Monday, December 21, 2009

50 most inspiring authors in the world

Poets and Writers has published a list of most inspiring authors in the world. Not a great list -of course,US centric - but it's heartening to see some of my favourite authors in the list, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie, Haruki Murakami, J.D Salinger. Also interesting are the comments about the authors.

Gabriel García Márquez
He makes the most magical of circumstances believable. And this nonsense that he's finished with writing? Don't believe it.

Haruki Murakami
He consistently demonstrates how far the narrative form can bend and proves that a story with surrealist tendencies can be both moving and compelling.

Salman Rushdie
Possession of The Satanic Verses will still get you arrested in much of the Muslim world. It's probably worth it.

J. D. Salinger
He found a way to write characters, dialogue, and scenes that seem effortless. And he's managed to stay hidden for decades—how is that even possible in the twenty-first century?

But why Barack Obama? Is he really a writer in the sense others in the list are?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Imre Kertesz Interview

"If there really is any demonstrable similarity between the writings of Szomory and myself, as you maintain, then that must be due to the virtually identical social class and background. That is how the Jews of Budapest were; a very particular type. I take it as a great compliment that Szomory’s novel Gyuri [1932; new edition by Múlt és Jövő Könyvek, 2008] could have been a forebear of my own Gyuri Köves in Fatelessness. Hungarian Jews, the petty bourgeoisie, had their own vernacular, their own context, they had their own allures and their own little fibs; everyone had to make compromises in their life, if only to kid themselves that they were not in danger."

Full Interview

Monday, December 14, 2009

Literature distancing from life?

Anita Nair has an interesting article in DNA about the place of literature in the common man's life.

Does anyone read poetry at all except for students of literature? Instead what we consider poetry is lyrics of film songs and music videos. Rhyming ditties that draw from the epidermis of emotion rather than any serious soul searching.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Herta Mueller on importance of literature

"I always had my poems which I could repeat to myself. Even under interrogation. It's like singing in a prison camp. You never grow tired of it. You can rely on given forms, lean on them. I have often thought it was like praying, for people who don't believe in God. And its nicer than praying. It requires more individuality. It's less mechanical. Even today I still copy down sentences from books that give me support."


Monday, December 7, 2009

Herta Mueller's Nobel Lecture

In today's Nobel Lecture, Herta Mueller tells the audience about a handkerchief which is not really a handkerchief.

"I wish I could utter a sentence for all those whom dictatorships deprive of dignity every day, up to and including the present—a sentence, perhaps, containing the word handkerchief. Or else the question: DO YOU HAVE A HANDKERCHIEF?
Can it be that the question about the handkerchief was never about the handkerchief at all, but rather about the acute solitude of a human being?"


Sunday, December 6, 2009

1Q84: 2,230,000 copies sold in Japan alone!

A Japanese visitor to this blog has sent me the following e-mail:
"Hi from Japan! Today, on Dec. 4 was announced on the TV news that 1Q84 has been voted The book of the year 2009. Some 2,230,000 have been sold so far."

And mind it: English translation of 1Q84 has yet to come to the market. Haruki Murakami has millions of fans outside Japan, and they're keenly waiting to buy the book in the English version.

Is 1Q84 going to create a new sales record in literature?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Bolano's Last Interview

Roberto Bolano, who died in 2003, got bits of recognition and some fame - not money- during his last days. Several magazines interviewed him during this time. Meliville House Publishing has published a book compiling Bolano's last interview and other conversations.

Q: Have you shed one tear about the widespread criticism you’ve drawn from your enemies?

A: Lots and lots. Every time I read that someone has spoken badly of me I begin to cry, I drag myself across the floor, I scratch myself, I stop writing indefinitely, I lose my appetite, I smoke less, I engage in sport, I go for walks on the edge of the sea, which by the way is less than 30 meters from my house and I ask the seagulls, whose ancestors ate the fish who ate Ulysses: Why me? Why? I’ve done you no harm.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

PEN appeals for release of Liu Xiaobo

A Writer in Peril
Pen American Center has appealed to President Obama to pressurize China for the release of Liu Xiaobo, a dissident writer, who has been detained since Dec 8, 2008 by Chinese authorities.

Liu Xiaobo is a renowned literary critic, writer, and political activist based in Beijing. He was a professor at Beijing Normal University and has worked as a visiting scholar at several universities outside China, including the University of Oslo, the University of Hawaii, and Columbia University. He served as president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center from 2003 to 2007, and holds a seat on its board.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Daniel Kehlmann interview

"So much civilization and so much horror...What a combination!"
Daniel Kehlmann publishes an interview with Daniel Kehlmann , the author of "Measuring the World", now regarded as a masterpiece.

"Because fiction is a way to 'correct' the official ways history is written. If you read Humboldt you often get the impression that he does not narrate things exactly the way they happened to him. He cannot have been as relaxed, detached and aloof as he wants us to believe. Therefore in my novel the Humboldt-character often decides to write down things differently from the way they happened - a technique by which I am trying to show what I tried to do as a novelist: giving both versions, mine and his. In some cases my version might even be closer to the truth ... Only a novelist can do that, a journalist or a historian cannot. Only by making a contract with the reader, stating that nothing he or she will read is supposed to be taken at face value, can a novelist give us a form of truth that only literary art can provide."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

How to fight a dictatorship with a pen

It's lethal to even want to fight a dictatorship. But Herta Mueller, the Romanian writer who got the Nobel Prize this year, fought it ever since she started writing. The consequence being that she was intimadated, chased, interrogated and interned by the secret services all through her life.In the process she had a whole range of experiences of terror unleashed by the state. How did she take it? publishes a great narrative by the writer herself.

For me each journey to Romania is also a journey into another time, in which I never knew which events in my life were coincidence and which were staged. This is why I have, in each and every public statement I have made, demanded access to the secret files kept on me which, under various pretexts, has invariably been denied me. Instead, each time there was signs that I was once again, that is to say, still under observation.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Philip Roth Interview

People have very little else to say about fiction. They don’t know what handle to pick a book up by; and the only handle they can think to pick it up by is one that doesn’t even exist, and that’s the biographical handle. And that’s really another species of gossip. If you don’t allow them that handle to pick it up by, they’re mute. They’re silenced, they have nothing to say.”


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Arundhati Roy's second novel

Most Indian dailies and periodicals dodge Arundhati Roy, the Booker-winning novelist, for her strong anti-establishment voice. But the DNA, a relatively new daily, has published an interesting interview with her

Q:How far are you from finishing your second novel?
A:Very far.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

An Excerpt from Herta Mueller's new Novel

While a debate is now raging on about how Herta Mueller could be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, publishes an excerpt from Herta Mueller's new novel "Everthing I Own I Carry With Me"

"Everything I have I carry with me.
Or: everything that's mine I carry on me.

I carried everything I had. It wasn't actually mine. It was either intended for a different purpose or somebody else's. The pigskin suitcase was a gramophone box. The dust coat was from my father. The town coat with the velvet neckband from my grandfather. The breeches from my Uncle Edwin. The leather puttees from our neighbour, Herr Carp. The green gloves from my Auntie Fini. Only the claret silk scarf and the toilet bag were mine, gifts from recent Christmases.

Read on ..

Friday, October 9, 2009

Herta Muller:another surprise Nobel Prize winner in literature

When Austria's Elfriede Jelinek was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 2004, most had asked, Jelinek who? The same question is now being asked about this year's winner German writer Herta Muller. Like Jelinek before the Nobel, she is an obscure, virtually unknown writer - even neglected in Romania, her own country.

One of the beauties of the Nobel Prize is that the Nobel Committee has almost always picked up a truly real writer for the Prize, irrespective of his/her country, language and popularity. Without the Nobel, we would have never known Elfiede Jelinek or Orhan Pamuk.

At a time when everything gets to be dumbed down - and lierature is being frowned on and cornered - it's truly a great job for the Nobel Committee to ignore the market forces in selecting its winner.

Jelinek impressed me hugely despite her bleak complexity. I hope I would also like Herta Muller who "depicts the landscape of the the dispossessed".

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hilary Mantel wins the 2009 Man Booker Prize

The 2009 Man Booker Prize to Hilary Mantel is sure to delight the fans of historical fiction. Wolf Hall is a narrative set in sixteenth century, and about the rise of Thomas Chromwell - the blacksmith boy who became Henry V111's right-hand man. Sure there are many takers for such stories, including our Booker judges, but literary fiction gets a jab this time. Watch out: historical fiction is coming back!

