Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year Resolution

The best resolution to make this New Year's Day might be to open your eyes to everything around you—while also recalling that most of our lofty resolutions will ultimately come to naught.


Pico Iyer reviews Arto Possillina's famous novel "The year of the Hare". But it's more than a review article. Iyer gives a rare and wonderful insight into living the other way. Which is consistent with the theme of the novel.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Khushwant Singh's current take on Salman Rushdie

There is more to Rushdie than his fertile imagination and powerful pen. Besides his brain, he has other parts of his body well-endowed. How else can one explain that this beady-eyed, bearded man in his middle age had a succession of wives and mistresses to warm his bed? That is yet another reason why I envy and admire him.

Source: Khushwant Singh's column "With malice towards one and all" published in the Hindustan Times dated Dec 26, 2010.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Literary greatness= a game of hype?

EILEEN BATTERSBY has an interesting article in The Irish Times

HYPE HAS a great deal to answer for. It embellishes, it manipulates, most of all, it distorts. Hype creates a subplot; it elevates a sideshow to a main event. If Jonathan Franzen had not taken nine years to write Freedom, it would most likely have been received as the novel it actually is – a sloppy, overwritten, mildly amusing extended sitcom that is being inaccurately, even grotesquely, hailed as a masterpie

Sunday, December 19, 2010

" I have unbounded admiration for her."

KHUSWANT SINGH on ARUNDHATI ROY

I do not know Arundhati Roy well as I have met her briefly a couple of times. But I have unbounded admiration for her. She is good-looking, animated, unconventional, a gifted writer, gutsy and a champion of lost causes. I am by no means her only admirer; she has millions of them in India and abroad. I am not wrong in believing that she is the best known Indian woman in western democratic nations and regarded as the leading voice of dissent in democratic india.. To penalise her will further enhance her reputation abroad and bring India a bad name.

Source: Khuswant Singh's column "With malice towards one and all" in the Hindustan Times dated Dec 19, 2010.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Liu Xiaobo's collection of poems in English

Literary news: Graywolf Press of Minneapolis will be publishing the first collection of poems in English by Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese dissident poet and literary critic who is the winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mario Vargas Llosa's Nobel Lecture

"Without fictions we would be less aware of the importance of freedom for life to be livable, the hell it turns into when it is trampled underfoot by a tyrant, an ideology, or a religion. Let those who doubt that literature not only submerges us in the dream of beauty and happiness but alerts us to every kind of oppression, ask themselves why all regimes determined to control the behavior of citizens from cradle to grave fear it so much they establish systems of censorship to repress it and keep so wary an eye on independent writers. They do this because they know the risk of allowing the imagination to wander free in books, know how seditious fictions become when the reader compares the freedom that makes them possible and is exercised in them with the obscurantism and fear lying in wait in the real world. Whether they want it or not, know it or not, when they invent stories the writers of tales propagate dissatisfaction, demonstrating that the world is badly made and the life of fantasy richer than the life of our daily routine. This fact, if it takes root in their sensibility and consciousness, makes citizens more difficult to manipulate, less willing to accept the lies of the interrogators and jailers who would like to make them believe that behind bars they lead more secure and better lives.
"

Monday, December 6, 2010

Gao Xingjian interview

"Literature can neither change nor save the world. A work of literature is nothing more than the voice of the writer as an individual, and it is an illusion for any writer to think he or she can change the world. During the 20th century, literature became too intimately involved with politics. In China, literature became a screw that turned the machinery of proletariat dictatorship, and writers became public relations personnel of the Communist Party. But literature is--and should be--about exploring the complexities of human nature and seeking the truth. Literature must remain independent.
"

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mohsin Hamid’s talk about The Reluctant Fundamentalist

"As a novelist, I think of both my books as ‘buildings of the mind’. It is not my job to design a journey that has set junctions. The reader should be able to go wherever they want; whenever they want within the premise I have created. I like that fluidity."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Khushwant Singh interview

In the Outlook magazine, Sheela Reddy has an interesting interview with Khushwant Singh, India's dirty old man.

I’ve no idea how many of them will be read after I’m gone. I’ve done serious books like history and translations from the scriptures, translations from Urdu poetry and short stories from other languages. But what will last, I’ve no idea. As Hillaire Belloc said: “I hope when I’m dead it will be said/ his sins were scarlet/ but his books were read.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hans Keilson is 101

"My work is being rediscovered. What is odd is that I am still alive while that's happening."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mario Vargas Llosa: my reading experience

Every year the Nobel Prize spurs me on to read (or reread) one or two imporatant works of the new Nobel Laureate. I’ve never read MarioVergas Llosa before, andI thought it was time to catch up on his novels.

The first novel I picked up - not by anybody’s recommendation, but from its unique title – was The Feast of the Goat . A 475-page,almost daunting tome.

But what an easy read! Meticulously researched, well-crafted. Spiced with lots of sex. Racy style. It’s about Rafel Trujillo, the despot of the Dominician Republic, and centres around his ssassination. It’s also about Urania Cabral, who was violated by Trujillo when she was just sixteen year old.

Mario Vargas Llosa depicts Trujillo as a man with rarified intelligence and refined tastes, even with a penchant for Pablo Neruda poems. Not very convincing for a paranoid who kills his enemies, real and perceived,at the drop pf a hat.

