Saturday, December 27, 2014

When Amazon or Goodreads send you to books....

When Amazon or Goodreads send you to books that you might like because clever algorithms have crunched data and made matches, we should be reeling in horror, because this can only drive us into silos of one, underground caverns populated by everything made in our own respective images. There can be no conversation across buried walls.
--Zia Haider Rahman in an interview

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Making a Few Faded Words Visible Again: Patrick Modiano

Unfortunately I do not think that the remembrance of things past can be done any longer with Marcel Proust's power and candidness. The society he was describing was still stable, a 19th century society. Proust's memory causes the past to reappear in all its detail, like a tableau vivant. Today, I get the sense that memory is much less sure of itself, engaged as it is in a constant struggle against amnesia and oblivion. This layer, this mass of oblivion that obscures everything, means we can only pick up fragments of the past, disconnected traces, fleeting and almost ungraspable human destinies.
Yet it has to be the vocation of the novelist, when faced with this large blank page of oblivion, to make a few faded words visible again, like lost icebergs adrift on the surface of the ocean.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Reading: The Narrow Road to the Deep North/ Richard Flanagan

It's a bit tricky to categorise The Narrow Road to the Deep North. You'll tend to call it a historical fiction based on its WW11 setting and characters, but it's actually first-rate literary fiction, though at some points it reads like a non-fiction novel.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North is about the horror and survival of seven-hundred POWs trapped in Siam(now Thailand) working for Burma Death Railway during WW 11. As expected you read about lots of atrocities perpetrated on the  prisoners by the Japanese Army. There is Colonel Kota who has special affinity for enemy necks and does not only gloat over beheading the enemies, he also teaches this skill with live demonstrations. There is again Major Nakamura who, doped with "shabu", would do anything however brutal for the sake of the Emperor and  has no remorse for dragging the sick and emaciated of the prisoners for the hard manual work for the railway, and thrashing and killing them on the slightest pretext.

The prisoners have a hell of a time with their back-breaking labour, little inadequate food, lack of hygiene and sanitation in their barracks, and many of them being attacked with deadly diseases like cholera, malaria, beriberi and so on. Still amid them you see interesting characters like Darky Gardiner the ever-helpful sergeant, Rabit Hendricks the artist, and Jimmy Bigelow who plays bugle. But most interesting of them is Major Dorrigo Evans, a doctor by training, who has been in charge of the unit and has a genuine feel for his soldiers and rushes to protect them in whatever ways, an altruist character, and always takes the heat from the Japanese.

It's a poignant narrative, but I liked the novel for a separate reason: for its wave of humanity that flows through its pages. None of the characters are depicted in black and white. Flanagan adds the gray shade to all of his characters to do them justice and feel them like human.

Oddly, however, the novelist  follows his characters - Colonel Kota included - till their death.  It feels kind of superfluous and would be better left to readers' imagination. This is where the novel reads like a non-fiction.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the novel. Richard Flanagan is a real writer.

I strongly recommend it.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Of a short debut novel: half a million dollar advance, 26 Rights deal

This Too Shall Pass is a less-than-200 page novel which opens in a cemetery where the narrator, Blanca, is reeling following the loss of her mother. The reader travels with Blanca to her family summer house in the village of Cadaqués, where she spends time with her children, her two ex husbands, her friends, her lover, and a few dogs, all the while exploring the painful and passionate bond she had with her mother.
via

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ewa Lipska's concepts

 Karel Capek, one of the most important Czech writers, once said that "Humour is the salt of life and whoever is well salted will long keep his freshness." I used my own definition of poetry on the cover of my book, which has just been published in Bulgaria, but also have some other concepts. Let me give you a few: Love – an incurable disease everybody dreams about. A writer – a musician of the word. Politics – the oldest profession in the world. God – an emergency for those who believe. Morality – the ten commandments. Beauty – replacing thinking with seeing.
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--EWA LIPSKA in an interview with Eurozine

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Independent publishers vs Megapublishers

Independent publishers are not hybrids, they are instead original seeds, the matrices, the sources of cultural diversity. They bring bibliodiversity to face the humongous behemoth of megapublishing and bookselling.
--Susan Hawthorne at Publishing Perspectives

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Home to Best American Writing today