Hilary Mantel interview

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Too Many Aspiring Writers in India

Anita Desai, the well-known novelist, has an interesting article in the Guardian on aspiring writers from India.

By the number of manuscripts that arrive daily and hourly from India on the desks of British and American agents and publishers, I would guess no country has more aspiring writers than ours. While it is curious - and a little sad - that writing only became a "respectable" profession once it began making money, it is very gratifying to know that a young, talented person can make such a choice today and not be consigned to "loser" status. It is actually possible at last to make a living by writing, to be self-supporting and thus self-respecting. The importance of this cannot be stressed enough. As long ago as 1929 Virginia Woolf knew this and wrote of it in her seminal A Room of One's Own

Friday, September 18, 2009

Twitter-ized novel gets a book deal

When Matt Stewart started posting his novel - literary fiction - on Twitter, I congratulated him for the sheer novelty of using a social networking tool for a serious pursuit. I'm now enormously happy that he has just landed a book deal with Soft Skull.

Denise Oswald
, the Soft Skull editor, has this to say: The manuscript drew my attention initially. I thought Matt handled the twitter campaign brilliantly. It was the right time for something like that and he had the vision to jump on that opportunity. I think you'll see a lot of writers following suit but I'm doubtful it will be to the same effect, unless they can find a way to make that kind of broadcast their own.

Congratulations once again, Matt!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Unpublished: Old man and the Sea

Do you remember reading the Hemingway novel Old Man and the Sea? I read it in my school days, and still remember the old fisherman going out to the sea to catch his fish everyday, day afer day, but without any success. What determination and grit!And what a great subject for a novel!

Life has now published a series of pictures online about the great novel's setting, and Hemingway's writing habits. ( Link from Donigan Merritt)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Future of Literary Fiction

Future of literary fiction is now being discussed and written about in various journals and forums. A few days ago the Salon had an article Glenn Beck is the future of literary fiction. Now, in the ongoing 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival, one T. Cooper has said, "The future of literary fiction is co-writing vampire and/or zombie novels with famous directors."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Censorship in Frankfurt Book Fair!

Frankfurt Book Fair 2009, scheduled from Oct 14 to 18, will have China as its guest of honour this year, but the organisers faced a unique problem this time. Uninvite those authors, said China as one of its pre-conditions, or we would pull out altogether.

The authors included Dai Qing, the well-known investigative journalist and environment activist, Hang Hui, professor of Humanities at Tsinghua University and a pioneer of government-critical "new left" in China, and Bei Ling, poet and political commentator, who lives in exile in the USA.

Shame the organisers have followed the directives from China, and don't want the authors they invited first to attend the fair. Which virtually means they have become a party to gagging the free speech. Ha!

Now, are you still interested in this year's Frankfurt Book Fair?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Man Booker 2009 Shortlist announnced

It's six books this time, out of a longlist of thirteen. A.S.Byatt, J.M. Coetzee,Adam Foulds,Hilary Mantel, Simon Mawar and Sarah Waters have been shortlisted.

Byatt and Coetzee are veterans, Byatt winning the Booker Prize once(1990) and Coetzee twice(1983, 1999).

Sarah Waters was earlier shortlisted twice.

Adam Foulds is the youngest in the list, being only 34.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bahaa Taher Profile

The National publishes an interesting profile of Bahaa Taher, the iconic Egyptian novelist, now 74, who recently launched his latest novel Sunset Oasis.

“I am still against the same things I was against when I was young: social and political injustice, especially against women or people of different origins or ethnicities. What’s different is that the hope I had at one time no longer exists. Hopefully things will change – but not, I think, very quickly.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Northeastern Indian writing today

Tehelka has published in its current issue a supplement on Northeastern Indian writing today(an odd topic for a newsweekly, but Tehelka famously takes on such issues)

"..Life in the Northeast (as elsewhere) is not all bleak, tragic or violent. There is love and hope in the human spirit. There is the serenity of the region’s mountain streams and the immense silence of its forests. Writers like Esther Syiem, Temsula Ao, Kynpham Nongkynrih and Mamang Dai are moored in their traditions, giving their writings a certain depth. But Ao feels that younger voices from Meghalaya and Nagaland — more urban, cosmopolitan, “westernised” than an earlier generation — have lost touch with their roots. Manipur has a strong tradition of theatre and dramatic writing spanning cities and villages. Many members of an energetic rural Womens’ Writers Group, led by writer Binodini Devi, have published books. In Mizoram, where writers earlier wrote on insurgency, they now write of the Church. There is also a definite desire to go back to a time before Christianity, to discover their roots. First apparent in Mizo music, this is now beginning to be felt in writing as well."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mario Bellatin Interview

PRI's The World interviews "Beauty Salon" author Mario Bellatin.
Q: You have referred to literature as a “game.” Does your subversion of literary tradition owe anything to writers from the 1960s or later? Do you see yourself as a “post-modern” writer?

A: I still don’t understand very well what people call post-modernism in literature. And in spite of not understanding it, I have seen it come into the world and die as a term many times. That’s why I think it’s something dangerous. It has the capacity to accommodate to any kind of situation that in some way escapes a more traditional canon. The only thing I believe in relation to this topic is that literature can’t be something that doesn’t move, something static, as certain literary studies pretend to approach it. Literature must be in constant motion, forward and backwards, discovering again what has already been discovered, and plowing fields it’s supposedly not concerned with. In a way, I believe that each writer must reinvent writing, begin from the presupposition that there was no one preceding him or her, perhaps only the sacred phrase, now so trite, which states that first there was being.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Future of Fiction?

"The novel is finally waking up from its 100-year carbonite nap. Old hierarchies of taste are collapsing. Genres are hybridizing. The balance of power is swinging from the writer back to the reader, and compromises with the public taste are being struck all over the place. Lyricism is on the wane, and suspense and humor and pacing are shedding their stigmas and taking their place as the core literary technologies of the 21st century. "
Do you agree?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

James Kelman Frisson

James Kelman, Scotland's only Booker Prize winner, is in his 70's, but he can still speak up his mind with great aplomb.

"If the Nobel Prize came from Scotland they would give it to a writer of f****** detective fiction, or else some kind of child writer, or something that was not even new when Enid Blyton was writing the Faraway Tree, because she was writing about some upper middle-class young magician or some f****** crap."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

In Support of Literature of Social Change

Call for Submissions for the Bellwether Prize

From the Press release
The Bellwether Prize supports the writing and publication of serious literary fiction addressing issues of social justice in culture and human relations, underlining the political power of literature. No other North American endowment or prize specifically supports a literature of social responsibility.

Fiction has a unique capacity to bring difficult issues to a broad readership on a personal level,creating empathy in a reader’s heart for the theoretical stranger,” said Kingsolver. “Artists can be the bellwethers of social and moral progress. Think of Nadine Gordimer writing about race and power in South Africa, or Pablo Neruda writing with sarcastic, visionary wit about corporate imperialism in Chile. So many important novelists have written beautifully constructed social critique. We have that tradition in the U.S. as well, with John Steinbeck and The Grapes of Wrath or Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird. These are literary novels that argue eloquently for greater consciousness of human justice, and are also spectacular, enduring literature. But in the modern era, writers with this kind of vision do not find a lot of advocacy in our publishing industry.”

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Adam Thirlwell interview

Adam Thirlwell made waves with his debut novel Politics six years ago. The British mini-Kundera, as he is sometimes called, has a new novel now.

Q:What are the roots of your own passion for literature?

A: Aged 13, on a summer holiday, I discovered poetry. In some terribly Freudian way, it was related to having my mother's attention. I discovered words could be so much fun without even understanding them. I've always been interested in words when they go a bit haywire and the sound and sense get dislocated. I was 18 and I'd gone to Prague and visited Kafka's house. I bought Milan Kundera's The Art of the Novel. I'd never thought of the novel as a poetic form. What I've got from Kundera is that a novel can be as playful as a poem. More and more, I think of writing as a way of creating your own map of the world, discovering what is possible, and describing a reality that is most Adamish. You can impose your own patterns on what is lacking in pattern. One of the games of writing is that some repeats are fruitful. It's also a game of constant contradiction.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Imre Kertész wins the Jean Améry Prize

Imre Kertesz, the 2002 Nobel Laureate, wins this year's 12-thousand- euro Jean Amery Prize sponsored by the Austrian Erste Bank and the Stuttgart publisher Klett-Cotta – which is conferred every second year at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

"The oeuvre of Kertész as an essay-writer works on the basis of Enlightenment thinking, which has learnt the lessons of the barbarism of Fascism and Communism, and works for a Europe that will either become an enlightened and free Europe or it will not exist at all"

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Times' Best 60 Novels of the past 60 Years

The times has published The best 60 books of the past 60 years to celebrate the Cheltenham Literary festival anniversary.