Half way through the novel, I found my interest flagging, but I was curious about the depiction of the ultimate scene where the debauchee would violate Urania, who was sent as a gift by her father, an onetime trusted aide of Trujillo, to win back his chief’s favour. The scene had one obvious thing missing. Urania’s mother was Trujillo’s most favourite woman, and he often boasted to his close aides that hers was the best cunt he ever enjoyed. But on this occasion, Trujillo never for a moment thinks of Urania as daughter of somone who aroused him in a big way and feels any exra excitement . Was Trujillo devoid of memory? Of course, these things matter little in the blockbuster plot of the novel. Then when he fails to have sex due to his prostate problem, the way he breakes her “cherry” – with a nail of his finger – is hugely repugnant.

Where is literature in all of these ghastly details? I don’t find any thing of value, or edifying in this kind of cartography.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Vinod Mehta on why he publishes Arundhati Roy so often

Arundhati Roy? Thirty-three pages and all. It is an honour and a privilege to have her byline in the magazine. I don’t agree with every word she writes, but by and large, Outlook and Arundhati are on the same page. Incidentally, I find her bitterest critics are the ones who read her most avidly.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Is there any creative spark for writing?

I never think that way. I think I’m just writing, writing, writing.
--Alice Munro

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pakistani writers: dual role

"Literature has always helped us to define who we are. This might even be one of the most important functions of writing; it is the biggest question that writers address when telling the stories of themselves and of others. Pakistani writers find themselves in the dual role of being storytellers as well as the interpreters of culture and politics to an eager, hungry Western audience."

Friday, October 22, 2010

So, how does Rohinton Mistry react?

I don't know how a writer - Rohinton Mistry in this case - exactly feels when one of his major works - award-winning Such a long journey-is all of a sudden banned or prohibited with a base and despicable motive(actually a ploy to raise the profile of the youngest member of the Shiv Sena's ruling Thackeray family, Aditya, who is currently a student at Mumbai University.) Mistry, hugely knowledgeable about India and its politics, analyzes the event dispassionately and responds to his book ban with great eloquence and dignity.

As for the grandson of the Shiv Sena leader, the young man who takes credit for the whole pathetic business, who admits to not having read the book, just the few lines that offend him and his bibliophobic brethren, he has now been inducted into the family enterprise of parochial politics, anointed leader of its newly minted “youth wing”. What can — what should — one feel about him? Pity, disappointment, compassion? Twenty years old, in the final year of a BA in History, at my own Alma Mater, the beneficiary of a good education, he is about to embark down the Sena’s well-trodden path, to appeal, like those before him, to all that is worst in human nature.

Does he have to? No. He is clearly equipped to choose for himself. He could lead, instead of following, the old regime. He could say something radical — that burning and banning books will not feed one hungry soul, will not house one homeless person nor will it provide gainful employment to anyone (unless one counts those hired to light bonfires), not in Mumbai, not in Maharashtra, not anywhere, not ever.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Salman Rushdie on multi-tasking

“I am one of those people who find it impossible to multi-task. It has to be one thing at a time."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Puja literature: Debesh Roy's Lingalekh

The only Bengli novel that I read during this Puja – my time for experiencing Bengali prose – is “Lingalekh” by Debesh Roy who I stopped reading altogether following his pro-government stand on the Singur movement.

What's Lingalekh? I looked up in the only Bengali dictionary that I have, but did not get it. I think it is kind of treatise on male sex organ.

It’s an allegorical novel about today’s changed environs in Bengal when the 33-year-old Marxist regime is on the way out, and Mamata Banerjee’s party Trinamul Congress (satirically described “Mulo party” by Roy) is all set to be at the helms. Since my last reading,Roy has not changed a bit: his allegiance to the Left Front seems as intact, notwithstanding its visible degeneration, depradations and disconnect with the masses over the years. In the novel he lambasts, in a subtle way though, the intellectuals and writers supporting Ms Banerjee in her march to power.

But what I must admit is that Debesh Roy is still compelling, and has world-class craftsmanship to dwell on any subject. He’s more than a story-teller,a well-informed post-modernist actually, and has a brandwidth few writers of world literature have.

I wonder why translators are still not taking him on.

Are you listening, Mr Ramaswamy?

Friday, October 15, 2010

From David Grossman's Peace Prize acceptance speech

"I believe that the most important things in the history of mankind take place neither on the battlefield, nor in the halls of palaces, nor in the corridors of parliaments, they happen in the kitchens, bedrooms and children's rooms."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Howard Jacobson on reading novels

Once we wrestled with the angel when we read; now we ask only to slumber in his arms.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Liu Xiaobo quote

"I often say that Chinese people have no spiritual dimension. Take for example, film-making, Chinese people never make good psychological or spiritual films. That is to say that, Chinese people have no psyche or spirit to speak of. All of our films are so animalistic. What’s more, we make a bad job of describing this kind of animalism because there are no free animals - it’s like life in a big pig sty. At least now we are in a situation where people get enough to eat and don't lack materially: but, if you are looking for spirituality forget it."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Mario Vargas Llosa interview/1

Adam Smith, editor, Nobelprizeorg, interviewed Mario Vargas Llose on telephone just after the announcement of the 2010 Nobel Prize in literature yesterday.

Excerpt:

Q: May I ask about your interest in politics? You say that you entered politics from a sense of obligation. Was this personal obligation or the obligation of the writer?

MVL: Well, you know, when I ... I, I think writers are citizens too, you know, and have the moral obligation to participate in the civic debate, in the debate about the solutions to the problems that the societies face. That doesn't mean that I think that writers should become professional politicians. No, I never thought, I never wanted to become a professional politician. I did it once because the situation in Peru was deeply, deeply serious. We had hyperinflation, we have terrorism, there was war, civil war, in the country. And, in this environment, my impression was that the very fragile democracy that we had [phone line drops out] was on the point of collapse! So, it was in this circumstances. But, I did it as something very exceptional and knowing perfectly well that this would be a transitory experience, no, which it was.

