Monday, January 30, 2012

Jonathan Franzen on technology

"“The technology I like is the American paperback edition of Freedom. I can spill water on it and it would still work! So it's pretty good technology. And what’s more, it will work great 10 years from now. So no wonder the capitalists hate it." 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Salman Rushdie interview, post-Jaipur Lit Fest

NDTV's Barkha Dutt has a long and interesting interview with Salman Rushdie soon after the "black farce" in just-concluded Jaipur Literatur Festival.

The gamble of literature is that I make the best work I can; the most truthful, the most representative of how I see things. I try and do that and then I put it out there and say to you, "What do you think?" I hope that you think well of it, obviously. If you don't that is not great for me but that's the only way to make it. The only way to make it is to make it with the fullness of your personal vision.

Monday, January 23, 2012

What is a lit Fest?

"It’s a private party and even though the line says “Everyone’s Invited”, they retain the right to decide who “Everyone” is. Or anyone. All that money, all that effort, all that energy, organisation, coordination, travelling, planning, operational logistics, talking and debating, sassing and faffing, boozing and schmoozing, it’s not about books at all. It’s about riding on the goodwill and glamour generated by books and literature, great writing and great authors, taking all that classy chic intellectual pride and amortising it into sponsor-sized chunks of social currency."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rushdie a coward: Taslima Nasreen

Taslima Nasreen, who is sometimes called female Salman Rushdie, now slams Rushdie for cancelling his Jaipur literary Fest.

"Cancelling his India trip is his latest cowardly act," she says.

It may be recalled here that Taslima's books have been banned in her own native country Bangladesh as well as in India for the same reason as that of Rushdie for hurting religious sentiments of the Muslims, and she has been on exile for a long, long time.

Is Taslima braver than Rushdie, one wonders. But why does she call him a coward?

As we now understand, Rushdie was fooled into believing that he was under threats from the mafia. The fact was, it was a ploy to keep him away from the fest. The cancellation of the visit does not necessarily make him a coward.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Salman Rushdie dropped from Jaipur Lit Fest?

Salman Rushdie is an unwanted writer right now in India. The Rajasthan Government does not want him to attend the Jaipur Lit Fest (20 -24 January, 2012). Nor do the powers-that-be in Delhi. Do the organizers of the fest want him? Perhaps not, at this moment. So the unstoppable Rushdie has no other option but to skip the fest.

The government says that Rushdie's visit may cause a law and order problem. But if you dig  it a little, there is a series of things that lead to this decision. First, the head of a Muslim group protests against Rushdie joining the fest. Then a Congress leader in Delhi echoes him more or less along the same line. Now it is the turn of the state government to pick up the thread and go ahead with the request to the organizers that Rushdie be persuaded to stay away from the festival. And what do you expect from the organizers? They would go with their jamboree anyway - with or without Rushdie.

But how Rushdie could be a law and order problem? He's a serious writer and thinker. You may not like him for your primitive instincts or lack of intellectual capacities, but how can a government bar him from attending  a lit fest? India is where Rushdie was born, and he has visited India a number of times. And we all know he has always promoted pluralism.

So, what do you read in this Rushdie visit ban decision? First, the Government has scant regard for  writers or artists.Remember how it behaved with Taslima Nasreen or Makbul Fida Hossain in the past?

Secondly,  those in power can bend over to just do anything to appease the minority community - in the interest of keeping its vote-bank intact and unchallenged, literature/art be damned. And now is really election time in five states in India.

And lastly, can we say that  its secularism is a fakery (to borrow a word from Rushdie) of the highest order?

I would like to see what Rushdie tweets on this.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pakistan's English-language novelists

Saturday, January 14, 2012

New, phenomenal interest in Albert Camus!

This phenomenal revival of interest in his work is pregnant with a significance that deserves scrutiny for it can reveal a thing or two about the world we live in today. Clearly, the present generation in France acknowledges Camus as a contemporary. It regards his literary and philosophical output to be of topical relevance to its insecurities. Here, they say in substance, is a man who saw through the conceits of the reigning ideologies of the day, the delusions of religion, the tyranny of dogma, the arrogance of power and the dubious complicities of intellectuals with those who invoked reasons of state to plunder, loot and murder.

Friday, January 13, 2012

László Krasznahorkai interview

Q: Many people have the impression that your books are hard to readand to understand. That’s a myth, but don’t you think you’ve got some bad PR?

László Krasznahorkai: You know, the problem is that anything that’s the least bit serious gets bad PR. Kafka got bad PR, and so does the Bible. The Old Testament is a pretty hard text to read; anyone who finds my writing difficult must have trouble with the Bible, too. Our consumer culture aims at putting your mind to sleep, and you’re not even aware of it. It costs a lot of money to keep this singular procedure going, and there’s an insane global operation in place for that very purpose. This state of lost awareness creates the illusion of stability in a constantly changing world, suggesting at least a hypothetical security that doesn’t exist. I see the role of the tabloid press somewhat differently. I can’t just shrug it off and say to hell with it. The tabloid press is there for a serious reason, and that reason is both tragic and delicate.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tehelka's "Original Fictions :4"

Tehelka, though a news weekly, loves literature ( may be because Tarun Tejpal, its editor, is a literary writer himself) and every year devotes an issue to original fictions by Indian writers writing in English and other languages on a theme pre-determined by the weekly.

This year the theme is romance.

I started casually flipping through "The Foreigner" by Amitava Kumar, and was instantly hooked. Great style, odd but interesting characters, funky dialogue, and perfect story-telling. I had a sense of a well-crafted piece as I was done with the story.

I'm sorry I can't say the same things about any other story. Our Nabarun Bhattacharya, writer of that great short novel Herbert, under-delivered. He seems like a misfit in this group.

Then there were stories which were excerpts of soon-to-be published first novels by their writers. They read like crap. Not original in any way.

Finally, the editor of this issue should have been more careful in selecting the stories. After all, romance has not really disappeared from the surface of our world, and it can still touch our chord if the writer can work it the right way.

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