It begins with George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, and ends with The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. In between, you see lots of really good novels. But how is it that each year has produced only one good novel?

While I'm glad that Boris Pasternek, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, J.M. Coetzee and many other worthy writers are there in the list, I'm shocked Salman Rushdie, Gunter Grass, Jose Saramago and Aleksandr Solshenitzyn don't figure at all. Shame, this omission!I knew they would not include Elfride Zelinek.

And a word about the titles. Why Love at the time of Cholera in stead of One Hundred Years of Solitude? They could include both the titles.

And if you think A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini is worth it, how can you not include Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things?.

However, I admire this passage from Erica Wagner's introduction.

There will never be a single list, however, of “the 60 best novels of the past 60 years”; you can’t please all of the people all of the time. For what you love to read depends on who you are; what made you read it; where you were when you first discovered a book; who pressed it into your hand; what mood you were in the day you turned the first page; whether the scent of the pages reminded you of libraries past.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Return of short story

It is an enigma that even in these busy times readers opt more for novels than short stories. But things are changing, says Nilanjana Roy, an Indian writer-critic.

There are signs that the three-to-four decade-long obsession with the novel at the expense of the short story might be changing. Some of this has to do with the power and clout exercised by better-established writers; some of this has to do with the influence of major prizes, such as the Man Booker International and the Pulitzer. And, I hope, some of this may have to do with the changing tastes of the reading public; if publishing is faced with a growing demand for short stories, the industry can no longer hide behind the excuse that “short stories don’t sell”.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Pynchon's commercial venture!

Can you believe that Thomas Pynchon has written a thriller, and a commercial one at that? Much is being talked about his new novel Inherent Vice, which comes out on August 4.

As one of his fans, I'm rather surprised that Pynchon is finally surrendering to a genre (detective novel) that serious writers abhor. Is he tired of writing too complex books dealing with postmodern, heavier themes that today's readers are not fond of? Or, is he just in a relaxing mode to crank out a quick, popular novel while he's gearing himself up for another serious novel like Gravity's Rainbow?

What does Thomas Pynchon look like now?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

2009 Man Booker Prize longlist announced

The judges of the Man Booker Prize, after having travelled through a "fertile landscape". settled on 13 books out of a total of 132. James Naughtie, the chair of judges claims it to be "one of strongest lists in recent memory." and "an outstandingly rich fictional mix."

The longlist has two former winners, four past-shortlisted authors and three first-time novelists. It is conspicuous by the absence of any Indian author this time.

Here's the longlist.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Alternative Sexuality latest literary subject?

Alternative sexuality is the latest literary subjct, says Neel Mukherjee, one of the recipients Of Crssword-Videophne Award. His winning novel Past Continuous is of course a saga of a lonely young gay who flees sexually-conservative Kolkata to the freedom of London.

Now, it seems like quit a bold statement. The savvy publishers and lit agents would definitely vote for Neel. A market has already been created in US and Britain with gay and lesbian literature. Now India is opening up. Nothing could be more welcome.

But economics apart, what do you read into this statement?

You see a self-indulgent solipsist, who is incapable of thinking outside of his own small, vacuous world.

Does sexuality, of whatever kind, count anymore in this digital age?

Literature is about an individual's perilous journey through life, and this is the literary subject of all times.

And there are far more important things in our planet than this alternative sexuality.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ali Sethi: another Pakistani writer

I haven't yet read Ali Sethi's The Wish Maker, but liked his interview in the Outlook.
Your favourite writers?
Faiz, Ghalib, Tolstoy, Arundhati Roy.
Roy’s fiction or non-fiction?
Both. To quote her, the two are like jam and jelly. Both can achieve great results.

Another interview, lengthier, is at I am SANE.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Blind Owl: An Iranian Classic

One of world's "most intense" books
Michael Dirda, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post Book World, reviews at length Sadeq P. Hedayat's classic novel The Blind Owl at Barnes & Noble Review.
Somewhere I must have read a little about Hedayat (1903–51), for I knew that he had committed suicide and that The Blind Owl was regarded as one of the great novels of 20th-century Iran. I knew, too, that it was phantasmagoric and macabre, somewhat in the manner of Poe, with a touch of The Arabian Nights, but also philosophical, indeed existential. Hedayat was said to have been a disciple of Sartre. Having now read the book, it does seem influenced by Sartre's Nausea, for its narrator finds existence dizzying, an Escher-like realm of repetition, shifting perspective, and illusion.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Vikram Seth Interview

Outlook India interviews Vikram Seth.
Q:You are the first writer from India who wrote literary fiction that sold like commercial fiction, blurring the distinction between the two. Do you deliberately aim to be readable?

A:I certainly aim to be readable because those are the kind (of books) I like to read. I like to make things as clear as possible within the limits of the complexities of human relations and the structure of language. I don’t try to make things simplistic, though. I do hope this distinction between the literary and the commercial is one that will be increasingly blurred. It never used to be like this in the 19th century. Writers like Dickens and Austen were read very widely. I don’t see why in the 20th century writers started writing in such an abstruse manner that unless you have a degree in English Literature—and perhaps not even then—you can’t read or enjoy their books. Critics say that the so-called airport novel is a kind of shlocky, formulary fiction. But for all its shlockiness, at least it is a page-turner, you want to know what’s happening. Basic issues of human interest—honour, ambition, love, enmity, family, money, intrigue, death—really matter, rather than the etiolated idea of writing some over-dense, over-referential literary construct.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Another Arundhati Roy Interview

Here comes another Arundhati Roy interview in the wake of publication of her new non-fiction title "Listening to Grasshoppers".
"Years of imprisoning and beheading writers never succeeded in shutting them out. However, placing them in the heart of a market and rewarding them with a lot of commercial success, has."

Friday, July 17, 2009

61 Essential Post-modern reads

I stumbled upon this list this morning at LAT home blog and had a curious look at it. Hey, many of my favourite books are here,like Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis", Haruki Murakami's "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle", Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five",Milan Kundera's "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting". A great list. But one thing I can't help wondering: are all real writers post-modernists?

Do we miss anyone? Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie? Are not they post-modernists?

Kathy Acker's "In Memorium to Identity"
Donald Antrim's "The Hundred Brothers"
Margaret Atwood's "The Blind Assassin"
Paul Auster's New York Trilogy
Nicholson Baker's "The Mezzanine"
J.G. Ballard's "The Atrocity Exhibition"
John Barth's "Giles Goat-Boy"
Donald Barthelme's "60 Stories"
John Berger's "G"
Thomas Bernhard's "The Loser"
Roberto Bolaño's "2666"
Jorge Luis Borges' "Labyrinths"
William S. Burroughs' "Naked Lunch"
Robert Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholy"
Italo Calvino's "If on a Winter's Night a Traveler"
Julio Cortazar's "Hopscotch"
Robert Coover's "The Universal Baseball Association, Henry J. Waugh, Proprietor"
Stanley Crawford's "Log of the S.S. Mrs. Unguentine"
Mark Danielewski's "House of Leaves"
Don Delillo's "Great Jones Street"
Philip K. Dick's "The Man in the High Castle"
E.L. Doctorow's "City of God"
Geoff Dyer's "Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling With D. H. Lawrence"
Umberto Eco's "The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana"
Dave Eggers' "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius"
Steve Erickson's "Tours of the Black Clock"
Percival Everett's "I Am Not Sidney Poitier"
William Faulkner's "Absalom! Absalom!"
Jonathan Safran Foer's "Everything Is Illuminated"
William Gaddis' "JR"
William Gass' "The Tunnel" John Hawkes' "The Lime Twig"
Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter"
Aleksandar Hemon's "The Lazarus Project"
Michael Herr's "Dispatches"
Shelley Jackson's "Skin"
Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis"
Milan Kundera's "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting"
Jonathan Lethem's "Motherless Brooklyn"
Ben Marcus' "Notable American Women"
David Markson's "Wittgenstein's Mistress"
Tom McCarthy's "Remainder"
Joseph McElroy's "Women and Men"
Steven Millhauser's "Edwin Mullhouse"
Haruki Murakami's "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle"
Vladimir Nabokov's "Pale Fire"
Flann O'Brien's "At Swim-Two-Birds"
Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried"
Harvey Pekar's "American Splendor"
Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow"
Philip Roth's "The Counterlife"
W.G. Sebald's "The Rings of Saturn"
William Shakespeare's "Hamlet"
Gilbert Sorrentino's "Mulligan Stew"
Christopher Sorrentino's "Trance"
Art Spiegelman's Maus I & II
Laurence Stern's "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy"
Scarlett Thomas' "PopCo"
Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five"
David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest"

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Full-length literary novel on Twitter!

