature was shifting from superficial glare of metros and lights of hotels to rural India and amid people devoid of cultural activities.

On 16th November, I board flight from Mumbai to Delhi. At Delhi airport waiting for next flight for Bagdogra I met well known Urdu critic Shafey Kidwai and literary critic Nazia Anjum who is also English lecturer at AMU. We shared coffee and talked about festival and Kishanganj. Shafey was worried if there would be any audience, especially to attend sessions about gender discriminations and role of literature in contemporary society on which various foreign authors had to speak.  When we reached Bagdogra airport (West Bengal) we met English author and poet Abha Ayengar, senior journalist Ziya-us-Salam (The Hindu). From West Bengal to Kishanganj our journey was of two hours.  During the journey we saw beautiful tea gardens and green pastures. When Bihar approached greenery turned into dust and road into dilapidated state. We were chatting about festival and thinking what was there in store for next morning.

The venue was famous’ Insan school’ ground and stage was set for two days festival. We were around 20 authors mainly of English, Hindi, Urdu and Malay languages from India, Singapore and UK. Read more


Leave a comment

How the Seemanchal Literary Festival drew me out of my happy bubble, a first for a litfest: Rheea Mukherjee

Source: Scroll.in

By Rheea Mukherjee

Before I leave for Kishanganj, Bihar, friends and family have made a hundred comments. “A literary festival in a village in Bihar?” “Is it safe?” “How cool”.

I fly from Bangalore to Kolkata, and then Kolkata to Bagdogra, and arrive at 4 pm on a Wednesday. The sun is hazy-bright and in the middle of the sky. Our host Sarfaraz stands at the arrivals gate. He is here to accompany us from the airport on the two-hour drive to Kishanganj.

The Seemanchal International Literary Festival started as an individual dream, and then, as the founder himself said “was realised because it was a collective dream”. Singapore-based Zafar Anjum might have many accomplishments and books to his name, but Anjum’s roots are in Kishanganj. A boy from a large family who studied at the Urdu-medium Insaan school.

Anjum was acutely aware of two realities: literary fests are held primarily in elite big cities, and almost exclusively engage an elite audience. But literature wasn’t created to stay on the shelves of the bourgeois. The infinite power of writing and its potential to amplify ambition and social equality needed to be celebrated everywhere. The plain truth is this, very few would take up such a quixotic cause. Read more


Leave a comment

Even ‘backward’ regions can host Literature festivals if promoted well: Zafar Anjum

seemanchal-a5-poster

The first Seemanchal International Literary Festival (SILF) kicks off tomorrow, November 18, at Insan School, Kishanganj. Its main organiser, author Zafar Anjum, spoke with Twocircles.net about how the idea came to him, and what were the challenges that he had to face in organising the first-of-its-kind literature festival in Seemanchal.

When was the idea for the Seemanchal festival conceived in your head?

The idea came to me as early as 2013 in Singapore. Although I had moved thousands of miles away from home, the memories had never left me. I grew up in the region, and in a rich history of literature. This was the place where the iconic Phanishwar Nath ‘Renu’ was born; but off late the area has not produced much literature that has caught attention. I was of the opinion that if we could get a literature festival in this region, it would be a massive boost to the local literature along with bringing in eminent litterateurs from across the country.

Why did you pick the Seemanchal region for the literature festival?

As I said, I belong to this region, so there was the emotional connect. But more importantly, it was an attempt to shed light on areas that have always been considered backward. Initially, when I thought of a literature festival in South Asia, it dawned upon us that almost all the regions had literature festivals anyway. Even in India, these kind of festivals have for long been conducted. But the biggest issue for me was that in India, almost all literature festivals are either held in big cities (Delhi, Bangalore) or tourist-friendly places like Jaipur and Goa. So, I decided to toy with the idea of doing one such festival in Seemanchal, so that it breaks the concept of festivals being associated with only famous places. Of course, it was easier said than done. Read more


Leave a comment

Inside a writer’s mind: Review of ‘Kafka in Ayodhya’

Saima Afreen reviews Zafar Anjum’s collection of short stories, Kafka in Ayodhya (Kitaab), in The New Indian Express (27 Sep, 2016):

