Weekly news

Events:

Delhi: 22-29 November, ‘Extremely Queerious’ week at Fursat-Se Cultural Cafe, Shahpur Jat. Exhibition, poetry, film etc. in celebration of LGBTIQA persons in India.

What I’ve been reading:

‘Ladies Who Lunch’, by Urvashi Butalia, in IQ: The Indian Quarterly.

‘In a complicated relationship with a book’, by Paromita Vohra in Mid.Day. I have one of those reclining reading ladies ūüôā

‘The 2013 SAARC Festival of Literature’, in La.Lit. The SAARC summit is currently being held in Kathmandu, and this article–along with so many other non-literary stuff I’ve been reading–points out what a white elephant the organisation is.

‘Book Review: Meena Kandasamy’s The Gypsy Goddess is Undercut with¬†Anger”, by Aishwarya Subramanian, in The Hindustan Times.

‘Funny Moments From India’s Litfest Carnival Circuit’, by Arunava Sinha, on Scroll.in.

Vacancies:

The Caravan, Delhi, seeks Editorial Management Intern. In a previous life I would have loved to apply for this.

Himal Southasian, Kathmandu, seeks Assistant Editors. Take this from someone who has done this, it’s a great experience and a lot of fun. Salary, however, is below subsistence level, important to know from the outset.

Advertisements

Weekly news

Recently published: 

Meena Kandasamy’s book of poetry¬†Ms. Militancy¬†has been published in German, as¬†Fraulein Militanz.

New issue:

Jaggery: A DesiLit Arts and Literature Journal’s Fall 2014 issue is out now.

Speeches:

Manil Suri’s two keynote addresses at the Kriti Festival of South Asian Literature (held in Chicago at the end of September, and at which I was present) are available to watch on YouTube, here and here. Manil was a great speaker, and a superb writer. Recommended watching.

Events:

Singapore, 13th-14th November: Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, 9th International Conference on the States of South Asia. More info available here. Wish I could be at this one!

Kathmandu, 13th November, 4.30pm: Talk: Where Art Meets Science: New ways to explore change in the Himalayas, with climber, photographer and filmmaker David Breashears. At QFX Kumari cinema, hall 1. Free entry. Hosted by Photo Circle.

Delhi, 15th Novemeber 11am: Launch of Zubaan book ‘Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean’, sci-fi and fantasy short stories for young adults, from Indian and Australian authors. Oxford Bookstore, Connaught Place. Info on Zubaan’s website.

What I’m reading:

‘What Books are People Buying in India? Ten Things That Will Astonish You’ by Arunava Sinha on Scroll.In.

‘The Book of Gold Leaves Review- Mirza Waheed Speaks Up For Kashmir’ by Chitra Ramaswamy in The Guardian.

‘The Old Man of the Mountain’ by Rahul Singh, in IQ: The Indian Quarterly. On Khushwant Singh, by his son.

‘Why Post-Colonial Lords Have a Colonial Hangover’, in Tehelka, by Rakesh Krishnan Simha. Simha writes very provocatively about William Dalrymple. I’m not an apologist for Dalrymple¬†(who I think¬†is a great travel writer and a good historian, but a rather crowd-pleasing po-co lord, as in the article’s title) but Simha stoops very low: “The likes of Dalrymple should, therefore, go back and reform their own country. They have no business being in India”. Nope, I’m not buying that. Tehelka is going in a very funny direction by publishing this kind of writing.

‘Feminism is not Short-Hand for Male Bashing’, interview with Meena Kandasamy in the Hindustan Times. I don’t think the interviewer does a great job here (in fact, most of her questions would suggest she knows little about her subject) but Meena Kandasamy is a fascinating author.

‘Kiss of Love: Public Kissing Western? Public Pissing Indian?’ by one of my favourites, Urvashi Butalia, on the DailyO. Flippant, but fun.

Extract:

‘Winged Horses’ by Janice Pariat, extract from her forthcoming novel¬†Seahorses¬†in IQ: Indian Quarterly.

‘The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer’ by Laxmi Hariharan. Excerpt on Kitaab.

Call for submissions:

Jaggery: A DesiLit Arts and Literature Journal is calling for submissions.

 

Year of Reading Women

the-year-of-reading-women-012
(Bookmarks by Joanna Walsh)

2014 has been designated the Year of Reading Women on a couple of fronts: Critical Flame journal has designated 2014 a year in which they will only read and publish in women writers and writers of colour; Joanna Walsh has started the #readwomen2014 campaign.

I am probably in an opposite situation to many readers out there: for the four years that my PhD lasted, I read books almost exclusively by Indian women (apart from a few scholarly books), so when I’d done with the PhD I promised myself that I would read a bit more broadly, including plenty of men!

But I’m aware that the literary and publishing establishment the world over still favours men, white men at that. Not always deliberately or consciously, but nevertheless (statistically speaking, anyway) books by women authors receive less attention than books by male authors.

Unlike the Critical Flame journal who got the ball rolling, and some other readers and bloggers out there, I’m not going to pledge to read more¬†female authors of colour this year, because I really do think I read plenty–ie, the majority of what I read. But I read a good piece on the Arabic Literature (in English) blog recommending a book by an Arab woman author for every month of the year, as a way in for those readers who perhaps don’t know where to start.