 It’s no accident that much of the best American writing today is to be found not inside the covers of a book but in magazines and online journals. (A case in point: William Deresiewicz, the author of unapologetically brilliant essays in The New Republic and The Chronicle of Higher Education, is also the author of A Jane Austen Education, a good book that would be a lot better if it didn’t have “proposal” written on every page.) True, most of the writers publishing in those forums can’t make a living at it anymore, but at least their editors are committed to publishing the best of what they can find rather than most marketable or the most "concept driven"

Friday, November 14, 2014

Joan Didion still matters

Vogue has a great article on Joan Didion
The ultimate standard for great writing is not clarity or intelligence or entertainment. It’s the capacity to haunt: to get under the reader’s skin and stay there even as external circumstances change. Didion’s finest books are haunting, which is why they are still discovered, admired, and pawed-over. To read her is to understand what writing, at its most exquisitely controlled, can do.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Point of Karl Ove Knausgaard's Writing

I once met a German journalist who compared me to a rock band. He said, the books don’t really have any focus, it’s just loose, it’s like just having some songs about drinking and they don’t have anything else. But it’s in that band photo, that image, where everything comes together. He wondered if I had a certain point in my writing, because it’s all, you know, bits and pieces and nothing. And then he saw pictures of me, he said, “You pose like a rock star, you kind of summarize everything there.” And I said, “It’s very unfair of you to say that, because…” [laughs] You know, he meant it really, really badly. It has a lot to do with other things. But what I can say is, my face is… I can’t look at myself in the mirror. If I do I see the English cover, you know, and it’s just, I’m dead. [laughs]

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mia Couto on role of art at the time of war

Q: Does art have a duty during times of war?
A: After 16 years of war, it became clear to me that art (and particularly poetry and literature) was a kind of resistance. The first intention of war is to dehumanize. And artistic language can be, in those circumstances, a clear way of rebuilding humanity.
 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Novels are not content: Richard Flanagan, 2014 Man Booker Prize winner


"I do not share the pessimism of the age about the novel. They are one of our greatest spiritual, aesthetic and intellectual inventions. As a species it is story that distinguishes us, and one of the supreme expressions of story is the novel. Novels are not content. Nor are they are a mirror to life or an explanation of life or a guide to life.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Modianesque!

In his writing career spanning almost 50 years, Mr. Modiano has shunned publicity and the media limelight, and like many of his works, has remained a mysterious character to his readers. This has led to the origin of the French term “modianesque”, used to describe a mysterious person or situation. In some of his interviews the writer has suggested that writing is not something that brings pleasure to him but is more of a burden from which he cannot set himself free. He compares it to driving in fog when one doesn’t know where one is going, but nevertheless one has to go on. Mr. Modiano’s work often deals with his Jewish origin and the period of Occupation. In a 2010 interview to France Today, Mr. Modiano said: “After each novel, I have the impression that I have cleared it all away … but I know I’ll come back over and over again to tiny details, little things that are a part of what I am. In the end, we are all determined by the place and the time in which we were born.” It is this quality that the Nobel Prize committee recognised, describing it as “the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation.” Unlike the detective Guy Roland in his best-known work, Missing Person, Mr. Modiano doesn’t have the luxury of losing his memory. But even if it had, he would always attempt to find it.
---Editorial in The Hindu

Monday, October 13, 2014

Michael Wood's 2000 review of Patrick Modiano's The Search Warrant

An appraisal of Modiano's fiction in London Review of Books back in November 2000.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Was I right in my Nobel Prize prediction?

 It's my ill luck that I had no access to internet since Thursday when the winner of the Nobel Prize in literature was announced, and I just felt helpless and fretted failing to post my " Nobel Prize 2014 goes to ,," on Thursday.  I had the winner's name from my TV and was somewhat elated that I was kind of right in my prediction.

Patrick Modiano was largely unknown outside of France. Like a lot of you, I've not read any of his works, but from inputs as available from different sources, he seems a fairly serious writer, a recluse, and never considered anything in his life except writing. He seems to be my kind of writer, though his comparison to Marcel Proust is a bit off-putting for me. I'm no Proust fan and have always disliked Proust's vain, snobbish, obsessed-about-women mindset in spite of his fine sense of art, music and architecture.

