Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Writers call for democracy in digital age

International Bill of Digital Rights

Surveillance is theft. This data is not public property: it belongs to us. When it is used to predict our behaviour, we are robbed of something else: the principle of free will crucial to democratic liberty.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

On New Yorker Fiction

"New Yorker fiction mostly cleaves to the traditional questions of bourgeois psychological narrative, questions of personal and domestic relationships: affairs and betrayals, the troubles of children or ageing. All legitimate subjects, but always within the same constraints – power structures, politics and history are, all too often, conspicuously absent.  As a consequence, their recent science fiction issue was an unmitigated disaster, showing that they know little about genre and so have a restricted vision of literature as a whole."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

So why is dystopian fiction so fascinating?

"...it’s entirely possible that dystopian fiction reflect the fears of the times—and given today’s world of state-sponsored surveillance, religious fundamentalism, economic disparity, and overpopulation (I’m just flicking through the headlines, here), perhaps it’s not surprising this was a popular theme.

So in some ways, dystopias aren’t too much of an imaginative stretch. If you’re trying to predict the future, your best bet would have to be on things going wrong. You could even argue we’re living in a dystopia right now. Maybe we’re always living in a dystopia, or at least degrees of dystopia—the failure of a past’s promising, even utopian, vision—which is why they seem endlessly relevant, in all their scope and variety. We’re simply steeling ourselves for the shape of things to come."

Read Litro#130: Dystopia.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Doris Lessing passes away at 94

 Doris Lessing, the 2007 Nobel Laureate, passed away on Sunday at her home in London at the age of 94.

“the epicist of the female experience, who with skepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilization to scrutiny.”

Friday, November 15, 2013

Gerald Murnane interview

When you start to put down words your own personality becomes fractured. You’re never quite sure what part of you the words are coming from. It’s a fairly trite statement, but you begin to question the reliability of memory or even experience itself. What emerges from the writing is something that could never have been predicted. This is the magic, that writing is unpredictable. It leads to discovery, and that is a word that is overused and has a sort of twee sound, and it’s not a word I feel comfortable with. But you learn from writing things you couldn’t possibly learn by any other means.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

NSA Surveillance drives US Writers to self-censor: PEN Survey

Freedom of expression is under threat and, as a result, freedom of information is imperiled as well. Fully 85% of writers responding to PEN’s survey are worried about government surveillance of Americans, and 73% of writers have never been as worried about privacy rights and freedom of the press as they are today. PEN has long argued that surveillance poses risks to creativity and free expression. The results of this survey—the beginning of a broader investigation into the harms of surveillance—substantiate PEN’s concerns: writers are not only overwhelmingly worried about government surveillance, but are engaging in self-censorship as a result.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Hindu Prize for Best Fiction 2013 shortlist

The Illicit Happiness of Other People — Manu Joseph
Foreign — Sonora Jha
Roll of Honour — Amandeep Sandhu
Vanity Bagh — Anees Salim
Another Man's Wife and Other Stories — Manjul Bajaj

Friday, November 8, 2013

The way publishing is these days...

Mircea Cărtărescu interview

I think that every writer should do something completely out of the box in his or her life. I wanted to write a very big book—over one thousand pages—but I didn’t know what shape it would take. I just felt it was time for me to write such a book. When I started to write I had nothing in my mind except the word orbitor, which in English means ‘blinding.’ Orbitor is a special word in Romanian, it signifies both a dazzling light and a mystical light, and I wanted to do something mystical, something without any similarity to any other book in the world. At the same time, orbitor is a very beautiful word, it is a sort of palindrome, a round word, like a serpent biting its tale. Anyway, I started to write by hand in notebooks. I knew nothing about this book—I had no plot, no characters, no ideas. I just used my childhood memories. I went on inventing freely like this until the middle of the book. I never rewrote anything. What you see before you is the first draft. I regret now that I didn’t bring the manuscript with me to show people. It’s hard to believe. But it’s just how I work. I don’t research and I don’t rewrite anything.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

On this day, 1913, Albert Camus was born in French Algeria

Albert Camus, gagnant de prix Nobel, portrait en buste, posé au bureau, faisant face à gauche, cigarette de tabagisme.jpg
"Every time somebody speaks of my honesty, there is someone who quivers inside me."

New literary culture in America

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fiction and non-fiction

I tend not to differentiate between fiction and nonfiction. It's one of my bugaboos. Nearly everything we do is imagined anyway. Memory is a sort of imagination.
-- Colum McCann

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mia Couto wins The "American Nobel Prize"

António Emílio Leite Couto (Mia Couto) has just been announced as the 2014 Neustadt Prize Laureate. He is the first writer from Mozambique ever to be nominated or awarded the $50,000 prize.

