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.

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