Of course, I would take a shot at Modiano's works. May be I would like him. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Who do you think would win the Nobel Prize in literature 2014?


Thursday (Oct 9) is possibly the day when the winner of the Nobel Prize in literature 2014 would be announced. So, who do you think would win the Nobel this year? Who are you rooting for?

Every year around this time I rack my brain a lot speculating on the possible winner, but I never got it right. The only time I kind of hit was last year when I published a short list of four writers. The third name on my list won it.

Honestly, I have not invested any time or effort this year. For whatever reason, I find myself less enthusiastic and feel that there is less buzz and excitement around the Nobel Prize this year. You just have to visit the World Literature Forum to believe it. There are so many wonderful savvy readers of literature in there who passionately interact, debate and give their valued speculation in the forum. They are there this year too, but without that exclusivity or intensity.

One of the beauties about the Nobel Prize is that it has no long list or short list, and you have to speculate based solely on your reading of world literature and its trends. There is of course betting site like Ladbrokes, but you see some perennial contenders over there every year like Haruki Murakami, Philip Roth etc. The odds against writers are mostly made-up there and never reflective of literature’s best judgement. It does not make much sense to try to locate your future Nobel winner down there.

So who is my candidate this year? I want to play it safe this time. A writer with less established mainstream appeal is going to win the Nobel this time.

What do I base my prediction on? Please consider these facts. Coetzee was followed by Jelinek. Lessing by Le Clezio, Vergas Llosa by Transtromer. There is a pattern: if it's a well-known writer one year, it's sure to be a less-known writer the next year. It was Alice Munro last year - an established mainstream writer.  She is likely to be followed by someone less known, not from the mainstream, even an obscure writer. 

But then the Nobel Prize Committee always springs a surprise.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Recommended Reading: The Fringe of Reality

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Trouble with Writing

The trouble with writing is that it’s a dynamic balancing act, we are always seesawing between concentration and interruption, grandiosity and despair.   The trouble with writing is that there are long dry stretches in the ugly stage, and the rewards, when they come, may not come when we need them the most. The trouble with writing is that even when some of our dreams and hopes and expectations do come true, they don’t relieve the difficulty of writing, or the solitude of writing, or the weird rollercoaster emotions of writing.
The trouble with writing is writing.
via The Millions

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Business of Literature

Publishing has no particular ability to discern what is good or not, what is successful or not. This is true not just at the level of predicting commercial success, but also at predicting critical success. I already discussed great writers who almost vanished, books that slipped through the corporate-publisher cracks, and then between the indie cracks. If one could predict a Pulitzer Prize winner, why did Bellevue Literary Press end up with Paul Harding’s Tinkers, or Soft Skull end up with Lydia Millet’s Love in Infant Monkeys, which was a finalist that year too? If great editors could predict National Book Award winners, why did McPherson & Co. publish Lords of Misrule, or if editors could predict PEN Award winners, why did Red Lemonade publish Vanessa Veselka’s Zazen?
--VQR

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What is innovative fiction?

One of the many goals of innovative fiction seems to be to rattle those received narratives, which is to say rattle those received structures. It does so, not simply to have fun (although there is almost always an element of the joyously ludic at play in the innovative), and not merely to examine its navel (although there is almost always an element of serious self-consciousness at play in the innovative), but rather to remind us that there are always profoundly important alternative ways to tell ourselves, our lives, our experiences of experience

Monday, September 15, 2014

Murakami on the game of literature

 "I think serious readers of books are 5% of the population. If there are good TV shows or a World Cup or anything, that 5% will keep on reading books very seriously, enthusiastically. And if a society banned books, they would go into the forest and remember all the books. So I trust in their existence. I have confidence."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Man Booker Prize 2014 shortlist announced

Man Booker Prize 2014 shortlist

Joshua Ferris (US) - To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Viking)

Richard Flanagan (Australian) - The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Chatto & Windus)

Karen Joy Fowler (US) - We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Serpent's Tail) 

 Howard Jacobson (British) - (Jonathan Cape)

Neel Mukherjee (British) - The Lives of Others (Chatto & Windus)

Ali Smith (British) - How to be Both (Hamish Hamilton)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Hans Bolland refuses Pushkin award

"Every connection between him [Putin] and me, his name and the name of [Alexander] Pushkin, is disgusting and intolerable for me."