But, on the other hand, I am ... I, I think that writers, as the rest of citizens, should participate in the civic problems. Otherwise, you couldn't ... you couldn't protest! You couldn't [phone line drops out] participate. If you believe in democracy, democracy is participation, and I don't think why writers, or artists, or intellectuals should exonerate themselves of this moral obligation to participate.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mario Vargas Llosa wins the Nobel Prize in literature, 2010

Congratulation Mario Vargas Llosa!

Mario Vargas Llosa is Peruvian by birth, and truly an international citizen, who embraces multiple genres (novels, essays, politics, journalism).

In 2002, Philip Hensher wrote about him, "When a novelist as gifted, intelligent and perceptive as Mario Vargas Llosa takes on the subject of tyranny and the fantasies of tyrants, the results are spectacular and incontrovertibly plausible. There is nobody comparable in the English-language novel (.....) The Nobel Prize, surely, cannot be long coming."

Monday, October 4, 2010

2010 Nobel Prize for literature : Who're you rooting for?

When I write this, the Nobel jury has already picked up the winner, but does not give as any hint as to who it could be.

Given the Swedish Academy's unique tastes and tendencies, it's difficult to even guess the winner. But we can still have some speculation.

Is it Syrian poet Adonis, or Americans Philip Roth and Joyce Carol Oates,or South Korea's Ko Un or Algerian writer Assia Djebar?

Or would it be Swedish poet and writer Tomar Transtromer, the octogenarian who has long deserved the Nobel Prize for his works?

Or some obscure writer/poet who we have not read or heard about at all?

Little chance for Haruki Murakami or Mahasweta Devi this time.

The Swedish Academy is not very fond of American authors, and has in recent years shown its leanings for dissident European authors( Elfiede Jelinek, Harold Pinter, Herta Muller, for example)

Last year I rooted for Haruki Murakami. This year I've no candidate, so to say. But I'm curious. I've profound respect for the Nobel Committee members who famously don't toe the line of our so-called market, and have great tastes for world literature.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Michel Houellebecq interview

In Paris review, Susannah Hunnewel interviews Michel Houellebecq, France's most famous living writer.

Q:What do you think is the appeal of your work, in spite of its brutality?

A:There are too many answers. The first is that it’s well written. Another is that you sense obscurely that it’s the truth. Then there’s a third one, which is my favorite: because it’s intense. There is a need for intensity. From time to time, you have to forsake harmony. You even have to forsake truth. You have to, when you need to, energetically embrace excessive things. Now I sound like Saint Paul.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Haruki Murakami interview

Asahi.com publishes an interview with Haruki Murakami.

Q: Do you believe in the power of writing?

A: I trust in the power of stories because the story leads me somewhere meaningful.When I start writing, I have no plan. I am blank. I go down into the darkness in myself to find a story. I bring that story into this actual world, and I write it into my fiction. I think that power helped me to live.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Subimal Misra interview

It's nice to see that Tehelka newsweekly has published an interview with Subimal Misra, an underrated but real Bengali writer,who I have known long since - personally as well as through his writings. V. Ramaswamy has recently translated his earlier stories in a book entitled The Golden Gandhi Statue from America (Harper Perennial)

Q: What have been the major changes in your stories since the stories in The Golden Gandhi Statue from the 60s?

A:There have been many phases in my writing over the past few decades. Getting out, and then getting away from montage, collage and cut-up, I tried to make my voice more pin-pointed, so that even without seeing the writer’s name people could know for certain that this was Subimal Misra’s writing. (There are both positive and negative aspects of this.) In my writing, I have used the form of the story, my own secret diary, reportage, excerpts from advertisements, pornography, slang – even a series of interviews with dacoits from south Bengal. Everything was mixed up, to became a unified whole. I walk along my own path through all this, whether this is an advance or not – I don’t know. I am unable to say how much of it is story, and how much simply text.

In my writing, and especially in my current writing, there is a conscious tendency to abandon “meta-narrative”. There need not be a definite, fixed meaning of all the words, all the time. One may discover that the same words may have been used in diametrically opposite ways in the same text. Or one may find that the text is broken up and thus de-constructed and made inter-penetrating and inter-dependent. In the sequential flow of the narrative, “yes” and “no” become mutually interdependent.

What I sense now is that if a person continuously and consistently wants to rebel, then at a certain juncture he also has to become a rebel against his own rebellion. Finally the business of de-construction has itself to be de-constructed.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fiction & Truth

"..fiction, believe it or not, is the best tool available to us to tell the truth."( via Publishing Perspectives)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Jonathan Franzen is on Time's cover!

It's intriguing that even in these times, when literary fiction is reportedly on life support, Jonathan Franzen can be a cover story for Time!

The trend in fiction over the past decade has been toward specialization: the closeup, the miniature, the microcosm. After the literary megafauna of the 1990s — like Infinite Jest by the late David Foster Wallace, who was a close friend of Franzen's — the novels of the aughts embraced quirkiness and uniqueness. Franzen skipped that trend. He remains a devotee of the wide shot, the all-embracing, way-we-live-now novel.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Gunter Grass interview

SPIEGEL publishes a great interview with Gunter Grass.
Q: Do you fear the end of your life?
Grass: No. I've realized that, on the one hand, one is ready for it. I also realize that I've retained a certain amount of curiosity. What will happen to my grandchildren? What will the weekend football results look like? Of course, there are also some banalities I still want to experience. Jacob Grimm wrote a wonderful piece on aging, and I also found the following sentence in another one of his works: "The last harvest is on the stalk." It touched me, and of course it immediately prompted me to reflect on my own age. In doing so, I didn't discover any predominant fear of death.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fear of writing about the real world?