So, you've heard about(or, read) novel on your cell phone. Now you can read a full-length novel on Twitter.
"I didn't write The French Revolution in short, burstable, Twitterific sentences. I wrote this novel for lovers of literary fiction, with long and loving sentences, exploding with imaginative descriptions and inventive plot twists and characters I hope will stick with you for a while. Twitter is the delivery mechanism, not the defining structure. While I think my whiplash sentences will be compelling in 140-character bursts, it also may backfire.

I'm willing to take that chance. Publishing needs to change, and while I'm not going to revolutionize the industry on my own, I think I can help nudge it toward a more dynamic and customer-friendly future.

Congratulation, Matt. Like you experiment with the delivery of your novel, I'll also experiment with reading a novel this way.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Is Wole Soyinka the best Nigerian writer ?

Dr.Olatunji Dare, the well-known journalist, describes Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, as the best Nigerian writer that ever lived.

I wonder what he thinks of Chinua Achebe.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Writing has become a weapon: Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy talks to Tim Adams in the Observer and says that she is writing bits of fiction, but gets derailed by something happening.
"The prize(Booker) was actually responsible in many ways for my political activism. I won this thing and I was suddenly the darling of the new emerging Indian middle class - they needed a princess. They had the wrong woman. I had this light shining on me at the time, and I knew that I had the stage to say something about what was happening in my country. What is exciting about what I have done since is that writing has become a weapon, some kind of ammunition."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Now, A Suitable Girl by Vikram Seth

Sequel to A Suitable Boy? Yes, it is. No joke. Vikram Seth has really started working on it. But he assures us it might not be as long as its 1400-page predecessor.

Q:Are you comfortable with the fanfare with which the impending arrival of A Suitable Girl has been announced? Doesn’t it remind you of the hype surrounding films these days?

A:I would be lying if I said I’m completely at home in it. But if you’re in the book business, the publishers are taking care of every little thing for you, and as a writer, the least you can do is handle these things with good grace. Do I like doing interviews? No, mostly, and there have been many where I’ve switched my mind off completely. But I don’t mind this one. It’s around noon here, and I’m lying on my bed, looking out at a pleasant view from my window, and I don’t mind answering your questions.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Language Thieves!

Just read an article (more appropriately, essay) by Arundhati Roy. She is as always brilliant with her unique observation of happenings around us, and offers her explanation in a cool and intrepid way.

Today, words like 'progress' and 'development' have become interchangeable with economic 'reforms', 'deregulation' and 'privatisation'. 'Freedom' has come to mean 'choice'. It has less to do with the human spirit than with different brands of deodorant. 'Market' no longer means a place where you go to buy provisions. The 'market' is a de-territorialised space where faceless corporations do business, including buying and selling 'futures'. 'Justice' has come to mean 'human rights' (and of those, as they say, 'a few will do'). This theft of language, this technique of usurping words and deploying them like weapons, of using them to mask intent and to mean exactly the opposite of what they have traditionally meant, has been one of the most brilliant strategic victories of the tsars of the new dispensation. It has allowed them to marginalise their detractors, deprive them of a language in which to voice their critique and dismiss them as being 'anti-progress', 'anti-development', 'anti-reform' and of course 'anti-national'—negativists of the worst sort. Talk about saving a river or protecting a forest and they say, 'Don't you believe in Progress?' To people whose land is being submerged by dam reservoirs and whose homes are being bulldozed they say, 'Do you have an alternative development model?' To those who believe that a government is duty-bound to provide people with basic education, healthcare and social security, they say, 'You're against the Market.' And who except a cretin could be against a Market?

Oh, I've also thought along these lines many a times, but never could express it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Waiting for 1Q84's English translation

No release date for English translation of Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 has been set yet. But I wish I could get it right now. Yes, I'm hugely obsessed with Murakami's work. I like his passive, almost ignored protagonists, and his deft handling of contemporary themes with his sharp statement and humour. Murakami is no doubt a great thinking writer, and I take pleasure in noting that he has an ever-growing following of readers across the world.

Since I have to wait for a while for the book, I satisfy my appetite by reading all kinds of news and views about the novel.

According to informed critics, 1Q84 is Haruki Murakami's magnum opus.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Haruki Murakami on New Realism

"A common state of mind among people in the contemporary world is that they become unsure about whether the world they see is actually real. The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center came crashing down during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York in scenes that seemed to be unreal. As video footage of the towers collapsing were shown over and over again, some people might unwittingly and momentarily have felt they were straying into an odd world where no such towering buildings existed. They possibly think there could be a world where U.S. President George W. Bush was not reelected and the Iraq war did not break out.

I think the Great Hanshin Earthquake in January 1995 and the Aum sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in March that year made many Japanese experience a sense of dissociation from reality before people of other countries. They asked themselves, "What we are here for?" My novels, except for "Norwegian Wood," do not represent what we call realism, but seem to have started being accepted the world over as works representing new realism--especially after 9/11.

At the same time, I like secular novels like those written by Honore de Balzac [1799-1850]. I wanted to write a "comprehensive novel" in my own style describing present-day social conditions from a three-dimensional standpoint. I tried to embed human life in the contemporary social climate by going beyond the genre of pure literature and by tapping various approaches that each offered something different.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Prince of Asturias Award Laureate for Letters for Ismail Kadare

Albanian narrator, essayist and poet Ismail Kadare has been bestowed with the
2009 Prince of Asturias Award for Letters.

The central theme of his work, expressed in each of his books, is totalitarianism, its mechanisms and the complicities that make it possible. This literary obsession reaches its climax in The Palace of Dreams (1993), published in Albania in 1981, when the communist dictatorship still governed. In this work, the Albanian writer builds an immense parable on despotic perversion, where in an imaginary country, a mammoth machine at the service of absolute power, the Office of Sleeping and Dreaming, controls the dreams of its citizens. Despite the fall of communism, Kadare continues to give voice to the soul of totalitarian societies, such as in Three Elegies for Kosovo (1999) and In Front of a Woman's Mirror (2002). His latest releases are Life, Death and Representation of Lul Mazreku (2007), Agamemnon's Daughter (2003) and The Successor (2005).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Michael Thomas after the Impac Prize

"It lowers the stress of chasing money around and provides some time. I can pay off whatever credit card debt I have and get off this high wire for a couple of years, and then start over again. Every opportunity I’ve had, I’ve either spurned or shunned or squandered through whatever kind of chip I’ve had, or rage or suspicion. Whatever I feel, this is a new opportunity to be a part of things, and my way of being a part of things is writing."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New insight from Granta's new editor?

"I think the owners have a really broad-reaching, dynamic vision of what a magazine should be. The world has changed. It's not an Anglo-American world anymore, culturally, metaphorically, financially. And I think we want to make a magazine that reflects that. There are great writers around the world: in Canada; in Pakistan; in the Middle East; in Africa. We need to do a better job finding them."

Okay, John, I'll be watching.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Challenges in contemporary literature

In his Wired blog, Bruce Sterling has compiled a list of eighteen challenges in contemporary literature. A very well-thought-out list. I would like to mention just two from the list.

1.Contemporary literature not confronting issues of general urgency; dominant best-sellers are in former niche genres such as fantasies, romances and teen books.

2.Convergence culture” obliterating former distinctions between media; books becoming one minor aspect of huge tweet/ blog/ comics/ games / soundtrack/ television / cinema / ancillary-merchandise pro-fan franchises.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Impac Dublim literary prize goes to Michael Thomas

How cool that the world's richest literary award (100000 Euros)Impac Dublin Prize this year goes to Michael Thomas, a debut novelist, who has "never really had a proper job", for his novel Man Gone Down!