Hats off to you, Hans. By the way, Hans Bolland has brought some of Russia's greatest literary works to Dutch bookshelves.  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Autumn Feast of Fiction

The British book industry is responding with energy to the suggestion that ebooks have dumbed down their business. With a renewed faith in serious print content, the major publishing houses are to put their best men and women out in the field.

All big names: Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, Will Self, David Mitchell,Howard Jacobson, Murakami, Ali Smith, blah blah.

To be honest, I don't feel any excitement. I've only some interest in Martin Amis's "The Zone of Interest."

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mitchell-esque!

"... there’s no thesis without its antithesis. And there are times and places where proof can feel quite objective, I suppose. But with these great big philosophical questions, not really: They’re subjective. And they can vary throughout the course of a lifetime. You can be a fate bunny when you’re a teenager, but a hard-core free-will believer in your 60s, and even in the course of a single day."

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

U R Ananthamurthy quote

“It is said Somerset Maugham traveled the world with a notebook to learn the essence of life and Kafka sat in a room for the same objective. Yet Kafka came out with a better world-view."
--U R Ananthamurthy

 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Read a Subimal Misra story in English translation

Come, see India by Subimal Misra (Translated by V. Ramaswamy)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A letter from Amazon Book Team

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Ursula K. Le Guin interview

My world is all I have to make my stories from, my people are the only people I know. But by making up worlds and peoples, I can recombine and play with what we have and are, can ask what if it were like this instead of like this—What if nobody had a fixed gender, as on the planet Gethen? What if marriages, instead of two people and one couple, consisted of four people and four homo- and heterosexual couples, as they do on the planet O? If nobody in a world had ever waged war, how would people and daily life in that world differ from ours, and in what ways?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Geoff Dyer attends a conference on Geoff Dyer

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Evie Wyld interview

"I think writing should be a bit of a struggle. We’re not writing things that are going to change the world in big ways. We’re writing things that might make people think about people a little bit, but we’re not that important. I think a lot of writers think we are incredibly important. I don’t feel like that about my fiction. I feel like it’s quite a selfish thing at heart. I want to tell a story. I want someone to listen to me. And I love that, but I don’t think I deserve the moon on a stick because I do that."

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Nabarun Bhattacharya passes away at 66

It's difficult to describe Nabarun Bhattacharya as a writer. He was kind of loose cannon, but firmly anti-establishment and wrote his poetry and fiction out of his conviction. A hard-core Marxist, with an in-depth knowledge of leftist movements and literature, he brought in a fresh wind of change in Bengali literature. He was original, intense, thoughtful, even provocative but never staid, dull or without a sense of humour.

Initially, I had problem with his odd-ball characters: most are lawless creatures, almost lumpens, some subversive, even schizophrenic. They use slang freely.But they were his sticks to beat his demons with.  His demons were capitalism, consumerist culture or powers-that-be. He had profound knowledge of the Kolkata sub-culture, which I think, he was  obsessive about and fond of, in a way.

I spent the better part of this summer reading his complete collection of novels. I read Kangal Malsat for the first time. Who can forget the fyataroos, the people who can fly and stay suspended in the air for a while, and wreak havoc with the administrative structure? It was awesome as a novel. I laughed out quite a lot while reading the novel. In the guise of a fantasy, it depicted the contour of our establishment in a brilliant way.

I don't know of any other living writer, not only in Bengali literature, but in world literature as well, who is so forthright, profound and talented.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Choi Jae-hoon interview

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Neel Mukherjee on Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist

I've not yet read Neel Mukherjee who is on longlist this year.  His novel The Lives of Others is about a Naxalite and covers the late sixties of West Bengal. As a Bengali living in Kolkata, who has had a taste of the turbulent period, I find it amazing that Naxalism, which once attracted the youths of Bengal en masse, can be the subject of a novel in these times by a writer who lives in London. More amazing is the fact that the novel dealing with such a subject has captured the attention of Booker judges. Whether it would win is, of course,  a different matter. 

The 2014 Man Booker Prize longlist  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Remembering Hemingway on his 115th birthday

Friday, July 18, 2014

How serious a writer is Karl Ove Knausgaard?