Christos Tsiolkas's take on contemporary fiction
"In the English-language novel there is a fear of writing about the real world. I don't read a lot of contemporary fiction that's true to the world. I read to have my assumptions challenged, to be scared, to cry. That novel isn't being written at the moment."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Norman Spinrad on publishing

Norman Spinrad, well-known writer, literary critic, and expert on publishing, has an interesting post at his blog NORMAN SPINRAD AT LARGE.

Hey, I learned the business of publishing from the gutter up as a 24 year old anonymous wage slave in the Scott Meredith Literary Agency. I’ve been president of two writers’ organizations. I’ve written a whole book on the publishing industry. I’ve been called a Communist, a Fascist, an anarchist, a punk, a bastard, an asshole, and a prick. But one thing I’ve never been called is naive.

Now I have to do it to myself.

Boy was I naive about the great literary publishing house Alfred A. Knopf!

Boy was I naive about its maven, Sonny Mehta!

This is not only going to be a sad story, it’s quite embarrassing to have to tell it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Publishers, take note

How revelatory that Nilanjana S.Roy,a former editor of a big publishing house, now feels guilty of having played volumes-versus-quality game in publishing.

"It’s time for publishers to start being gatekeepers again, to step away from the mediocre, the easy successes, the frozen-pizza school of writing — easy to sell, easy to consume, of no nutritional value whatsoeve."

But would any publisher really care?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Lydia Davis interview

In the Observer,William Skidelsky interviews Lydia Davis, who is famous for writing stories that are sometimes one-sentence long.

"I started writing the one-sentence stories when I was translating Swann's Way. There were two reasons. I had almost no time to do my own writing, but didn't want to stop. And it was a reaction to Proust's very long sentences. The sheer length of a thought of his didn't make me recoil exactly – I loved working on it – but it made me want to see how short a piece of fiction could be that would still have a point to it, and not just be a throwaway joke."

Friday, July 30, 2010

In the opinion of ex-professor of literarture

Amis, McEwan and Rushdie are like "prep school boys showing off".

Monday, July 26, 2010

Arundhati Roy in Forbe World's most inspiring women list!

What gall Forbe World clubs Arundhati Roy with actor Angelina Jolie, former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, first lady Michelle Obama and author J.K. Rowling! Even Oprah Winfrey, the topper of the list, is a mismatch when compared to Arundhati!

I wonder how Arundhati could be a role model for Forbe World's business-savvy readers.

Yet another ploy to suck in the great-look author by the corporate world?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Post-literate age?

"It's not a disaster that there are no good novels being written. There are wonderful novels written. It's that our brains are being disassembled right now and being put back together in a whole different shape, and that is not going to be conducive to reading a 300-page thing that doesn't have any links."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

David Mitchell interview

In the Vanity Fair, John Lopez interviews David Mitchell.

Q:James Wood in the New Yorker was describing your books and he jokingly came up with the phrase post-postmodernism. If there were such a thing as post-postmodern literature, what do you think that might be?

A:Oddly enough, I’m not sure if novelists are the best people to ask whither-the-novel questions. For me, it’s a little like I’m a duckbilled platypus and I’m being asked a question about taxonomy. You won’t get much of an answer out of a platypus because they’re busy going about their business digging tunnels, catching fish, and having sex. You really have to ask a critic, or a taxonomist. I feel like I should have a pithy answer because I’m a novelist and you’re asking a question about the future of the novel, but the biggest question I ever get to is, “How can I make this damned book work?” I rarely ever put my head above the rampart and see where this big lumbering behemoth called global literature is going.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Faulkner online

In the late 1950s, William Faulkner spent two years as the writer-in-residence at the University of Virginia, where he talked about his fiction, did some readings, and interacted with students. Now all of these have been digitalised and published online.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Saw Wai interview

In The Irrawaddy, Aye Chan Myate interviews Saw Wai, the artist and poet, who was released from prison recently after spending more than two years behind bars for publishing a poem in “The Love Journal” that contained the hidden words: “Power-hungry, insane Gen Than Shwe.

Q: In Burma, artists are not able to write about certain topics or use certain types of images.

A: Overcoming such difficulties is a big burden. In every era under any kind of government, artists must work to create new things that speak the truth. If we are united, one day things will get better.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

To Kill A Mockingbird :50th anniversary of a no-publicity bestseller

In the Independent Helen Taylor re-evaluates Harper Lee's only novel.

Harper Lee observed clearly and wrote prophetically. For all the novel's occasional sentimentality and whimsy, she produced a powerful indictment of American racial history at a crucial moment, one which remains relevant to today's multi-cultural US. This book deserves its long-standing success.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Salman Rushdie interview

In the Hindu Literary review,Gauri Viswanathan interviews Salman Rushdie.

I think relativism is the dangerous death of liberalism. If you will justify anything that anybody does because it comes from their tradition, it means you abdicate your moral sense and you cease to be a moral being. Going back to the article you mentioned which talks about the question of women, if you were to take religion away as the justification, nobody would tolerate that for a minute. The kinds of limitations that women have been placed under and the crimes against women in the name of religion are so profound, and yet somehow people don't get as agitated about them as when the same things are done by somebody who wasn't using God as the reason. That seems like nonsense to me.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Whither Indian publishing?

Aditya Sudarshan has a thoughtful article Indian publishing needs to get less fun
in the Hindu Literary Review.