Among the authors Michael beat were Philip Roth, Doris Lessing and Joyce Carol Oates. "Tuned urgently to the way we live now, [Man Gone Down] is a novel brilliant in its scope and energy, and deeply moving in its human warmth."

Monday, June 8, 2009

Daniyal Mueenuddin: R.K. Narayan of Pakistan?

"He has been hailed as the R.K. Narayan of Pakistan, and to a large extent he fits the bill. Daniyal Mueenuddin’s collection of superb short stories (In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, Random House) evokes the sounds and smells of feudal Pakistan with exquisite delicacy and understatement—much like Narayan. There is, however, one crucial difference. In none of Narayan’s fiction do we have a hint of sexual love, much less sexual intercourse. That was no part of the R.K. Narayan territory. Meanwhile, in Mueenuddin’s universe, sex is rampant, but always between the master and the maid, the powerful and the powerless. It is passionless sex, sketched casually and in passing. No intimacy, just the functional missionary position. And it’s quickly over."

Guess who writes this? No professional reviewer. He's a famous Indian editor with great lierary taste - something unusual for his kind of species. Yes, it's Vinod Mehta.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Harry Potter is dead!

Is anybody reading Harry Potter these days? Do you see any trace of the big wave that inundated the book industry not a long time ago?

Few or no sales of Harry Potter these days. The magic is gone.

But the publishers have alredy had their fill. So is author J. K. Rowling. Only the readers feel cheated.

In my post Potter Menace two years ago, I wrote:

It's not safe, in the face of mammoth media blitz for Harry Potter across the globe on the eve of latest book in the series, to churn out something against Harry Potter stuff and its writer J.K. Rowling. But now's really the time to stand against them.

Harry Potter was never like Cinderella or Sleeping beauty. It was overblown crap. It had nothing precious to offer to our children. It did, in fact, more harm than good to them in teaching them black magic and other sundry regressive things. It's good that finally it is in its place.

Potter is a classic example of what a marketing blitzkrieg can do to a book, and what is left of it when marketing is stopped.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Murakami's new novel after five years

An exciting news for literary tasters: Haruki Murakami, one of the greatest living novelists, has published this morning a new novel titled 1Q84 after five years. The book - Japanese version, no translation yet -is so much in demand that its publisher Shinchosh was forced to increase its first print run by 100,000 to 480,000 copies amid a flood of advance orders.

The novel has 1066 pages, and is published in two volumes.

..1Q84 is classic Murakami, It is described as a "complex and surreal narrative" that "shifts back and forth between tales of two characters, a man and a woman, who are searching for each other".

The novel "explores social and emotional issues such as cult religions, violence, family ties and love."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award goes to James King

James King has won the second annual Amazon contest in search of next popular novel and will receive a publishing contract worth $25,000 from Penguin Group (USA)for his novel Bill Warrington's Last Chance.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Anointed First-time Authors!

Lakshmi Chaudhry has an interesting column at about the current publishing's feast-or-famine approach to first novels.

Then there are the chosen few, an elite group of first-time authors anointed as potential geniuses and showered with gargantuan advances by the literary powers-that-be. Gautam Malkani, for example, received £380,000 (around Rs80 lakh) for Londonstani, which was over-hyped and then resoundingly panned by critics. As of last November, it had sold an underwhelming 15,000 copies.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gabriel Garcia Marquez interview

It's actually an old interview, but since a new bio of the great author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A Life by Gerald Martin is out, you may like to take a look at it before you read the book.

Q:You usually attach a lot of importance to the first sentence of a book. You told me once that at times it has taken you longer to write the first sentence than all the rest of the book together. Why?

A:Because the first sentence can be the laboratory for testing the style, the structure and even the length of the book.

Q:Does it take you long to write a novel?

A:Not to actually write it. That's quite a rapid process. I wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude in less than two years. But I spent fifteen or sixteen years thinking about that book before I sat down at the typewriter.

Q:And it took The Autumn of the Patriarch that long to mature. How long did you wait before writing Chronicle of a Death Foretold?

A:Thirty years.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Salman Rushdie Story review

I've read most of Salman Rushdie's novels, but never a story. In fact, I always file him under Novelist, not short-story writer. So I read through his recently published New Yorker story with a lot of interest.

In the South is about old age and its attendant downside set in Bombay, Rushdie’s favourite city. Two characters emerge, V. Senior and V.Junior, two adjacent neighbours in an apartment building, both 81-year-old, but with entirely different background, Senior having a successful past and Junior just an ordinary clerk in his working life. Obviously, circumstances put them together, but Senior hates Junior in every conceivable way.

Senior is actually the protagonist of the story. He’s cynical, cold, mean, heartless, and hates practically everybody including his second wife “with a wooded leg”. When Junior falls down in an accident while on their afternoon walk together, Senior slips away, and he is not really shocked by Junior’s death.

Curiously, Senior is much too obsessive about death. We see more of his instincts in his living than any other thing, and at times he seems like a monster weakened by age. In many ways, he represents an average man of this time, but it is hard to believe that he has not a little redemptive side to his character.

Does this story, otherwise well-crafted and a great read, reflect Rushhdie’s current insights into today’s man and life? What however elevates the story is the final part when a big calamity appears,(note such calamities frequently happen in Rushdie's works) and after many, many deaths Senior sees Junior again before him. That cliche magic realism, brand Rushdie!

I'm not sure I liked the story.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Imre Kertesz on his concenration camp experience

Nobel Laureate Imre Kertesz recounts in an interview with Le Nouvel Observateur his experience in concentration camp.
As a child I knew nothing outside the totalitarian regime. When I returned to Hungary, I didn't find it too hard to understand what was going on there. I saw how people were turned into cogs in the machine. The signs were identical. In 1956 I saw the Uprising in Budapest. You don't intellectualise this sort of thing, you just live it. Everything was a lie, the whole world was a lie. But most of the time you were clear-headed in the midst of absurdity. I felt as if my identity was deformed, as if I'd lost my normality. But I was never able to explain it. I asked myself if my 'anomaly' had become normal. Or whether I had become someone else."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Kamila Shamsie reads Michael Ondaatje

A writer's review of In the Skin of a Lion
"There are certain books that I claim to love and that I recommend to many of my friends, but it's not really love, it's just appreciation.

I know this because there are other books that I do truly deeply love. I love them so much that I can't risk giving them to friends who might not adore them as well — how could I be sure the friendship will survive such a blow? In the end, it seems safer to keep those books for myself.

And yet, it is also a quality of love to want to announce it from the rooftops. So here I am, telling anyone who will listen, of my love for Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion."


Monday, May 11, 2009

Advantage Western writers: Tash Aw

The Australian has an interview-based profile of Tash Aw, the Malayasian author of hugely successful debut novel The Harmony Silk Factory.

There is an imbalance in the system which hugely favours Western writers and assumes certain hierarchies. The publishing world assumes that Southeast Asians don't read and aren't going to spend money on books. This might historically be true, but I think things are changing. There are some very fine writers from the region now. If I can in some way influence the way publishers regard us, that will be a small but very valuable thing accomplished.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Italo Calvino: The extreme other

In the Times, Jeanette Winterson reviews Italo Calvino's The Complete Cosmicomics

Cosmicomics, with its ancient Big Bang dwarf Qfwfq as the narrator, unravels the beginning of life and fuses Sixties sci-fi with the extravagant atomics of a much more ancient Italian writer, Lucretius. The reader does not need to know that Calvino is using De Rerum Natura, and its glorious conceit of life's beginnings as a series of ideas randomly colliding with each other, causing a cascade of creativity and chaos, where a cauliflower might just as easily have become the dominant life form on Earth. If the reader does pick up Lucretius, the pleasure is multiplied - pretty much like the cauliflowers.

That's the kind of writer Calvino is - yet his multilayered narratives are never showy in that dismal post-modern way of meta-text verbiage, rather they are winged. As a reader you can choose in which direction you want to fly.

Writers are Birds!

"The secret connection, I think, is that I sometimes feel like an endangered little bird – a species whose days on this earth are numbered. I like quiet, old-fashioned places. In Poland the farming industry is much less developed, and because it's poor, the landscape is full of birds. Flannery O'Connor once said that writers are unfortunately cheered by the fact that poverty will always exist because it means their kind won't die out. You don't get poorer than birds. Birds are so poor, they eat beetles."
Jonathan Franzen is now currently working on his new novel in Brandenburg near to the border to Poland. He tells Wieland Freund why he is both writer and ornithologist

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cormac McCarthy among recipients of PEN Literary Awards

Cormac McCarthy wins the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction this year.