Congrats, Couto!

"I find myself constantly inventing different reasons for my activity as a writer. Perhaps there is no real explanation because writing escapes that rationality. I think I need to feel that I am part of something that can't be contained in what we normally call reality. I write to escape from this invisible form of slavery, this submission to what we call reason and reality."

Hasan Azizul Haque interview

"I’ve said it many times that at least six or seven of those who have contributed to what is Bangla literature today are worthy of winning the Nobel prize in literature. And if you take the entire Bangla as a whole, the east as well as the west, then another six or seven should be added to the list. It is our misfortune that Manik Bandyopadhyay, Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay were not awarded this prize. Lack of good translation is the reason behind this."

"Nobody is interested in translating Bangla literature. Only half of Pother Panchali was translated, then no one simply cared to do so. Putul Nacher Itikotha was also translated but it too failed to attract any attention from the outside world. To speak to you frankly, I myself haven’t seen it. I firmly believe that it is essential for our literature to be recognized worldwide because it has all the potentials that a national literature should have. I also believe that Bangla is not only one of the main languages of the world, it is also one of the best. But, unfortunately, since we could not establish colonies all over the world to make people from other countries dependent on us, nobody cares about our literature"

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Puja Literature 2013: More genre and less literary fiction

Julekha, the princess, sees a young handsome guy in her dream. She is besotted. She sees him again in her dream a second time, and feels lusty. When she sees him in her third dream, she gets impatient of meeting and mating him.

Curiously, this is the premise of Debesh Roy’s novel this year. Way too disappointing for me. Is it a premise to build up a story on at this age? Love story, however brilliantly told, has something tedious about it. But I continued, looking for the leit motif of the novelist who I consider to be one of the great novelists of our time.

Debesh digs in history, mythology and religious scriptures to pad up his story. You find the old Arab world coming alive with his unique narrative, and get some fresh insights into how matrimony worked  around in the ancient times.  But in the end it does not resonate. I had to skip many passages for its loud sentimentality. There’s an ecstasy scene of mass sex incorporated in the novel – written with panache and style – but it felt crass and redundant.


Tried to read a novel by a new author. Just a few pages on, I found myself yawning.


But I read through KALJATRI by Krishnendu Mukhopadhyay (Desh). It was about four friends – alumni of an Engineering college – settled in different metros with different degrees of success -   who renew their contact based on a spam e-mail focusing the concept of time travel experiment undertaken by yet another friend now settled in US. They meet in a reunion in Kolkata, engage in a huge boozing session in an  under-construction highrise building  in Rajarhat and pour out their feelings and experiences. All very readable except that the whole thing sounds juvenile, contrived and banal. Of course, it's genre writing, not any literary novel. Bengali literature, it seems, is increasingly shifting to genre these days.


The best Puja fiction that I read this year is a long short story (Amazon would call it a novella) called KUSHILAB by Swapnamay Chakrabarty. It’s about a playwright who has has lived, experienced and suffered West Bengal through its different political, social and cultural phases uptill now.  Swapnamay weaves his story line in detaled and nuanced prose. It reverberated so much so that I sat stunned and brooding for a while afte I finished the story. The interesting thing about his writing is his masterly asides that expose our phony Bengali intellectuals and wags who you regularly see on the telly. My kudos.

P.S If you have read anything original, authentic or fascinating amongst the puja fare, please tell us in the comment section.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Writing fiction for livelihood

"I've now tasted both extremes of the literary lifestyle: scrimping obscurity and your basic day in the sun. I’ve had novels sink like stones; I’ve had best-sellers. Yet with the exception of a few select luminaries whose reputations are assured, in this business you’re only as good as your last book. My livelihood started out shaky; it is still shaky."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Haruki Murakami has a new story in The New Yorker

Samsa in Love: this is the title of the story. 

Samsa?  Yes. the Gregory Samsa of Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis" fame, who woke up to find himself transformed into a cockroach or some such thing. But here in Murakami's story, we find someone who "woke to discover that he had undergone a metamorphosis and become Gregor Samsa." Read the story for free online and enjoy what Murakami did with this new Samsa to weave a world that has a semblance of Kafka's world - but in a Murakami way.

What I like about the story is how masterly Murakami exposes the terrifying repressive forces operating in Prague around the time by not writing about it directly. I also feel overwhelmed by the touch of humanity flowing through the entire text.

It's a wonderful story.

Don't miss it..

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What's a serious novel?

