Saturday, August 31, 2013

Andrea Hirata's story of literary stardom

Friday, August 30, 2013

Nadeem Aslam interview

"People always say to me that my books are very melancholy, very sad, even bleak. I am aware that I work in the tragic mode. Plenty of people don’t. They write comic novels. I am not one of them. I like to put people under pressure within a certain set of circumstances and see how that reveals their true character.

There are some writers who want to leave politics out of their novels. I don’t. Any number of writers: Dostoevsky, Orwell, Milosz, Tolstoy, Gordimer, Garcia Marquez, V.S. Naipaul; any number of them have made use of politics in their books. Political horror is at the center of the New Testament, isn’t it? What is the story of the death of Christ if looked at through secular eyes, if not about the corruption and compromises within the political system? Cynthia Ozick reviewed J.M. Coetzee’s Life and times of Michael K in the New York Times when it was published, and in the first sentence she states that “the literature of conscience is about the bewilderment of the naïve.” The people we consider mentally defective, the children, the powerless, the people who actually ask the question: why? Why is the world this way? I think at the deepest level, that is what I am trying to do, to ask the question why."
via Guernica

Monday, August 26, 2013

Happy hundredth birthday to Boris Pahor


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Reading: Maidenhair/ Mikhail Shishkin

What is maidenhair? 

On page 452 of the 506-page eponymous novel, you get its first mention. "We roamed among the ruins, and she broke a fernlike twig:What's this? Maidenhair." But you get a clearer picture on page 500: "For us, this is a house plant; otherwise it wouldn't survive, without human warmth, but here it's a weed. So, you see, this is in dead language, signifying something alive: Adiantum capillus veneries,Venus hair, Genus Adiantum. Maidenhair. God of life."

I mention this because this is the key to understanding the novel. Of course, it's a difficult novel - for me at least - and I found it hard to grasp and appreciate.

I got to reading the novel with enthusiasm as ever. The interpreter who was interviewing hordes of hapless Russian asylum-seekers to locate the genuine among them seemed to be the protagonist of the novel. His accounts and insights about varied people and their awful conditions were quite fascinating. Then the 'soliloqui' began, and I was lost. Parts of it being inaccessible to me. I could not figure out where the novel was heading..

Then you get access to a singer's diary as if for a distraction. This portion is a light read: the artist's days of struggle, her love, her stardom, her beyond-glory days. You enjoy reading them up to a point, then it begins to suck. I had problem linking it with the interpreter's narrative.

A bit disappointed, I kept the novel aside for a couple of weeks, then, on a rainy evening when I stayed at home, I took it up again. Read it all through in one sitting. Loved the last pages of the book - even the soliloqui incorporated in this part.

So what's Maidenhair about? It is about civilization, history, religion, philosophy, art, music, war, brutality, depravity, dehumanization, but it's first and foremost about human conditions in different times and spaces down the ages.

It's a modern classic.

I recommend it - for the right reader, that is.



Monday, August 19, 2013

World literature today

"Today’s World Lit is more like a Davos summit where experts, national delegates, and celebrities discuss, calmly and collegially, between sips of bottled water, the terrific problems of a humanity whose predicament they appear to have escaped."

"Global Literature can’t help but reflect global capitalism, in its triumph, inequalities, and deformations. In the English language, World Literature has its signature writers: Rushdie and Coetzee at the lead, and Kiran Desai, Mohsin Hamid, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie among the younger charges. It has its own economy, consisting of international publishing networks, scouts, and book fairs. It has its prizes: the Nobel, of course, but more powerful and snazzier is the Man Booker, and the Man Booker International. Its political arm is PEN. And it has a social calendar full of literary festivals, which bring global elites into contact with the glittering stars of World Lit. Every year, sections of the dominant class fly from Mexico City to have Julian Barnes sign books in Xalapa, or from Delhi to Jaipur to be seen partying with Mario Vargas Llosa. The Hay Festival, started in Hay-on-Wye in rural Wales, now has outposts in Dhaka, Beirut, Nairobi, and elsewhere. “Hay Festival in Cartagena de Indias” is an accidentally funny phrase — Sí, hay festival — redolent of a strange new intimacy between global north and south."

Thursday, August 15, 2013

New Murakami novel in 2014

The English translation of Haruki Murakami‘s latest novel  Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and the Year of His Pilgrimage is likely to be finished by the end of 2013, according to a Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group source.

So if you're a Murakmai fan like me and  read Murakami only in English, expect to get it sometime in 2014

A reviewer says of the novel, "I felt that the Great East Japan Earthquake loomed in the background of the novel. I had the impression that Murakami faced the disaster straightforwardly. The book has strong messages and many encouraging words."

The novel has sold one million copies each week in Japan since its publication  in April this year.

Monday, August 12, 2013

America's Nobel | E L Doctorow quote

'America's  Nobel: The Neustadt International Prize for Literature
 “The jurors would probably be more subject to the impact of writer’s reputation and world status if they were primarily critics or book reviewers. However, they are always writers who are discussing their peers when they deliberate, probably people they know and possibly collaborated with at some point. Thus, as “insiders” in the writing world they know so much more about who is writing and what people are writing than the reputations could convey by themselves. As such, the jurors are incredibly sophisticated judges, and they tend to see each writer within a very large context of what is happening in world literature. They may know that a particular writer is famous or his or her work is trendy at the moment, but since they know so much more about that writer than his or her fame, they are “immunized” in their decision making by their high level of knowledge about all of the writers being considered for the prize.  The fact that the juries are made up of professional and highly accomplished writers shapes a lot of what happens on these juries and is probably the secret of why the Neustadt prizes traditionally have gone to such appropriate and deserving writers.”

 E L Doctorow quote
 Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Vladimir Sorokin interview

..with every book, I want to open up something new for myself. That is why they are so different from one another—that is, so to say, my principle changes. With every new book I am a little bit changed. (pointing to an edition of Day of the Opritchnik) I am not going to write this way from now on. After this one, I wrote something completely different—The Blizzard, which is a quiet book, like a long and hopeless Russian winter.

via BOMBLOG

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Russian Literature today | Jennifer Weiner on Book Clubs' selection

"Two distinct polarities appear to have emerged among the current spread of literary genres in Russia: on the one hand, there is a yearning for nonfiction, including biographies, "true stories", travelogues and investigative novels; one the other hand, there is "a fortunate impregnation of fantastic elements into realistic narratives", as writer and critic Alisa Ganieva puts it. She goes on to say: "There is an obvious drive to record the reality as true to lofe as possible (your non-fiction fad), while simultaneously looking beyond the horizons and trying to perceive what awaits this country and all of humanity in the future, taking the country's current political and social system and projecting it into a not-so-distant future. In other words, it is in a way realistic prose posing as fantasy."

Jennifer Weiner on Book Clubs' selection 
   
“A book club will by all means pick up Franzen. It’s being written about everywhere — you can’t avoid it. But are they going to read ‘The Unknowns’ or even [Meg Wolitzer's] ‘The Interestings’ — books with covers that are not playing into warm and fuzzy feelings or with a portrait of a woman shot from the back, the kind that say to book clubs, ‘This one’s for you’?”

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