McCarthy’s fiction parallels his movement from the Southeast to the West—the first four novels being set in Tennessee, the last three in the Southwest and Mexico. The Orchard Keeper (1965) won the Faulkner Award for a first novel; it was followed by Outer Dark (1968), Child of God (1973), Suttree (1979), and Blood Meridian (1985). All the Pretty Horses, which won the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 1992, is the first volume in McCarthy’s acclaimed Border Trilogy, and was followed by The Crossing (1994) and Cities of the Plain(1998)

McCarthy received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for The Road, and his 2005 novel No Country for Old Men was adapted as a 2007 film of the same name, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. He is also the author of The Stone Mason: A Play in Five Acts.

PEN Literary Award 2009 recipients

Sunday, May 3, 2009

He has a literary quote on his wall

"I have a quote here on my wall by Henry James in which he says, 'We work in the dark, we do what we can, we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.'

"It's a wonderful quote. You kind of struggle along and hope for the best. If something works, you have no idea why. And you have no idea if it does work anyway. Honestly, no one's going to have a clue if this book is worth reading or not in 75 years. Literary history is littered with books that were huge successes when they came out and got completely forgotten in five years, and also with books that were completely ignored when they came out and are now the greatest classics of literature. Like Moby-Dick. So who knows?"

Seems like a real writer is talking. Can you guess who it's?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Amit Chaudhuri interview

Q:What kind of novel is it that you write? I wouldn’t call you a noisy novelist.

A:I’m not a noisy novelist, no. I’d say I write novels involving random digressions and distractions. I cannot dwell on one thing for too long. So I am not the right candidate to write a novel of deep psychological realism and inwardness, or a heavily researched historical novel with a kind of social-science sensibility—a type of writing I abhor, actually, but which is endemic to a lot of Indian writing. My novels deal with inwardness but also with outwardness, with allowing oneself to be seduced by distractions and interruptions, to let oneself go there.

Full interview

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Elizabeth Strout wins 2009 Pulitzer Prize in fiction

"In a certain way, no, I don’t have a stake in whether people like Olive. Some people have told me they absolutely love her, and some people have said they can’t stand her but they’re still very drawn to the book. And so I don’t have a stake in their reaction to Olive, I have a stake in their reaction to the book. I hope that even if they have a negative response to much of Olive’s behavior, they are maybe still drawn into this humanity that is underneath all of her action[s]. ...

It is a haunting experience. It’s a strange experience. And I’ve though about this with each of my books, because they, in a huge way, do occupy me [within] my mind, and when I’m not writing about them I’m mulling over who they are and what they might do. And I live with them and love them for long periods of time and then they’re done, and I sort of can’t imagine they ever will be done, but then they are. And so far, luckily, there’s been another emergence of something else."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Kamila Shamsie interview

Mohammad Hanif, writer, interviews fellow Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie, shortlisted for Orange Prize for fiction for her novel Burnt Shadows in Hindustan Times.

MH: Fifth novel at such a young age. How do you react to the label overachiever?

KS: I’m pretty sure if I were an over-achiever I’d try to...climb a mountain, test all the biryani recipes in the world ... learn how to juggle. Instead, All I do is sit around and write, so clearly I’m an underachiever...doing the same thing over and over and still so far from figuring out how to do it right....

Thursday, April 9, 2009

So, why is Arundhati Roy issuing a press statement this time?

When Arundhati Roy issues a press statement, you have to sit up and take notice. This time it's about Dr. Binayak Sen, the brilliant doctor who spent whole of his life working amongst the poor and underprivileged. Though his contribution to society has been recognised in india and abroad - even among the academics - he has been now languishing in jail for 22 months for a framed-up charge under a draconian law. Few have raised a voice against this State behaviour( Tehelka did a expose-all cover story without any impact on the administration or judiciary). Even in this election time, no political party spares a word about the good doctor's stay in jail without any hint of justice. Under the circumstaces, who can you look to except Arundhati Roy who really can, in an amazingly free and fearless way, speak out against any kind of atrocity perpetrated on an individual, a community or a race by the powers-that-be anywhere in the globe?

The press statement:

Dr Binayak Sen has been in prison for 22 months, arrested under one of India's most draconian laws, the Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act. This Act has such a vague, diffused definition of 'Unlawful Activity' that it renders every person guilty unless he or she can prove their innocence. Dr Sen's bail application was dismissed twice, both times at the very outset, by the High Court of Chattisgarh and by the Supreme Court of India. On neither occasion was there a discussion on the merits of the case. On the 2nd of December 2008 the High Court of Chattisgarh once again turned down his bail application, without a discussion on the merits of the case, saying that there had been no change in circumstances.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Why Roberto Bolano Now?

Because once again, literature in the West seems to have grown complacent: it isn't so much written as manufactured. The genres dictated by mainstream publishing are suffocating. We're in need of a prophet - or an enfant terrible - to wake us from our slumber.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The enlightened world of Pico Iyer

Writer of Global Life of Individual

I write because I have to. All I have learnt in life is to read and write. And as I read and write more, I move further and further away from making a living.

In the April issue of The Hindu: Literary Review, Ziya Us Salam has an interesting article on Pico Iyer.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Another Charlotte Roche interview

It's not that I like Charlotte Roche's work anyway. In fact, from reading of extracts from her controversial novel Wetlands, I understand she's no real writer by any means. But then she is honest and outspoken in an obsessive silly-funny way. So, another interview here, in which she says:

And it is not allowed for me as a young feminist to say that women are masochistic. I am and all my female friends are. We stand in front of the mirror, we are naked, and we feel ugly as fuck. We see everything as wrong. We try and fight our body to become prettier and work on it. It's not at all free and self-confident. I don't want it to be like that, but I see that it is

Friday, April 3, 2009

IMPAC Dublin literary award 2009 shortlist

The IMPAC Dublin literary award 2009 shortlist, just announced, has eight finalists:

1. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

2. Ravel by Jean Echenoz, translated from the original French by LInda Coverdale

3. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

4. The Archivist’s Story
by Travis Holland

5. The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles by Roy Jacobsen, translated from the original Norwegian by Don Shaw and Don Bartlett

6. The Indian Clerk by David Leavitt

7. Animal’s People by Indra Sinha

8. Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Is writing now timid?

“Nobody would have the balls today to write The Satanic Verses, let alone publish it. Writing is now timid because writers are now terrified.”

The novelist Hanif Kureishi, a friend of Rushdie’s since before the fatwa, has a new take about the impact of the campaign against The Satanic Verses

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Milan Kundera is 80 today.

Milan Kundera is eighty today. Yes, he was born on April 1, all fools' day.

Is there any one out there who knows how the great writer is - after the crushing, made-up controversy which must have taken a heavy toll of his old age?

Has he written any novel after Ignorance?

Do people still love high seriousness and low humour of his novels?

Is Kundera fading away in this intellectually downtime?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hottest literary event of the season

Jonathon Littell's The Kindly Ones

The Kindely Ones is a holocaust novel by an American who wrote the book in French. In French alone it has sold more than 800,000 copies and walked off with the Prix Goncourt and Grand Prix du Roman. Spanish writer Jorge Semprun, who was on the Goncourt jury, described it as “the literary event of the half-century.” It has been praised for its breadth and grasp of the events of the Second World War.

A 975 pages of dense text, often with a single paragraph forming a veritable wall of type that extends over several pages. Jonathon Littell, the writer, wanted it this way: “The text must consist of great blocks, blocks that are suffocating to the reader, who must not be able to get through them too easily.”

But as one critic puts it: The Kindly Ones,” is a nearly bottomless cocktail of gleefully pornographic violence and philosophical rumination.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Mahasweta Devi in Man Booker International Prize longlist

I'm so happy Mahasweta Devi, eminent Bengali writer and activist, has figured in the Man Booker International Prize longlist.

Mahasweta is one of Bengal's few respected writers with a long record of writing about the poor and repressed section of Indian society in a vibrant way. Whether it is the Naxalite movement in late 60's or the recent uprising in Nandigram, she has already explored it, and her oeuvre has had some protagonist, some hapless mother whose only son was killed by the police, or a recently widowed woman whom the administration refused to hand over her husband's body, working up in her narrative. Her works are chronicle and history combined. They are current and epic at the same time.