Oh, I could cut off my head with the bitterness and shame that I have allowed myself to be lured, not just once but time after time. If I have learned one thing over these years that seems to be immensely important, particularly in an era such as ours, overflowing with mediocrity, it is the following:

Don't believe you are anybody.
Don't fucking believe you are somebody.
Because you are not. You're just a smug, mediocre little shit.
Do not believe you are anything special. Do not believe that you're worth anything, because you aren't. You're just a little shit.
So keep your head down and work, you little shit. Then, at least, you'll get something out of it. Shut your mouth, keep your head down, work, and know that you're not worth a shit.
This, more or less, was what I had learned.
This was the sum of all my experience.
This was the only worthwhile thought I'd ever had.

Above is an excerpt from Karl Ove Knausgaard's MY STRUGGLE BOOK 2, which I've been reading over the past week: a novel, indeed, of high quality, apparently a simple and unpretentious narrative, with thoughts and insights, lived-out feelings and experiences, actions and analyses, touching the essence and truth of human life as it should be lived. I have not only loved the book. The reading experience is going to stay with me, and I feel it will have a long-term impact on my life as well as on my writing.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Zia Haider Rahman interview

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Nadine Gordimer, 1991 Nobel laureate, passes away at 90


“What is the purpose of writing? For me personally, it is really to explain the mystery of life, and the mystery of life includes, of course, the personal, the political, the forces that make us what we are while there's another force from inside battling to make us something else.”

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Translating literature in India

 Madhavankutty Pillai  has an interesting article News from Babel in the Open Magazine.

There are a very small number of translators in India. You can’t make a profession out of it yet. It doesn’t pay enough. Most writers can’t make a living out of writing, translators come even lower down the pecking order.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Rebecca Makkai interview

I wrote a short story once called “Gate House,” which consisted of some of the plot of the 1999 story. And it didn’t work as a short story at all; it was terrible. But when I revisited it, years later, I suddenly thought of turning it into a novel, and that’s when I started to consider what I would have to do to move backwards in time. At that point the whole thing was coming to me as I went about my day, as I was brushing my teeth – I would have these ideas of the way the plot would be layered. Soon I realized it would be stupid to start writing without seriously outlining, so that was the next thing I did. I ended up with a sixty-page outline. I had calendars, I had timelines, I had historical events. And of course it changed a ton as I was actually writing it. I knew I wanted to write it in reverse chronological order, as it appears in the book, but I had to outline first. Because I couldn’t write 1955 until I knew what happened in 1929.

via The Millions

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Truth about Publishing

As someone who worked at a literary agency for years, I already knew how random publication tended to be and how difficult it was to sell a book. Most books never sold and those that did rarely earned out their advances. The contract terms were absurdly tilted toward the publishers and authors didn’t have much say in presentation or marketing. Most authors never got agents, and it had little to do with quality. Usually, it was just luck. Still I continued to have some faith in the industry even as I left it, became a professional librarian, received a MFA, wrote and rewrote my works. And while I received initial interest from several agents, I never got one. Even the independent publishers rejected it. All their stated reasons were different.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Read an excerpt from Nabokov's screenplay LOLITA

Several people scramble for shelter, and the first big drops of rain strike the zinc of a lunchbox. As the poor lady in white runs toward the pavilion of a lookout, a blast of livid light fells her. Her graceful specter floats up above the black cliffs holding a parasol and blowing kisses to her husband and child who stand below, looking up, hand in hand.

more

Friday, June 20, 2014

2014 Pen/Pinter Prize goes to Salman Rushdie

“This prize is English PEN’s way of thanking Salman Rushdie not just for his books and his many years of speaking out for freedom of expression, but also for his countless private acts of kindness.  When he sees writers unjustly vilified, prosecuted, or forced into exile, he takes a personal interest. I think he would be the first to say that it was Harold Pinter who set the example in this regard: the engaged writer never sleeps.”