In the world of Indian English publishing, kitsch has begun to dominate the mainstream. Penguin India publishes ‘Metro Reads', books that they call ‘fun, feisty, fast'; Random House India produces the ‘Kama Kahani', a series of Indianised Mills and Boons; Hachette India openly states that it cares most about commercial thrillers; and with its latest, highly-marketed release, Johnny Gone Down, HarperCollins India seems to be headed in the same direction. These are all books that openly disclaim any particular literary merit. They are projected instead as ‘fun' reads — with the implication that only a killjoy could possibly protest them.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Lit News: H.G. Alder's "Panorama" to be republished

Good news for literature lovers: to mark the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of H.G. Adler, his autobiographical novel "Panorama" is going to be republished. Rated as "among the greats of world literature", Panorama was written way back in 1948, and it took twenty years before a publisher had the guts to publish it.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ilana Hammerman interview

Haaretz publishes an interesting and lengthy interview of editor and writer Ilana Hammerman.

Society has taken in so many innovative things that it has become immune. No one is knocked off their feet anymore - not by art and not by reality. Once people were shocked by Dadaism, for example. Now, if they see a toilet in the museum, so what? After all, they show us dead bodies and mangled limbs - what isn't shown and visible everywhere? Civilized society can digest anything.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Joyce Carol Oates interview

Q:A few months ago, you finished writing A Widow’s Memoir, an account of the death of your first husband, Raymond Smith. Can you comment on the process of writing it?

A:It isn’t a time I remember very clearly now. I had difficulty sleeping and would often write late at night, on sheets of paper folded lengthwise, which can fit neatly into a book which I might be reading, or trying to read. My normal concentration was shattered and so I “took notes” in the hope that some time in the future I could bring these fragmented passages into some sort of coherent whole. The effort seemed enormous at the time—like hauling myself up by hand, pulling on a thick rope.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dzanc's Alternate List of 20 writers to watch

In an obvious response to The New Yorker's list of 20 best ficton writers under 40,
, Dzanc has now published an alternate list of 20. It's a relief to see that the Dzanc at least does not take into consideration a writer's age to make its list, and has a more comprehensive and wider view of fiction publishing.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Translating Haruki Murakami

The Danwei has published translating experiences of two Chinese translators of Haruki Murakami.

Just from the title 1Q84 it is obvious that Haruki Murakami is a naughty writer who likes to play word games. He likes putting heterogeneous things together; here it’s numbers and English letters.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Olga Yokarczuk interview

"Literature is always political"
Q: In the past, writers were seen as very powerful members of society, people who were capable of influencing the masses. Has that changed? What is the role of writers in contemporary society?

Olga Tokarczuk: The role of the writer has always been political, in the broadest possible sense of the political. When I say political, I mean a conscious approach to the reality that surrounds us. More often than not, such an approach should involve, in my opinion, the writer finding vantage points that will allow us to see the imperceptible.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The curious case of David Davidar

David Davidar, the publishing don, had quickly quit his job before his company was to fire him on charge of sexual harassment by his subordinate Lisa Rundle. An impressive line of writers, editors and publishers - most of them benificiaries in one way or other of Davidar's grand position in the publishing world -now stand by him. But is he really clean?

The point I’m trying to make here is that I’m not some outsider sitting on a fence and bitching because of some personal grouse. On the contrary. I’m being brutally honest and saying that sure, David had some excellent qualities. But he had some major vices too. And some were unacceptable. He drank way, way too much. He admitted to me that Frankfurt and London Book Fair were basically excuses for him to get drunk and stay sloshed for days on end, alongwith a group of other equally inebriated editors of major international houses who often pitched one another books and bought and sold one another’s pitches, sometimes for million dollar advances. He exulted in the sheer power he wielded and while he was always a thorough Gentleman in the best old-fashioned sense of the word, he also suffered from the classic Gentlemanly vices – a love for the company of other powerful decision-makers with fat chequebooks and money (not their own) to splurge as they pleased, a bottomless expense account, loads of alcohol…and, in David’s case, women. He loved women. He adored them. That was fine in itself, perhaps. But David had a problem: He fell in love with women at the drop of a spoon. He was always either in love with someone or other or had just been in love with one and was now in love with another…it was quite a mess. Everyone who knew David well knew this and while I can’t speak for the women he worked with, at least two other mutual friends that I know of – Dom Moraes and Jeet Thayil – were quite aware of David’s fondness for romance. He loved wooing women with roses and champagne, chocolates and nightgowns, candlelit dinners and long night drives. He lived for it. He was a man of big appetites and his biggest hunger was always for the romance of romance.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ruskin Bond interview

The Statesman has published an interesting interview with Ruskin Bond, the evergreen writer.

Do you think good writing often comes unbidden?
It can because sometimes, quite spontaneously, you might feel the urge to write a poem or an essay or just a personal entry in a journal. You’d call that spontaneous writing. It’s often the best that a writer does. Of course, there’re kinds of writing that require planning and organisation like long novels or biography. As far as poetry goes, even the essay at times, or even occasionally a short story, can be the result of spontaneous urge which is often unplanned.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Hans Fallada's anti-Nazi novel sells 100,000 in three months

A Bestseller after 60 years!

Written in 1947, the novel is a chilling portrayal of extreme fear under dictatorship. It is about an ordinary Berlin couple, Otto and Anna Quangel, who in a small way stage a protest against the Nazis after their only son is killed in action in 1940 by denouncing Hitler in postcards which they leave across the city. It is also an exciting thriller about the Gestapo detective pursuing them.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Amos Oz interview

"It is not exactly the way I write stories, it's the way I think, since each time I am among people who are strangers: at a railway station, an airport or in the waiting room of a clinic. I look at people and observe them, I look at their body language, their clothes, I overhear snatches of conversations between them and I imagine their lives. It's a wonderful pastime, I recommend it to everyone to try to imagine the other, because with the help of imagination we liberate ourselves from the prison of the self into a broader conception of human nature"

Is novel just a pastime?