Mahasweta's activism is another aspect to her persona. Few writers are so aware and knowledgeable about common man's problems as she is. She is especially concerned about the tribals' status in India, and has worked among them over years to uplift their abysmal condition. She travels widely even now (she's about eighty) and is constantly in touch with the victims of Indian society. To know how much she is involved with the humanity, you have to read her column in the Statesman (Bengali) published from Kolkata.

Mahasweta Devi has had to pay a heavy price for her anti-establishment and lack-of-political-correctness posture throughout her life. The Congress Government fired her from her job on the ground that she was a Marxist. But the subsequent Marxist Government - long since in power in Bengal - is not kind to her either for her outspokenness.

Mahasweta has thousands of admirers across the world. Her works have been translated in many languages. Many awards have already come her way, Magsaysay award being one of them. She is a serious contender for the Nobel Prize.

If the judges award her the Man Booker International Prize, they would do a service not only to a real writer, but also to the prize itself.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Orange Prize for Fiction 2009 longlist

Debra Adelaide The Household Guide to Dying

Gaynor Arnold Girl in a Blue Dress

Lissa Evans Their Finest Hour and a Half

Bernardine Evaristo Blonde Root

Ellen Feldman Scottsboro

Laura Fish Strange Music

V.V. Ganeshananthan Love Marria

Allegra Goodman Intuition

Samantha Harvey The Wildernes

Samantha Hunt The Invention of Everything Else

Michelle de Kretser The Lost Dog

Deirdre Madden Molly Fox’s Birthday

Toni Morrison A Mercy

Gina Ochsner The Russian Dreambook of Colour and Flight

Marilynne Robinson Home

Preeta Samarasan Evening is the Whole Day

Kamila Shamsie Burnt Shadows

Curtis Sittenfeld American Wife

Miriam Toews The Flying Troutmans

Ann Weisgarber The Personal History of Rachel DuPree

Monday, March 16, 2009

Charlotte Roche interview

German television presenter turned novelist Charlotte Roche, of Wetlands fame, is interviewed at Publishers' weekly. Roche courts controversy with the sexual and grooming habits of her 18-year-old protagonist, Helen Memel.

I had a contract for a book for seven years—so for seven years, I lived with a very bad conscience. But I didn't want to write a stupid TV book by a TV presenter. I realized that a good book had to be honest, something I knew about and something special to me. And I'm fascinated by sexual hygiene. I love talking about things I feel embarrassed about. I love talking about hemorrhoids at parties.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Daniel Mueenuddin's story review

I've not yet checked if Daniel Mueenuddin's debut story collection has hit my bookstore. But my good friend V. Ramaswamy has sent me by e-mail files of three stories included in the collection for my reading. And of these three stories, I chose A Spoiled Man to taste and test Mueenuddin's writing.

The story is about Rezak, an underdog, who was employed by the American wife of a Pakistani feudal lord, to look after their weekend home garden. Physically deformed, alone, away from his brothers, elderly he had a make-shift home, and made ends meet with some manual job which he didn't get so often. After employment, he had a good and regular pay-packet every month. So he went on to marry a mentally subnormal girl. Rezak took time and patience to tame the girl. But one day she ran away. While he was on a desperate search for his wife, he was taken to the police station by the police on the pretext that he sold away his wife. The police tortured him terribly, apparently to extract a confession. Finally, they set him free, and he returned to his job. He's now in a bad health but crazily got to buy costly marble for his tomb. Rezaq dies soon after.

It was indeed hard for me to believe that Rezak could be the topic of a short story in these times. Who is after all interested in "a small bowlegged man with a lopsided, battered face" in today's world? But Mueenuddin's narrative, though traditional, is gripping, and draws you in with his realistic details and observations. Obviously, he knows about these people intimately. And he knows about Pakistan, his country too. Mueenuddin writes effortlessly, and tells his story like he's chronicling something intently. It's an extra-ordinary tale of a very ordinary and tormented soul representative of any common man anywhere in the world.

Yes, a real writer has arrived at our literary scene after a long time. I'm going to buy his book In Other Rooms, Other Wonders.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

England launches Roberto Bolano publishing offensive

"Deep down, the question doesn't lie in the distinction between realist and fantastic but in language and structures, in ways of seeing."
Roberto Bolano.

So,England now launches its Roberto Bolano publishing offensive. Picador has recently acquired the rights to ten other titles, from the slim novellas with which Bolano began his fictional career to a full-length novel, The Third Reich, written in the 1990s.

Both The Savage Detectives and 2666, his two novels that have so far made it into English, combine vicious punk energy with a seemingly effortless capacity for beauty at the sentence level. But they're also gigantic shaggy-dog stories, crafty and self-delighting, ready at any minute to drift off from the main road into pastiche, reportage, politicking or poetry.

Monday, March 9, 2009

John Cheever biography review

Susan Cheever reviews the new biography of her father, "Cheever: A life".

A lot of what has been written about my father stresses his dark side. Yes, he was a difficult, alcoholic, closeted gay man who was sometimes mean to his family. What seems to have been lost with time is his extraordinary humor. History rewards reverent earnestness, while the jokes and pratfalls and wit are often lost in translation. Darkness survives; lightness is ephemeral.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Orhan Pamuk visits India

The Hindu, a venerable daily newspaper published from Madras, reports Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk's visit to Mumbai on the front page.(thanks to V. Ramaswamy for the e-mail pointing to Hindu news).

Here are some quotes randomly taken from his conversation with the media at British Council.

"I don’t belong, I always felt the sense of otherness. I don’t think I feel at home in the West or in a non-Western country. I have the anxiety of belonging wherever I go and most of the writers I admire are like that."

"Living in the same place does not mean I am comfortable."

"I will never write a campus novel."


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

2009 Commonwealth Writers' Prize short lists

Is Aravind Adiga from Australia? We know he's an Indian, and lives in India.. Now, read the list.


Best Book
Damon Galgut (South Africa) The Imposter Penguin
Tim Keegan (South Africa) My Life with the Duvals Umuzi
Sindiwe Magona (South Africa) Beauty's Gift Kwela books
Mandla Langa (South Africa) The Lost Colours of the Chameleon Picador Africa
Zoe Wicomb (South Africa) The One That Got Away Umuzi

Best First Book
Jassy Mackenzie (South Africa) Random Violence Umuzi
Uwem Akpan (Nigeria) Say You're One of Them Abacus
Megan Voysey-Braig (South Africa) Till We Can Keep An Animal Jacana Media
Chris Mamewick (South Africa) Shepherds and Butchers Umuzi
Sue Rabie (South Africa) Boston Snowplough Human & Rousseau
Jane Bennett (South Africa ) Porcupine Kwela Books

Canada and Caribbean

<Best Book
Marina Endicott (Canada) Good to a Fault Freehand Books
Kenneth J Harvey (Canada) Blackstrap Hawco Random House Canada
Nino Ricci (Canada) The Origin of Species Doubleday Canada
Jacob Ross(Grenada) Pynter Bender Fourth Estate
Jaspreet Singh (Canada) Chef Véhicule Press
Fred Stenson (Canada) The Great Karoo Doubleday Canada

Best First Book
Theanna Bischoff (Canada) Cleavage NeWest Press
Mark Blagrave (Canada) Silver Salts Cormorant Books
Craig Boyko (Canada) Blackouts McClelland and Stewart
Nila Gupta (Canada) The Sherpa and Other Fictions Sumach Press
Pasha Malla (Canada) The Withdrawal Method House of Anansi Press
Joan Thomas (Canada) Reading By Lightning Goose Lane Editions
Padma Viswanathan (Canada)The Toss of a Lemon Random House Canada

Europe and South Asia

Best Book

Chris Cleave (United Kingdom) The Other Hand Sceptre
Shashi Deshpande (India) The Country of Deceit Penguin
Philip Hensher (United Kingdom) The Northern Clemency Fourth Estate
Jhumpa Lahiri (United Kingdom) Unaccustomed Earth Bloomsbury Publishing
David Lodge (United Kingdom) Deaf Sentence Harvill Secker
Salman Rushdie (United Kingdom) The Enchantress of Florence Random House

