Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Will Ferguson wins 2012 Giller Prize

“I didn’t set out to tell a dark story. The story itself turned into that.”

"Will Ferguson's 419 points in the direction of something entirely new: the Global Novel. It is a novel emotionally and physically at home in the poverty of Lagos and in the day-to-day of North America. It tells us the ways in which we are now bound together and reminds us of the things that will always keep us apart. It brings us the news of the world far beyond the sad, hungry faces we see on CNN and CBC and far beyond the spreadsheets of our pension plans. Ferguson is a true travel writer, his eye attuned to the last horrible detail. He is also a master at dialogue and suspense. It is tempting to put 419 in some easy genre category, but that would only serve to deny its accomplishment and its genius."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

 U R Ananthamurthy on literary tradition | Youssef Ziedan interview | women 'under-reviewed' and 'under-valued' in literature?

U R Ananthamurthy on literary tradition
The big writers in our languages became big because of their readers. Tagore, Basheer, Karanth, Premchand are examples. They were acclaimed as great writers by readers and critics. Some of them took years to gain a place in the readers’ hearts. You don’t have to wait so long now. The publishers decide who is No 1! This is an insult to the literary tradition.  A literary tradition is built through writing, criticism and debate. The only answer to this insulting marketing strategy is to make our great writers known beyond our borders.

Youssef Ziedan interview
"All my books deal with questions. Questions are the source of knowledge and awareness.
We must ask profound and meaningful questions, about ourselves and about our existence. Fundamental questions." 

Women 'under-reviewed' and 'under-valued' in literature?
 “When we stop discussing issues of equality, we really will have come a long way.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Olga Slavnikova interview

Q: How does Russian magical realism differ from other sorts?

A: It has to do with a particular Russian reality. Here, the very worst things happen but there is always a place for miraculous salvation. A Latin American novel is mythological; Russian magical realism is mystical.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Taschen Benedikt on publishing

"Publishing is, as life, unpredictable and can be dangerous. I am an optimistic guy, like Voltaire’s Candide, kind of sleepwalking through business and life, bumping every once in a while into a genius who makes me rich, in my head, heart and financially. As a friend of mine put it: the plan is, there is no plan."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sunil Gangopadhyay dies of massive heart attack

One of India's most eminent writers and a stalwart of Bengali literature, Sunil Gangopadhyay, died of a heart attack in the early hours of Tuesday at his residence in Kolkata. He was 78.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Puja literature: Duratar Janmabhumi/ Debesh Roy

Do you expect in a literary novel a low-down on World Bank, its past and present role in development of third-world countries? But this is exactly you get in Debesh Roy’s recent novel published in the autumn number of Aajkal.

Okay, the regular readers of this blog knows, during this puja time, every Bengali newspaper and periodical brings out its Puja issues, most of them tomes, comprising full-length novels, stories, memoir, poems, you name anything. Most of these are, needless to say, are shitheap. But if you trawl enough and in right places, you might come across a few gems here and there.

Debesh Roy is a world-class Bengali author. The octogenarian author, despite his odd allegiance to a degenerated leftist party, is wonderfully active and still evolving. Every year he comes up with a new innovative, almost original novel around this time. Too tempting for me.  In fact, I look forward to reading it every year.

The protagonist of this year’s novel Duratar Janmabhumi is a Harvard-educated economist, a Bangladeshi Muslim, now an American citizen. Zedda Matlab, Zet to his friends and colleagues, was an university teacher at first, then worked for the World Bank with its various development projects in Somalia, Indonesia and other third-world countries, and now makes a living by providing “economic intelligence” to institutions or bodies who work in various poor countries with  hidden political agendas.

The novel opens with Zet’s landing at Dacca airport with Alice, his live-in partner. He is returning to his country after thirty years, but on an espionage job: he is assigned to find out why the bridge over the Padma is lying stalled and unfinished. He wanted to do it under cover, but in his hurry he exposes himself, and hurts an old man who is shocked by Zet’s attitude with regard to the country in which he was born and raised.

Now, for Bengali novels or should I say for those of any languge, it’s a great theme.  And if you see an essay-type insertion on World Bank  in the middle of the novel, it is just apt and you have nothing to complain.

But what astounds me is the readabilty of the book. It is such an effortless and smooth read that you can’t simply put it down.

To conclude, Debesh Roy is continually pushing the boundary of  literature – Bengali literature in particular, and world literature in general -  with his inimitable narrative. My kudos to him.

Friday, October 19, 2012

161st anniversary of Moby Dick!

Thursday was the 161st anniversary of Moby Dick's release. Google  celebrates it with its latest Doodle.
Moby Dick, Melville's classic novel, was largely unread and unrecognized in his time, but later would be considered as one of the great American novels.
If you want to read the novel as e-book, here is the link for a free download.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Reading: Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil

Let  me confess it: I had no interest in Jeet Thayil, the author of Narcopolis, until recently. In fact, I took him for  yet another of  Indian novelists who are now swarming over the literary scene like bugs on dirty, smelly beds.