"The proper subject of each and every novel is the replacement of one state of affairs by another. Every such novel is a challenge to the status quo, an act of sedition that maps a revolution."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

American PEN Literary Service Award Speech

"Publishing a book is like stuffing a note into a bottle and hurling it into the sea. Some bottles drown, some come safe to land, where the notes are read and then possibly cherished, or else misinterpreted, or else understood all too well by those who hate the message. You never know who your readers might be."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Yann Martel Interview

"Reality is a 100 million details. Right now where you are, if you think about it, you are surrounded by 100 million details on which you could focus your attention. Everything, from chemical, scientific details to cultural details to personal emotional details... now some of that has to be lost. Time, you know, is an eraser. It all goes. [We need] something we can hold on to. It's called history. But even history has hundreds of thousands of details and sometimes it's overwhelming and it's hard to get to. The forte of the arts, the forte of the imagination is that it can take some of those details and give them immortality. A painting, a story, a song can float across the ocean of time like a lifeboat. So you can get to the essence of an event and convey it in the form of art. It can be like a suitcase, taking the essential and preparing you for a trip to elsewhere...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Two Faces of Amitav Ghosh?

Dan David Prize Controversy
Not long ago - in March 2001, to be exact - Amitav Ghosh withdrew his book from Commonweath writer's prize on moral ground, but this time he's going to Tel Aviv on May 9 to receive the $1 million Dan David Prize in presence of Israeli President Shimon Peres despite calls from anti-Israeli intellectuals to reject the prize.

"It's surprising to have to raise Israeli colonialism with a writer whose entire oeuvre seems to us an attempt to imagine how human beings survived the depredations of colonialism. Gosh, even the Dan David judges like the way you evoke "the violent dislocations of people and regimes during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries."...What can you be thinking of? Please, think again."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"I write to destroy memory"

Jacques Rouboud In Bomb Magazine.

I write every night. I never correct, I never go back—I just go on and on. Everything I speak about is, in a way, linked to the old abandoned project. I want to say something about it, but I digress as soon as I start saying something, because I remember something else that I then begin to explain, and so on. So the structure is a bit meandering. I begin The Loop with a very old childhood image of snow in Carcassonne, where snow is very rare. I’m in my room and it’s very cold outside. At night there’s frost on the windowpane—I write and make pictures on it. So that’s the image: there’s an outer and an inner space, memory and the present. That’s the first image of the book, which at the end, returns to it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

David Mitchell Interview

"No, no, no, no, no, no. You don’t run short of imagination. You can get jaded, myopic and maybe sluggish. But imagination is...? it’s more a place actually, or a lab. Stories are infinite. You help yourself to as much as you want. You. Your kid. The human mud of your marriage. It’s all material. For that to run dry — it’s unthinkable. It would be like a fish worrying about water when it’s in the sea. The world has infinite plots for me.”

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Aharon Appelfeld Interview

Q: Have you ever felt that you have exhausted this subject or period -- the period of the Holocaust -- or that you might want to write about another period of your life?

A I write about ideas. It's not memoir, it's not history, it's not psychology, it's about the human being in the world, all of the good and bad that a person encounters in life. This is what I have written 40 books about. I have written books that take place in Israel, and I have written about other periods, not just about the period of the war. Also about other times in Jewish history. I don't write history, or memoirs of the Holocaust. Of course, in the Holocaust, many horrible things happened. So many "interesting" things. Take the case of a boy living with a prostitute. This doesn't happen every day. And if I myself hadn't lived with a prostitute, I couldn't have written the book. Things like this couldn't have happened in regular times.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Jeanette Winterson on writing

So I keep on writing the story — for myself, for others — knowing that the flexibility and energy of an emerging narrative — why we always need new books and new voices — is the antidote to the rigid moribund narratives of vested interests and mass culture.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Big Mysterious World of Roberto Bolano(3)

You get another new character in Part 3: Oscar Fate, a New York reporter who comes to Detroit to interview an ex-Black Panther, but finally shows up at Santa Teresa to cover a boxing match. Just around this time the city was convulsing with frequent and random killings of young women by a suspected serial killer. Fate gets interested and wants to write an article about it, but his editor in NewYork rejects the idea, and asks him to go back just covering the boxing assignment.

During his stay in the city, he comes in touch with a gang comprising a local reporter, a film buff and a woman called Rosa Mendez. He also meets a Mexico City reporter who is investigating the killings of women. Just after the boxing match Fate goes along with the gang who had with them a pretty woman called Rosa Almafitano, daughter of Oscar Almafitano whom we knew about in Part 1 and part 2.

Fate sniffs something foul, and suspects that Rosa is going to be killed. He salvages her, and later takes her along into US, following in her fater’s advice.

This part reads like a thriller, though with Bolano touch throughout. It however leaves me somewhat clueless about the core of theme. I have a feel that the story is derailed and loses its consistency. But of course I’m not so sure of it.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Literary lion chooses e-publishing

John Edgar Wideman, a fixture of the American literary establishment and two-time winner of the prestigious Faulkner Award for fiction, has chosen to e-publish his latest work, breaking from the traditional model he has used to successfully publish more than 20 other works.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

When E-publishing is the only option

DNA, a Mumbai daily, has published an article So what if you can't publish my book after talking to some e-book authors(yours truly among them).