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Murakami's "Yesterday" is a disappointment

The Haruki Murakami story "Yesterday" in the current New Yorker disappoints me. It feels like it has been been churned out to meet the deadline. All Murakami stuff was there, but they are jaded and repetitive and  lacking in the magic that makes a Murakmi story distinctive and different from other writers. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Soccer and literature: Angel Di Maria is like Kafka

The first time I saw Ángel Di María play soccer, I thought, That's my man. One reason was the name, so loaded with culture and history and yet so otherworldly that it's like a novel in itself. Another reason was his country, Argentina, which ever since I watched the World Cup on television in 1978 when I was nine has represented for me the land of myth, the republic of dreams, which naturally only intensified when Borges entered my life, and Maradona, of course, the greatest magician of them all. A third reason I took note of Di María, who plays professionally for Real Madrid, was his striking resemblance to Franz Kafka. It is fantastic, isn't it, Kafka out there on the wing in La Liga?
- Karl Ove Knausgaard, author of My Struggle

Monday, June 9, 2014

2014 World Cup of Literature: 32 titles. 24 judges

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Javier Cercas interview

The past is a dimension of the present. I don’t write historical novels, but novels about this bigger present that contains the past.”

via

Friday, June 6, 2014

Writing about real people

Monday, June 2, 2014

Javier Marias on realistic/real novelists

The so-called realistic novelist, who, when he writes, remains firmly installed in the real world, has confused his role with that of the historian or journalist or documentary-maker. The real novelist does not reflect reality, but unreality, if we take that to mean not the unlikely or the fantastical, but simply what could have happened and did not, the very contrary of actual facts and events and incidents, the very contrary of “what is happening now.” What is “merely” possible continues to be possible, eternally possible in any age and any place, which is why we still read Don Quixote and Madame Bovary, whom one can live with for a while and believe in absolutely, rather than discounting them as impossible or passé or old hat.
via

Saturday, May 31, 2014

A writing Geek: Top Indian Blog

You may like to hear it: A Writing Geek has been listed in the Directory of Top Indian Blogs 2013-14.

Actually, I didn't know about it. Haddock, an amazing photographer, congratulated me this morning while commenting on my last post.

No big deal for me. Temperamentally, I care little about these things. But it's a hot and humid day, and there's nothing to feel good about. Then you hear it. You feel a bit up for a fraction of a second. 

 I blog for the sheer pleasure of it without any audience/business interest in mind. I blog since I can't do without it. I tried not to blog for some time but I failed.

My thanks to editors of Directory of TIB who have considered AWG fit for their list.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Internet and Good Writing

Q: Does the internet help or hurt good writing? 
A: I think the question is whether good writing helps or hurts the Internet. Good writing doesn't need help and can't be hurt.
- from an interview with  Lorin Stein, editor of The Paris review

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Reading: The Illicit Happiness Of Other People/ Manu Joseph

The Illicit Happiness Of Other People is Manu Joseph’s second novel, but I read him for the first time.

 I picked up the book mainly for its wonderful title. Besides, I wanted to find out what and how Manu Joseph (who I know as a journalist, but recently got awarded for his fiction) actually writes.

It is about Unni Chacko, the weird cartoonist, who killed himself at the age of seventeen. But why did he do this? The novel revolves around this mystery  as Ousep, Unni’s father, a journalist, conducts his long, crazy and relentless search and taps all possible sources to find out the cause of his son’s suicide.

Towards the end of the novel everything falls in places, and the reader knows about the cause, which is not very uncommon, but convincing.

Manu Joseph is a wonderful writer, and I must admit he fascinates me with his prose, intelligence  and sensibilities. He never bores. Like any of today’s writers, he has his research part in this novel, but he incorporates it aptly with an effort though.

In an otherwise well- constructed narrative, the only thing that jars is the abysmal poverty of Chakao family. How come the family would be living in so poor condition while its man is a chief reporter with UNI, his drinking habit notwithstanding?



Sunday, March 2, 2014

Chimamanda Adichie interview

"It is now my life; it’s my livelihood. It is also the most important thing that I do. It is a thing that makes me happy. The truth is that I’m very grateful that my writing done well. I am very grateful for the many of the things I have had. Many of them are blessings, but that is not why I write. See, if I hadn’t won all these awards, I’ll still be writing. It was actually the writing that gives me fulfillment. If it doesn’t do well, oh luck! If it does, well I’m grateful."

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Literary fiction marginalised in Russia!