But Thayil is  not really one of them. He’s different and if you read him, you can easily distinguish him from the herd. He is a stand- out with his own voice. He’s sophisticated, cosmopolitan, knowledgeable and has great tastes for art and other classy things, his penchant for opium notwithstanding.

Narcopolis is about a seedy world where you see a line-up of characters, from different regions and religions of the planet, involved as consumers or sellers or intermediaries, in the business of opium in the not too distant past in Bombay. The opium den is a melting pot, and showcases a life which is in many ways a mirror of the larger world outside. Thayil chronicles and evokes the world in all its fine details in a fascinating way.

 This is a novel about real people, based on the writer’s raw life-experiences, authentic, rich with innuendos and insights, but full of empathy for its characters. Sometimes it reads like a memoir, but it’s actually a  novel done in a different mode.

I’m stunned by Thayil’s prose which is precise, lucid, fluent, lyrical, abrasive, even bawdy. The text is always right for its context.

So, here is a novel for you if you love reading for purposes other than just entertainment. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

AM Homes interview

Friday, October 12, 2012

Excerpt from Mo Yan's forthcoming novel Sandalwood Death

Meiniang's Lewd Talk

The sun rose, a bright red ball (the eastern sky a flaming pall), from Qingdao a German contingent looms. (Red hair, green eyes.) To build a rail line they defiled our ancestral tombs. (The people are up in arms!) My dieh led the resistance against the invaders, who responded with cannon booms. (A deafening noise.) Enemies met, anger boiled red in their eyes. Swords chopped, axes hewed, spears jabbed. The bloody battle lasted all day, leaving corpses and deathly fumes. (I was scared witless!) In the end, my dieh was taken to South Prison, where my gongdieh's sandalwood death sealed his doom. (My dieh, who gave me life!)
Maoqiang Sandalwood Death. A mournful aria

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mo Yan wins the Nobel Prize in literature 2012

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2012 was awarded to Mo Yan "who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary".

"My characters are all very native Chineseand my language is also imprinted with Chinese characteristicsI think that'why I've got international readership." via 

The author, whose pen name Mo Yan means "don't speak", is regarded by critics as being too close to the Communist Party (some of his books were banned. though). His book titles include "Big Breasts and Wide Hips"  and "The Republic of Wine".

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Nobel Prize for Literature : who do you want to win it this year ?

The Nobel Prize Committee has already decided on  the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature., but you've no way of knowing the name. You have to wait till Thursday, Oct 11, for their announcement..

Who do you want to win the Nobel for literature this year? Murakami, Trover, Mo Yan, Roth?

Normally, I don't root for anybody on such occasions. I have great respect for the Nobel judges: not only they have great tastes for literature, but they keep track of every worthy author of whatever language from every nook and cranny of the world. I even find myself in agreement with their world-view. They have always looked for the real writer in the herd. Just think of Elfriede Jelinek, the largely unknown and neglected writer in her own country, who we would not have chance to read without her being awarded the Nobel Prize.

I like them for their dislike for popular authors.

I like them for their preference for obscure authors.

I like them for their radicalism.

I've always been intrigued by their choice.

They have always recommended, by way of their selection, a worthy author to add to my reading list.

Whoever they select, I know, it will never be  J.K. Rowling or E.L James or any bestseller hack.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Have you read The Tunnel?

Conversational Reading is  group reading William H. Gass’s The Tunnel (“It will be years before we know what to make of it.”) on its website from September 30 through November 3.  It is a great initiative to invest time and effort on a dark, complex and hugely underrated but worthy novel.  Go participate in the big read. and decipher its context, meaning and relevance if you love William H Gass or literature.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dinaw Mengestu on his “Genius” Grant

"It felt like the best place to hear about the award. I was there with a couple of friends who have a small publishing house  in Nairobi, and we were talking about ways to encourage the growth of indigenous publishing inside of Africa...and what we can do to grow the small houses that they are already a part of. [The fellowship] definitely feels like it’s going to be attached to that. It means I can spend more time in Africa to see how I can help that process."

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Lit News: Novelist Junot Diaz Gets $500,000 MacArthur Grant

Ruskin Bond about his writing desk

As I write, a small spider runs across my desk, scrambles over a pile of manuscripts, and rapidly climbs the wall. This is a good sign. Running down the wall is not so good; it means an earthquake is about to happen. I have a large desk, but there isn’t much room left on it for writing. Stacks of neglected correspondence, notebooks, tattered newspaper clippings, page proofs, tax papers, royalty statements, rolls of sellotape, all jostle for space, leaving me just one small corner of the desk for my writing pad.

But it’s strategically placed, this old desk of mine. It is only one small step from my bed. And that means, whenever I feel drowsy (which is fairly often), I have only to glide over to the comfort of a double mattress and enjoy half-an-hour’s oblivion.


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