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Big Mysterious World of Roberto Bolano (2)

Part 2 is no continuation of Part 1 in the real sense, and you can read it as a separate text, as if Bolano begins the novel anew forgetting that he has already written the first part. Amalfitano, the Chilean professor, showed up in Part 1 as a guide to four academics in their search for the elusive writer Archimboldi, but he then didn’t attract the readers as others.

So Amalfitano deserved a 68-page treat: The part about Amalfitano. Lola, Amalfitano’s wife, also occupies a part of it. Lola is a queer woman who abandons him for the sake of a poet living in an asylum. The poet dodges her, and she goes out into the big world and wanders around aimlessly, and finally contracts AIDS.

Amalfitano comes across as a lonely, depressive figure, and when he is not taking classes in the university, he reads, ruminates, dreams, hallucinates and thinks. He may seem like a bore, but to me, he’s quite an interesting intellectual who lives his own way.

But why is this part like it is? Is Bolano loading us with details of Santa Teresa’s men and milieu before he proceeds with his story further? Is he giving us a low down on Mexican mind and spirit? Or is he at an experiment with his text? You would notice Bolano incorporates some geometrical figures in the part– not quite relevantly.Is he at this point tired of communicating in words ? Does he believe in an imperfect but spontaneous text? No doubt he is an experimentalist here, and does not care for the traditional form of a novel. But he is vibrant, funny and even hilarious, especially when he dwells upon important characters of his times, like for example, Pinochet or Boris Yeltsin.

I find this part hugely amusing, celebral and enjoyable.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Don DeLillo interview

“In the 1970s, when I started writing novels, I was a figure in the margins, and that’s where I belonged. If I’m headed back that way, that’s fine with me, because that’s always where I felt I belonged. Things changed for me in the 1980s and 1990s, but I’ve always preferred to be somewhere in the corner of a room, observing.”

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Big, Mysterious World of Roberto Bolano (1)

I hope you won't think me indiscreet, said the doctor, but I'm writing a biography of our friend and the more information I can gather on his life, tne better, wouldn't you say? Someday he'll leave here, smoothing his eyebrows, someday the Spanish public will have to recognize him as one of the greats, I don't mean they'll give him a prize,hardly, no Principe de Asturias or Cervantes for him, let alone a seat in the Academy, literary careers in Spain are for social climbers, operators, and ass kissers, if you'll pardon my expression.

.
Guees who writes it? Yes, Roberto Bolano, who I've started reading at last. I'm reading two of his books simultaneously - 2666 at home, and Savage Detectives in my clinic. I find Bolano's writing totally gripping for me. I like his narrative, his style, his voice, even the matter-of-fact way he describes sex acts. His tastes totally match mine, and it's impossible to put down his writing. I find Bolano much more interesting and natural and unpretentious than Salman Rushdie or Garcia Marquez or Orhan Pamuk.

His first part of 2666 deals with four fans of Archimboldi, the reclusive German writer(of course, imagined). Pelletier, Espinoza, Morini and Norton - four different nationals associated with different universities - are in search of real Archimboldi. They roam different locations across the globe, and finally arrive at Santa Teresa based on a rumour that the great writer visited the city some time back.

In the process of this search, Petellier and Espinoza get intimate with Norton, the only lady in the group, but Morini, being handicapped and wheel-chair bound, keeps at a distance from her. Norton sleeps with both Petellier and Espinoza separately and in one occasion together. In course of time, she gets offer to marry any of them. But Norton turns down the offer, and in a strange move, marries Morini.

I don't know how long we'll last together, said Norton inn her letter. It doesn't matter to me or to Morini either(I think). We love each other and we're happy. I know the two of you will understand.

It's a delicate and wonderful love story. But this also leads Petellier and Espinoza to believe, more strongly than ever before, that Archimboldi is here and this is the closest they'll ever be to him.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A.S.Byatt interview

Q:In a recent interview, American novelist Philip Roth predicted that the novel would become extinct as a genre in 25 years at the most. As one of the most important novelist of our age, what is your opinion of his prediction and how do you foresee the future of the novel?

A:I don’t see the novel disappearing. It represents a prolonged communication from one person to one person and it uses language, still the most complicated method we have devised for talking to each other. It may well change its format -- become electronic, for instance -- but it will take a long time for it to disappear. All the blogs and Facebooks we now have are in fact evidence of our need to read and write. Commonplace novels may be replaced by these methods. Good novels will still be needed. And good writers will need to pay attention to the blogosphere and to Twitter, et al., to see what is happening to the medium.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dumitru Tsepeneag interview

"For me, literature is the daughter of music: a bit heavy and more level headed than its mother. Literature submits to the same principles of successive perception, which allows it to build progressively. The narrative image has more dimensions than the painted image—literature is more complex than painting. Initially, this complexity represents a disadvantage, because the reader has to concentrate much more than when they’re looking at a canvas. It gives the author, on the other hand, the opportunity to feel like a creator: they can offer their readers a world in which there’s room for everyone, as every reader has their own reading and vision."

Full interview

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mueller's favourite for the Nobel Peace Prize

Liu Xiaobo, Chinese Writer
In a rather unusual but warm and genuine gesture, Herta Mueller, the Nobel Laureate, writes a letter to Nobel Foundation and recommends Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese writer, for the Nobel Peace Prize.

"I, too, believe that Liu Xiaobo deserves the Nobel Peace Prize because in the face of countless threats from the Chinese regime and great risk to his life, he has fought unerringly for the freedom of the individual.