Read the first five pages. Count clichés. If you find one, the buzzer goes off: it’s not a serious novel. A serious novelist notices clichés and eliminates them. The serious novelist doesn’t write “quiet as a mouse” or paint the world in clichéd moral terms. You could almost just substitute the adjective “cliché-free” for “serious.”
- Jonathan Franzen in the Scratch interview

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Writing for Amazon: Good News and a rumour

 Sub-categories in Literary/ Historical Fiction
 Amazon has done wonders for genre fiction. Many self-published authors of romance and thriller genre ( yes, erotica also, but it is in trouble now) have been making a decent living out of their published works. One reason behind this is Amazon's policy of dividing these genres in many sub-categories, and preparing Top 100 list, Hot New Releases list, Popularity list, Top Rated list.etc which help a lot of writers getting noticed and reaching out to their targeted readers.

Literary/ historical fiction titles were so long not treated this way. Now the Amazon has adopted  the same policy of dividing this group in different sub-categories. If you're an aficionado of , say, literary fiction, you can categorize your book under a more specific and narrowed-down list . Good news for writers of literary fiction/ historical fiction, who are not doing well in Indie publishing sales wise.

Amazon algorithm
 According to an article "The tech behemoth decides how many copies of a book it will purchase for its own warehouses based on presale orders. That in turn influences “discoverability,” i.e., how much the title is thrown in front of shoppers on the site."

Could it be true? 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Eleanor Catton Interview

There’s an advantage in being a country with a relatively short literary history. There’s a sense that there’s more change to come than there is change behind us, more revolutions to come than we have behind us – and that’s pretty exciting."

Friday, October 18, 2013

Yasmina Khadra interview

"I'm an uncomfortable writer, someone who disturbs people, who doesn't fit into the picture, but I can't help it. Some people have problems dealing with my atypical career path as a writer. Expectations? I don't have any. I do the things that are dear to my heart, and kindred spirits are welcome to join me. If my life in Paris has taught me one thing, then it's this: no crocodile has ever been tamed by someone drying its tears."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Read first forty five pages from The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton's Man-Booker winning novel

In which a stranger arrives in Hokitika; a secret council is disturbed; Walter Moody conceals his most recent memory; and Thomas Balfour begins to tell a story.
The twelve men congregated in the smoking room of the Crown Hotel gave the impression of a party accidentally met. From the variety of their comportment and dress – frock coats, tailcoats, Norfolk jackets with buttons of horn, yellow moleskin, cambric, and twill – they might have been twelve strangers on a railway car, each bound for a separate quarter of a city that possessed fog and tides enough to divide them; indeed, the studied isolation of each man as he pored over his paper, or leaned forward to tap his ashes into the grate, or placed the splay of his hand upon the baize to take his shot at billiards, conspired to form the very type of bodily silence that occurs, late in the evening, on a public railway – deadened here not by the slur and clunk of the coaches, but by the fat clatter of the rain.

Read on...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Alice Munro inteview

Q: And of course everybody is talking about the fact that you announced earlier this year that you were going to stop writing, and saying “Maybe this will encourage her to start again”.

A: [Laughs] Well you know I've been doing it for so many years. I've been writing and publishing, I think, since I was about twenty - just now and then I would get something published you know - but that's a long time to be working and I thought maybe it's time to take it easy. But this may change my mind. [Laughter]


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Read this Alice Munro story this weekend

When Grace goes looking for the Traverses’ summer house, in the Ottawa Valley, it has been many years since she was in that part of the country. And, of course, things have changed. Highway 7 now avoids towns that it used to go right through, and it goes straight in places where, as she remembers, there used to be curves. This part of the Canadian Shield has many small lakes, which most maps have no room to identify. Even when she locates Sabot Lake, or thinks she has, there seem to be too many roads leading into it from the county road, and then, when she chooses one, too many paved roads crossing it, all with names that she does not recall. In fact, there were no street names when she was here, more than forty years ago. There was no pavement, either—just one dirt road running toward the lake, then another running rather haphazardly along the lake’s edge.

via The New Yorker

Thursday, October 10, 2013

2013 Nobel Prize for Literature goes to Alice Munro

"Master of contemporary short story', Alice Munro wins the Nobel Prize for Literature this year.
Munro was the third on my shortlist.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

2013 Nobel Prize for Literature : my shortlist

1. A dark horse
2. Svetlana Alexievich
3.Alice Munro
4.Ngugi Wa Thiong’o

Friday, October 4, 2013

Reading: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao / Junot Diaz

I’ve never read about, known, experienced or imagined a nerd like Oscar Oao. I’m not bothered if Oscar is real or imagined. The thing is that he has overwhelmed me with his eccentricities or kinks or whatever. Towards the end of my reading, I was praying hard for him that at least for once he got the opportunity or occasion to screw a woman - any woman in fact. Thanks to Junot Diaz, he fulfilled my wish. But what about Oscar’s tons of writings, the only thing he was really good at, and which he pursued all through his brief life? 
Such is the flair of his writing that one tends to forget that this is fiction, and a novelist is not supposed to address all of his readers' concerns. May be he has used a live model for his protagonist, but who would argue about his wonderful characterization?