Best First Book

Sulaiman Addonia (United Kingdom) The Consequences of Love Chatto and Windus
Daniel Clay (United Kingdom) Broken HarperPress
Joe Dunthorne (United Kingdom) Submarine Hamish Hamilton/Penguin
Mohammed Hanif (Pakistan) The Case of Exploding Mangoes Jonathan Cape
Murzaban Shroff (India) Breathless in Bombay St. Martin's Griffin
Rowan Somerville (United Kingdom) The End of Sleep Weidenfield and Nicholson

South East Asia and the Pacific

Best Book
Aravind Adiga (Australia) Between The Assassinations Atlantic Books
Helen Garner (Australia) The Spare Room The Text Publishing Company
Joan London (Australia) The Good Parents Random House Australia (Vintage Imprint)
Paula Morris (New Zealand) Forbidden Cities Penguin New Zealand
Christos Tsiolkas (Australia) The Slap Allen and Unwin
Tim Winton, (Australia) Breath Picador

Best First Book
Aravind Adiga (Australia), The White Tiger Atlantic Books
Nam Le (Australia) The Boat Hamish Hamilton
Mo Zhi Hong (New Zealand) The Year of The Shanghai Shark Penguin New Zealand
Bridget van der Zijpp (New Zealand) Misconduct Victoria University Press
Preeta Samarasan (Malaysian) Evening is the Whole Day Fourth Estate
Ashley Sievwright (Australia) The Shallow End Clouds of Magellan

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Gunter Grass's diary

Fiction-writers may be great at depicting realities, but not as good when it comes to analysing politics and making their predictions. Gunter Grass is perhaps no exception to it. Monika Maron gives her impressions on reading Grass's just published 1990 diary.

I'm not saying that to err is shameful. Indeed Grass's diary could be seen as a testament to the fears of a man who has learned from history, and who saw Germany's state unity as a disaster waiting in the wings and which, luckily for him and the rest of us, never did. For Günter Grass, though, it is proof of his prophetic powers, or more modestly perhaps, of his political vision, or it quite simply shows that he was right, yet again.

But in actual fact, he is doing precisely what he accuses others of doing: he is colonising, if only mentally. He decides whose opinions are valid, he knows what's right for those gullible, backwards, Deutsch-Mark crazed East Germans, what they should want and idiotically don't want, and he steps up to intercede in their best interests, as if they were too stupid to articulate them themselves. He decides what succeeded and what failed. And German reunification was a failure for Grass, today and 18 years ago when, on 13 January 1991, finally reunited with his beloved Portuguese cacti he writes. Should, if have time and energy, take stock again next October 3rd in my usual 'dogmatic' way.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Satanic Verses: New insight?

Twenty years have passed since Ayatollah Khomeini declared fatwa on Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. Fatwa is still on, officially at least, but Khomeini is dead and our Rushdie keeps hale, hearty and unharmed. But the controversial novel seems to be under re-evaluation.

Though The Satanic Verses is essentially a novel about "migration, metamorphosis, divided selves, love, death, London and Bombay" and castigates Western materialism in a comic tone, it got involved in a blasphemy controversy for wrong reasons.

Now a writer In Tehelka says that the book remains keen specifically for that which it is supposed to negate — it is a supremely sensitive examination of our need for religious feeling.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Daniel Klein: a real real writer

Berkshire Record Online publishes an interesting profile of Daniel Klein, who started his writing career as a ghost-writer, and went on to get his first book published after being rejected by as many as forty pubishers.

Klein's new novel “The History of Now" has received highly favorable prepublication reviews, and has been compared to the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Empire Falls” by Richard Russo, also set in a small New England community. The American Booksellers Association, the trade group for independent bookstores, has designated it a “notable” new book.

I like small towns, where life is comprehensible. I’ve lived in Great Barrington for 30 years, and I’ve liked hearing the stories about people I meet every day on the street when I go from the office to the post office. These are the incremental tales of real people in real life.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Why Murakami accepted Jerusalem Prize

Ghaza is no problem for the Japanese novelist

"I asked myself -- is visiting Israel the proper thing to do? Will I be supporting one side.

"I gave is it some thought. And I decided to come. Like most novelists, I like to do exactly the opposite of what I'm told.

"Novelists can't trust anything they haven't seen with their own eyes or touched with heir own hands. So I chose to see. I chose to speak here rather than say nothing.

more ..

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Daniyal Mueenuddin: new comet of English writing?

Oulook news magazine publishes an article on Daniyal Mueenuddin

For the first time possibly in the subcontinent, we have a writer who is not only a first-rate craftsman of words, but is equally comfortable writing about a fading feudal aristocracy as about a class of characters that has been largely absent in English language fiction in the subcontinent: cooks, servants, electricians, hangers-on and thieves.

In the same issue, Sunil Sethi reviews Daniel Mueenuddin's book In Other Rooms, Other Words

Mueenuddin’s stories are contemporary, their observation of the rhythms of rural life in Pakistan made acute by the glinting knife underneath. The outbreaks of disaster are presaged by illicit relationships across boundaries of class, community and the age gap. (In many of the stories, lonely married men set up with indigent younger women till the mirror cracks.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Aamer Hussein Interview

London-based Pakistani writer Aamer Hussein is interviewed at Tehelka.

Good books find their readers eventually. Qurratulain Hyder's splendid postmodern saga, Fireflies in the Mist, was virtually unnoticed when it first came out in her own English version in the mid- 1990s, but it’s been reprinted to some acclaim now that she is being given her due in anglophone circles as a major writer rather than merely a major Urdu writer.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Is active politics right for a literary writer?

News: Former United Nations diplomat and writer Shashi Tharoor is set to enter politics. He’s already been approached by the Congress to contest upcoming LokSabha elections.

The question is: why is Shashi joining politics? When does a writer join politics? Is it right for a writer to do a plotician's nasty job?

Or, was writing just a passtime, never a vocation, for Shashi Tharoor? Mind you he was a diplomat for the best part of his life and even contested for UN's general secretary's post. His diplomatic career is now over, and he's kind of unemployed right now.

We've heard of activist writers like Mahasweta Devi, Arundhati Roy and Hasan Azizul Huq. Shashi's is not definitely a case of activism, but plain careerism. Some say he built up his writer's reputation, not so much by his merit or passion or talent as by using his position. May be he now hits the end of his road, and what other option than to join politics in this Indian soil!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The other Saadat Hasan Manto

It's interesting to note that the new issue of A Public Space includes a portfolio on Saadat Hasan Manto, the great Urdu writer who lived in Bombay in the 1940s and 1950s, perhaps best known for his Partition stories. But Matt Reeck has put together a portfolio that looks at his other great subject: Bombay

It was a blow to have to leave Bombay, where I had lived such a busy life.
Bombay had taken me in, a wandering outcast thrown out by even his family. She had told me, “You can live happily here on two paise a day or on ten thousand rupees. Or if you want, you can be the saddest person in the world at either price. Here you can do whatever you want, and no one will think you’re strange. Here no one will tell you what to do. You will have to do
every difficult thing on your own, and you will have to make every important
decision by yourself. I don’t care if you live on the sidewalk or in a
magnificent mansion, I don’t care if you stay or go. I’ll always be here.” I
was disconsolate after leaving Bombay. My good friends were there. I had
gotten married there. My first child was born there, as was my second. There
I had gone from earning a couple rupees a day to thousands - hundreds of
thousands - and there I had spent it all. I loved it, and I still do!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Tarun Tejpal : a literary animal

Tarun Tejpal inhabits two worlds: journalism and literature. In the world of investigative journalism, his status is that of a high-profile rock star. In literature too, he's making waves.

I came to journalism because there was no vocation at that time called ‘full time writing’ really possible on the subcontinent.” Describing himself as a “literary animal”, he explains that the tide has turned now. “There been so much success and involvement in journalism that this has become my life. Today, I see no dissonance in that... I straddle two worlds: that of the kind of journalism I wish to do and that of the fiction which I love to write.”

Saturday, February 7, 2009

It's good time to be a Pakistani writer

I've read bits of Kamila Shamsie and like her writing. I'm interested in works of Mohammed Hanif and Nadeem Aslam. I've read Moni Mohsin's interesting columns in an Indian daily. I've recently read an interview with Daniyal Mueenuddin, and though unimpresed, I would like to read one or two of his stories.

But Pakistani writing in English is hot to Indian publishers right now. "It’s grittier, blacker, more sardonic and more engaged than much of contemporary Indian writing in English", saya an editor-in-chief of a publishing house. She must know.

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