KafkaFCIn most of the stories Zafar remains a silent writer. He presents the characters from a distance. They do most of the talking as he presents them as if sitting in the chair of an erudite clerk who documents the coming and going of the characters. The narrative looks distant like starlight filtering through glass windows. You see them walking, you hear their words, but can’t really catch them. In the title story, your mind wanders to the town Ayodhya and the incidents of Babri Masjid attached to it. The story talks about the much-awaited judgment and the author’s rendezvous with the perceptions expressed through journalists. The author himself is Kafka in the story. The story is an attempt to begin the search for belief, its coming apart. It relies on the telescopic vision of the author, when if reached near, gets blurred. He creates the awareness of this paradox by textual construction of the development in the story. That’s how the short crisp sentences make for a speed-read.

Read More


Leave a comment

The condition of human soul: Review of Kafka in Ayodhya by Zafar Anjum

A slim book of short stories that covers a vast territory: Moazzam Sheikh in The News on Sunday

KafkaFCThe prolific and multifaceted Zafar Anjum has given his readers a very slim book — not even hundred pages — of eight short stories while covering a vast territory. I don’t mean strictly in a physical sense. The reader cannot fail to notice the stories’ emotional register. It is not just a matter of inducting characters into fiction from varied ethnic, national and linguistic backgrounds or setting stories in political flashpoints, it is also having to deal with our modern and post-modern sensibilities.

The polarisation of his emotional preoccupation is evident when one story deals with the daily grind of a young, married office clerk while the one preceding it deals with authorial indignities, evident in more than one story. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Smart Stories: Elen Turner reviews Kafka in Ayodhya by Zafar Anjum

KafkaFCThe title and the epigraph of Zafar Anjum’s Kafka in Ayodhya give a good indication of the central concerns of the short story collection: for the wounded ‘idea of India’. The stories within the short collection are dark as well as humorous, international and grounded in India, and mix surrealism with realism.

As well as the titular story, Kafka in Ayodhya, there are Kafkaesque touches through the stories. Farce, dark humour, metamorphoses of people into things, and things coming to life. For example, the story ‘The Rats’ ends, creepily:

‘The thought of this made him scurry. He did not even notice the dappled shadow that ran along with him through the maze of the streets.’

In using this surrealist mode to make social commentary, I was reminded of Gujarati Jewish author Esther David’s The Man with Enormous Wings. In this novella, Gandhi returns to earth as an angel and watches, horrified, as Gujarat succumbed to carnage in 2002. The same sense of witnessing the crumbling of society is interspersed throughout Kafka in Ayodhya; an author asking, through his characters, ‘how did we come to this?’

Read More


Leave a comment

Many shades of lives: Review of ‘Kafka in Ayodhya’ by Zafar Anjum

by Ranga Chandrarathne

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”
― Robert Frost

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
― Oscar Wilde

KafkaFCAlthough coloured by diverse incidents that occurr against equally diverse socio-cultural backdrops, the common thread that runs throughout Zafar Anjum’s fascinating short stories in Kafka in Ayodhya (Kitaab, Singapore; 2015)  is the sheer vibrancy of life in its infinite verities and under trying circumstances. The dramatic personae may change from one country to another, from one culture to another; yet, life goes on unabated amidst chaos. It is the rich emotions, pathos and unshakable kinships that forms the contours of life throughout the world. That universal truth resonates throughout the short stories in the collection Kafka in Ayodhya.

One of the poignant short stories in Anjum’s book which is truly a tribute to life and unshakable kinship that sustains it is ‘The Thousand –Yard Stare’. Apart from the moving story and the masterly portrayal of real life characters, the short story is full of vividly realised passages that symbolically represent not only the harsh ground reality in a war zone or rather conflict zone but also how that backdrop shapes the lives of the masses who are caught up in the power play. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Snap shots on life – Review of Zafar Anjum’s Kafka in Ayodhya by Indeewaara Thilakarathne

by Indeewaara Thilakarathne

KafkaFCIn this week’s column, I examine how Singapore-based writer Zafar Anjum has depicted socio-political reality through his collection of Short Stories titled Kafka in Ayodhya and other short stories (Kitaab, 2015). What is significant in his seemingly organic prose is his innate ability to symbolically represent the harsh realities in the socio-economic and cultural sphere through the eyes of the man in the street.