Dear Marcus Storch, I know that as a Literary Nobel laureate I am not allowed to nominate candidates for the Novel Peace Prize. But I am writing to ask you to pass on my support for Liu Xiaobo to Norway."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Martin Amis interview

".. fiction has been nuclear weapons, the Holocaust, and the gulag. But the impulse each time was literary. I’ve just written a piece about writing Time’s Arrow, and begin by quoting the often-asked question that I heard, “why did you decide to write a novel about the Holocaust?” I never did. I never decide to write any novel of mine. They emerge. “Decide” is completely the wrong word, and “about” is completely the wrong preposition. You find yourself writing around a topic, but not after thinking “someone ought to do something like this,” nothing like that."

Monday, February 1, 2010

J.D.Salinger quote

“There is a marvelous peace in not publishing. Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy.... I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.”

J.D.Salinger in The Times (1974)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Review: The Land of Green Plums

Just finished reading The Land of Green Plums by Herta Muller. This is the first book I have read this year. For constraint of time, I had to read it one or two pages at a time, over a long period. But that way I enjoyed the book more because Muller is not the kind of writer who makes you turn pages like crazy. Quite the opposite, her terse and understated prose demands a slow and thoughtful reading.

TLOGP is about Ceausescu regime and its all-pervasive and bloody repression on the people represented by a four-member group (including the writer herself) in this narrative, who refuse to toe the lines of the regime and Lola, a party loyalist. The state emerges in the form of Captain Pjele who dogs the group members relentlessly, interrogates them whenever and whatever way he wishes, raids their homes and addresses at whatever hour, and searches their belongings evry which way. And the award of punishment varies anything from performing dance before the Captain to secret killing in an odd place.

In a land where there is practically no rule of law, and sign of civilization, the dictator had his shadow everywhere. And the only thing palpable was fear.

Lola, outside this group, despite being a party member, commits suicide, and then her party disowns her. A student,in her fourth year, extremely poor, who would support her studies by prostitution, she was made pregnant by her gym instructor, of course a party bigwig. Two days after Lola’s death, the party members sit in a big hall for denouncing Lola's suicide ,and the gym instructor takes the initiative to expel her from the party and exmatriculate her from the university.

In her wonderfully consummate voice, Muller paints the regime as real and horrendous as it really was. “Everyone lived by thinking about flight. They thought of swimming across the Danube until the water becomes another country. Of running after the corn until the soil becomes another country. ..They hope for fog in the field and fog on the river so they can avoid the bullets and the guard dogs , so they can run away, swim away.”

The end is along the expected lines: George, perpetually on the run, dies falling from a 5th floor window under mysterious circumstances. Kurt, tired of struggle, hangs himself in his apartment with a rope. As for the writer, she gets fired from work without showing any reason, and the regime sees to it that nobody offers her any job whatsoever. Luckily for her, she somehow manages to escape from Rumania to Germany. So does her friend Edgar.

TLOGP is a great novel, not only because of its unique story-telling, but also for its in-depth and nuanced study of psyche of people who has to live in intense fear every day of their life under a repressive regime. More to the point, it has a very contemporary theme because there are large swaths of people in different parts of the world today who go through the same harrowing experience, and many more lands of green plums would surely slip into repressive regime in times to come.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jonathan Lethem Interview

"Voice is the great persuader. When something’s working, it’s because the implicit narrator, the fictional writer who’s writing everything, slips into a mode of authority and persuasiveness that can put over whatever it likes. And you see that in Bolaño now, and people have been very inspired to radical strategies by Bolaño’s freedom to authorize himself to use all sorts of different modes simultaneously. But fundamentally it’s just his persuasiveness and brilliance and charm that make that work."

Jonathan Lethem gives a long interview to the Rumpus.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Jaipur Literary Festival is here again!

Jaipur Literary Festival, billed as the Big Fat Indian Litfest, is here again (January 21-25). And from all indications, it's going to be more spectacular this time. More than 150 writers from across the world would attend the fest this year. The budget is around 2.4 crores in Indian currency. DSC, an infracstructure company, sponsors the fest for reasons best known to it. William Dalrymple and Namita Gokhale, as usual, are its directors. Tina Brown has already had her blessings for the fest.

Like in previous years, the organisers are trying to rope in as many superstar writers as possible this year - Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka being one of them. The buzz is that two Booker winners and five Pulitzer winners would attend the fest this year.

What is however depressing for the organisers is that Amitav Ghosh, Aravind Adiga and Amartya Sen have declined the invitation. Arundhati Roy was of course not invited. So you would not see many of our IWE writers this time. But there is Chetan Bhagat,our pop fictioneer, to make up for what would be missing on Indian side.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The easiest way to become a bestseller writer

"Young writers are over-pampered -- one of the easiest ways to become a bestseller writer today is simply to be young. In such an age-discriminative time, the writers who really need some gentleness and care are, in fact, the old ones!That said, the commitment to optimism in today's literary world can also be traced to Stalinism, which didn't permit what was called defeatism. If there had been camps for literary characters back then, Eeyore the melancholy donkey -- with whom I closely identify -- would have been among the first inmates. The contemporary literary marketplace is almost as repressive. It rewards only the artistically obedient, the adaptable, the diligent, the optimistic. Optimists, after all, are the only reliable consumers."

Croatian novelist Dubravka Ugresic in an interview with Boston Glove in 2003.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Laszlo Darvasi interview

"A really good book is a very selfish thing, it is interested in nothing but itself. And suddenly it will do something that cannot be learned or predicted, because it's not in the instructions. A creation like this is a lonely act and the novel feeds during its creation, on this inviolable experience of loneliness."

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