Junot Diaz is a brilliant writer. He’s no sentimentalist: he knows the Dominician history inside out, he knows its present and past, its strength and follies, its spirit and limitations, its happiness and pathos. He’s a great story-teller who captures you with spare but forceful prose. He is not much of an entertainer per se - he is actually a chronicler of dark things - but he’s compelling. Once you start reading him, you go on and on, despite his pitiless depiction of torture and injustice by the powers-that-be, until your consciousness is entirely clouded. The narrative is almost insufferable at times, I had creeps and shivers  from time to time, but I could not stop reading.

Another thing I loved about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is its footnotes. They are  great to read, and you would miss out a lot on Diaz’s strength if you avoid  reading it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Jhumpa Lahiri interview

"It's difficult for me to be aware of the noise any book creates upon its publication. My writing comes from a very private place—I don't think I'm unique in that sense—and it is a strange contradiction to take something that is so inherently private, a sort of dialogue with oneself over a period of years and years in silence, and then to suddenly be...not silent about it. I mean, the amount of hours, the energy, dreaming, pondering, writing, editing, and rewriting that goes into a book—it feels like an ocean of time and effort. And the voyage is bad; it's long and arduous. So it's hard to be on the other shore and try to encapsulate what that voyage was like. I feel altered by it and shaped by it, but it's hard to explain in a nutshell what it was like to have done it."

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Literature today: Pankaj Mishra on global novel

"Literature today seems to emerge from an apolitical and borderless cosmopolis. Even the mildly adversarial idea of the “postcolonial” that emerged in the 1980s, when authors from Britain’s former colonial possessions appeared to be “writing back” to the imperial centre, has been blunted. The announcement this month that the Man Booker, a literary prize made distinctive by its Indian, South African, Irish, Scottish and Australian winners, will henceforth be open to American novels is one more sign of the steady erasure of national and historical specificity.

Tim Parks, among others, has deplored the dominance of the “global novel” as practised by Haruki Murakami, Umberto Eco, Kazuo Ishiguro and Salman Rushdie. Marked by an internationally identifiable and translatable literariness, not to mention cuddly-bear politics, such fictions threaten to render obsolete, according to Parks, “the kind of work that revels in the subtle nuances of its own language and literary culture”. More recently, the English critic Philip Hensher has complained that “a superficial multicultural aspect” of this year’s Man Booker shortlist conceals “a specifically North American taste”.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Literature is always about bygone times: Amos Oz

Literature is always about bygone times. It’s always looking back in time with a certain perspective. I look at bygone life which no longer exists and, as I said, I look at it without nostalgia but without anger either. I look at it with criticism and with compassion. I look at it with curiosity. I look at it with fascination, and I look at it with a certain smile.

                                                                  # #

Language is my craft, language is my musical instrument. I treat the language the way the violinist treats the violin, and for me the most important thing in my writing and in my teaching is precision

                                                                   # #

I never regarded myself as a prophet; I can’t read the future and I don’t have any particular wisdom which other people don’t have. I have imagination and I use it in my political thinking. I ask myself, from time to time, how would I feel if I were a Palestinian under Israeli occupation. I ask myself, from time to time, how would I feel if I were an Orthodox Jew. I ask myself, from time to time, how would I feel if I were an Oriental Sepharadi Jew in a developing town  and I use my imagination in my political manifestations. But no, I never regarded myself as a prophet.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Amitav Ghosh interview

"Writing about King Thibaw was one of the most difficult things I have done in fiction. There are sources for Thibaw but very little has actually been written about him. When I was writing the opening sections of The Glass Palace, I was completely stuck for a long time. I have a rule when I am stuck—I read the Russians because, somehow, Russian literature has the answers.  In this particular case, it was Solzhenitsyn’s Aug­ust 1914. It may not be one of his great novels but there’s a long section on what happens in the head of Tsar Alexander on the cusp of the Russian Revolution. Reading that became very empowering for me; I felt if Solzh­enitsyn can do this with the Tsar, I can do it with King Thibaw."


 "The Shadow Lines had no hype when it came out, I wasn’t even in India. Ravi, who I miss so much, believed in it and it had a succes d’estime but over time it found an audience. My next book, In An Antique Land, was non-fiction and it sank without a trace. There go four years of my life, I thought, but today, it’s the most read of my books. There are translations in Arabic and Hebrew. There was no single turning point; books accrue a readership over time."

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