The book comprises eight short stories namely Kafka in Ayodhya, The Lone Fighter, The Rats, Waiting for the Angels, E.D., The Revolt, The Thousand –Yard Stare and Ima.

Zafar Arjum has woven myriad complexities into his skillfully crafted short stories so that they are almost natural in representations, often depicting life in diverse parts of the globe.

In the title storey Kafka in Ayodhya , the author masterly captures the complex ground realities as: “ When we got down to Ayodhya, a small ancient town with a Hindu mythological past, I was struck by its simplicity. It was a place that seemed to be content in its ordinariness, a featureless wasteland. Looking at its topography, the misalignment of structures, the smallness of its huts and buildings, the dirt and the dust, the idea of justice seemed asymmetrical to this place. The town seemed readymade to bear injustice and violence.

‘This is Ayodhya where Lord Ram was born,’ N. said, as we walked towards the controversial structure which was claimed by both Muslims and Hindus. The structure which used to be a mosque built in the time of Mughal emperor Babur, looked like a mottled dolphin, torpedoed to death, lying lifeless at the bottom of the sea of hatred. ‘Ram, the hero of legendary Ramayana, was a maryada purush-a man of principles. When his wife Sita was rescued and brought back to Ayodhya after she was abducted by Ravana, people doubted her purity. Ran listened to what his people demanded and asked Sita to prove her purity by walking through a bed of fire. So judicious and public spirited that great man was” Continue reading


Leave a comment

Photo Feature: Kitaab launches T A Morton’s ‘Halfway Up A Hill–Stories from Hong Kong’ in Singapore

Singapore publisher Kitaab launched Denmark-based writer T A Morton’s debut collection of short stories, Halfway Up A Hill–Stories from Hong Kong, on Friday (19 February) at Books Actually in Singapore. Here are some images from the launch.

Copies of the book are available now at Books Actually, Singapore and will soon be available in all leading bookstores in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

IMG_1495

In Halfway up a Hill, an array of characters from the eight distinctive short stories converge and interact in and around a busy Soho coffee shop in Hong Kong. In the air-conditioned confines of an unassuming coffee shop halfway up (or down, depending on your point of view) a steep Hong Kong hillside, a multitude of lives entwine, unravel and spin off, together and apart, all watched over and influenced by forces the people involved only vaguely apprehend—as well as observed by the benign spirits that occupy the shop bathroom. The collection of intriguing stories told in Halfway up a Hill both stimulate and beguile, like a sip of hot coffee on a cold day.

IMG_1497

T.A. Morton (holding her author’s copy at the launch) has worked as journalist and editor for Longman Pearson in Hong Kong. Returning to Europe she now resides in Copenhagen where she works as a freelance editor. She lives with her husband and daughter and is the proud godmother to a commercial ship, Tracey Kosan. Currently she is working towards her masters in Literature, and also on her third novel.

IMG_1502

Something for the tastebuds at the launch @ Books Actually

IMG_1504

T A Morton in conversation with her readers

IMG_1511

Novelist and poet Krishna Udayasankar was in conversation with the author, T. A. Morton.

IMG_1512

And the book is launched: (from left) T A Morton, author of Halfway Up a Hill; Zafar Anjum, publisher, Kitaab; Krishna Udayasankar, novelist and poet; and Helen Mangham, agent, Books@Jacaranda


Leave a comment

Spotlight on Singapore at Hyderabad literature festival

by Zafar Anjum

IMG_1255

Zafar Anjum (far left) with Esther David and Tabish Khair after the panel discussion at the Hyderabad Literature Festival.

THOUGH Hyderabad is famous for its biryani and pearls, it recently had a “taste” of Singapore – a brush with the island nation’s art and literature.

The richness and diversity of Singapore’s literature and culture was on show at the Hyderabad Literature Festival (HLF) 2016 from Jan 7 to 10 where Singapore was featured as the “Guest Nation”.

Mr Roy Kho, Singapore’s consul-general in Chennai, was a guest of honour at the inauguration of HLF 2016, and six writers and nearly as many artistes presented their work at the festival in readings, panel discussions, workshops and cultural events.

“Although Singapore didn’t have a literary scene until recently, people are getting more interested in literature, poetry and other works of art. There are many libraries and theatres that have opened up and creative writing is taught at many universities now.

Read More