The Obliterary Journal Volume 1, edited by Rakesh Khanna and Rashmi Ruth Devadasan (Blaft, 2012)

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One of the most interesting, beautiful, amusing and original books I have picked up in a long time. Chennai-based publishers Blaft are perhaps best known for their English translations of pulp fiction, particularly from Tamil, but also from a variety of other cultural and linguistic contexts, such as Urdu, and the Nigerian language Hausa. The Obliterary Journal, on the other hand, is a collection of graphic narratives, both extracts from longer works and stand-alone pieces. It has something for almost every taste, artistically and in a literary sense: the precise and detailed line drawings of an extract from “The Hyderabadi Graphic Novel” by Jai Undurti and Harsho Mohan Chattoraj; a translation of a Bangla piece, “Nowhere to Run”, by Anasua and Subrata Gangopadhyay, translated by Sreyashi Dastidar; a hilarious translated extract from “Stupid Guy Goes to India” by Japanese manga artist Yukichi Yamamatsu, which must be read “backwards”, in keeping with Japanese books; a photo essay of colourful vehicle art, mainly of Bollywood stars, which is an extract from “Shaved Ice and Wild Buses: Street Art from Suriname” by Tammo Schuringa and Paul Faber; and so much else in between. A brilliant touch is the contents page, which is a photograph of a large wall painted with all of the publication and contents details of the book. It seemed apt considering Chennai’s reputation for hand-painted film billboards. 

The Obliterary Journal is a difficult book to discuss without a proper vocabulary for graphic narratives and comics, which I’m afraid I don’t possess. But perhaps that’s a good thing. Having become entrenched in academia (for better or worse) I find it difficult to read books these days without appraising them in the language of literary criticism. I couldn’t do that for this book, as it spilled outside of my neatly constructed boundaries. But I liked it. I recommend it. It is fun. And I really hope there will be further volumes.

(The Obliterary Journal, Volume 1. Ed. Rakesh Khanna and Rashmi Ruth Devadasan. Chennai: Tranquebar and Blaft Publications, 2012.)

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Elen

Travel writer at www.wildernessmetropolis.com. Editor, writer, traveller, reader, literary critic.

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