In our times of market economy, pulp fiction has won over literary fiction in Russia, quite simply pushing it to the margins. If Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky tried offering their novels to commercial publishers today, they would have a hard time getting them published—they’d probably be rejected on grounds that their novels are too long and dense, too verbose, slow-moving, and serious. Many writers of literary fiction are heading for the middle market, turning out novels by numbers. In the early 1990s, they were still embarrassed to write under their own names and used pseudonyms. But now it’s even become fashionable among the intellectual elite to acknowledge pop culture and work within popular genres.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Raja Alem interview

"My novels are deeply rooted in the spirit of my hometown Mecca, an unexplored world. I draw upon the city's myths, history and philosophy, and all that in a language that has to be deciphered like Sufi texts. It's almost impossible to translate. So I need an adventurous publisher and a very knowledgeable translator who can make my worlds and my style accessible to a German-speaking audience."

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ukranian Pen Club's call for support for Ukranian writers

During the less than four years of its rule, Viktor Yanukovych's regime has brought the country and its society to the utter limit of tensions. Even worse, it has boxed itself into a situation without an exit, where it must hold on to power by any means necessary. Failing which, it would have to face criminal justice in its full severity. The scale of what has been stolen and usurped, of the human avarice involved, is beyond imagination.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

How to tell the truth in literature

Salon has an interesting excerpt from "Why I Read: The Serious Pleasures of Books" by Wendy Lesser

To tell the truth in literature, each era, perhaps even each new writer, requires a new set of authorial skills with which to rivet the reader’s attention. We are so good at lying to ourselves, at lapsing into passive acceptance, that mere transparency of meaning is insufficient. To absorb new and difficult truths, we need the jolt offered by a fresh style. Yet what is startling at first eventually hardens into either a mannerism or a tradition. Even Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” if read too early and too often (in a classroom setting, say), can come to seem a mere example of Satire. So every writer—every good writer, every writer who really has something to say—must figure out for herself a new form in which to say it. The figuring need not be conscious, and the innovation need not be dramatic or obvious; we can be affected by style without necessarily perceiving the sources of the effects. But if we do perceive them, they cannot detract from our sense of the writer’s seriousness (a seriousness that, in the case of an innovator like Mark Twain, may partake of a great deal of humor). The structural and stylistic eccentricities must seem—and be— essential, not merely ornamental.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Anita Desai Interview

"I’ve often written about people who don’t go along with the mainstream, who go against the current, who live outside of the current, or are stranded whilst everyone else just flows along. I think I’m drawn to such characters. Even in the last three novellas that I wrote, that same type of character surfaces again and again. I’m interested in people who live in a kind of exile; it may not be political exile, but in some sense it’s exile from the rest of society. It may have something to do with my upbringing and my parents. My mother, having been German, lived most of her life in India and never felt able to return to Germany. After the war, we would sometimes suggest, “Why don’t you go back and visit your country? See who is still alive, who survived.” It would bring her to tears, and she’d say, “Don’t make me do that.” To have lost your country, your family, your society, so wholly, must have been a devastating experience. Somehow she survived it. My father was, in a sense, in exile too. He was from East Bengal, which then became East Pakistan. So his family lost their land and everything else they had there. Then he came to Bangladesh, which was another loss, another change. He didn’t feel at home there either and lived in North India, which was a foreign country to him. They were outsiders, and while there’s no reason why I should be that too—I was born there—I was brought up with the same sense of being an outsider. I certainly absorbed it from them."

Monday, January 13, 2014

Does literary misery follow poor economy?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson interview

I don’t like literature that pretends realism is possible and luckily there is so much writing that is going on today that challenges the concept of realism and brings into play different elements. These could be mythical elements or strands of thought that survive outside the culture or society that we’re living in. So it’s not that I don’t like contemporary fiction, I think great things are happening in the novel today, but they are only happening for people who have realized that it’s not possible to photocopy reality onto the page. It’s always a reconstruction and into a reconstruction you always bring an element of a very ancient thought, the storyteller’s mind. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Philip Roth turns into a monument!

Adam Kirsch has an interesting article on Philip Roth, the great American novelist, in The Republic.
A writer who, in the first part of his career, seemed defined by transgression—against Jewish self-esteem, against sexual decency, against the conventions of fiction—has been transformed, over the last fifteen years, into an official American classic. The fate that Zuckerman mocked has befallen his creator: Roth, the rebellious son, the fleshliest of writers, is turning into a monument before our eyes.

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