So here are my recommendations for South Asian women’s books to read this year:

January: Manjushree Thapa’s¬†The Tutor of History. I’m not of the opinion that women should always write exclusively about women, as even feminists of some persuasion do. Thapa writes cleverly and humorously about the political and social turmoil of contemporary Nepal, showing that women writers can have enormous breadth of experience and imagination.

February: Bapsi Sidhwa’s¬†Ice-Candy Man/Cracking India.¬†This Pakistani author’s fictionalised account of her experiences during the Partition of India in 1947 is published under two different titles. It is a brutal account of the horrors of communalism.

March: Anjum Hasan,¬†Lunatic in My Head. This young author from India’s Northeastearn Meghalaya state wittily brings together small town and metropolitan India.

April: Mahasweta Devi, Breast Stories. You can’t go wrong with anything by Mahasweta Devi, but this powerful collection from the fierce Bengali author is a good place to start.

May: Yasmine Gooneratne, A Change of Skies. This Sri Lankan-Australian author wrote about the immigrant experience before Jhumpa Lahiri et al made it fashionable (one could even say passe…)

June: Sorayya Khan, Noor. Khan was one of, if not the first Pakistani English-language novelist to address (West) Pakistan’s crimes in East Pakistan/Bangladesh in 1971.

July: Anita Desai, Clear Light of Day or Baumgartner’s Bombay. This prolific Indian author has many short novels to her credit, and has been nominated for the Booker Prize several times, though she has never won. Her daughter, Kiran Desai, won the Booker in 2006 though, with The Inheritance of Loss. Many consider the mother the better writer, and these two suggestions, amongst her best loved, are good places to start.

August: Githa Hariharan, When Dreams Travel. Hariharan is also a prolific author, with many good novels. This recommendation is a retelling of the classic Thousand and One Nights.

September: Urvashi Butalia, The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India. The only work of non-fiction to make this list, Butalia’s work of oral history is a stunning and groundbreaking work of feminist oral history.

October: Qurratulain Hyder, My Temples, Too. This Urdu-language Indian author translated her novels into English herself, which many critics say altered them enormously in the process. Several of her novels are sprawling histories, but the English translation of her first novel, My Temples, Too, about India’s Independence, is quite accessible.

November: Meena Kandasamy, Ms Militancy. The only collection of poetry to make this list (I don’t read much poetry), Kandasamy’s fierce anti-caste and anti-patriarchy poems live up to the collection’s name.

December: Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things. If there’s one novel by a South Asian woman that the wider world is likely to have read, it is this Booker Prize winner. If you haven’t already, you can still fit it in in December!

Jaipur Literature Festival 2014, Day 3

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I kicked off day three of the JLF, my second, with a well-attended but not oppressively crowded session called ‘Beauty and Fidelity: Texts in Translation’, featuring a Chinese-English translator (Carlos Rojas), a Hindi author (Geetanjali Shree), her English translator (Rahul Soni–also Asymptote literary journal’s India editor-at-large), a Marathi author (Sachin Kundalkar) and his English translator (Jerry Pinto). The pairing of the authors with their translators made for fruitful discussion, as did the addition of somewhat of a wildcard, Carlos Rojas.

The panel immediately discarded the topic, which summarised that old adage of translation (“that translations are like women: either beautiful, or faithful”) and, as Jerry Pinto stated, is both offensive to translators and to women. Having not heard of Marathi-language author Sachin Kundalkar, I was enticed into buying the English translation of his novel Cobalt Blue by the wit that both he and his translator, Pinto, displayed. A favourite anecdote of mine was when Kundalkar told how the Marathi and English versions of the novel have reached different audiences. The young weren’t drawn to the Marathi version, but he now gets messages from youngsters saying how much they enjoyed his book and look forward to the Marathi translation!

The second session of day 3, ‘Dispensable Nation: Afghanistan after the US Withdrawal’ (with a panel of scholars, writers and journalists specialising in Afghanistan, and moderated by William Dalrymple) was so crowded that I was sat on the ground a metre from the stage. Despite the fact that I could only see Dalrymple’s face and could barely make out any voices because of my awkward proximity to the side of the speakers, I would have endured the full session had there not been a freezing cold, foggy wind. So I went book shopping instead. Several others I spoke to after the session were disappointed that William Dalrymple tended to dominate the discussion with his war-horse stories of Afghanistan.

Being a huge fan of Urvashi Butalia, I attended her session ‘Savage Harvest’ with Navtej Sarna, the son of an eminent Punjabi author who wrote about Partition. Translation was once again pointed to as a necessary way of disseminating forgotten or ignored experiences, and the fact that Partition literature can still be discussed in such terms six and a half decades after the event shows how much more needs to be done.

In the afternoon I attended the parallel event that was being hosted this year: Bookmark, held at the nearby Narain Niwas, an effort to get publishing professionals together to talk about challenges and opportunities that the industry faces. By all appearances it was a small event this year, and attended mainly by small publishers, but the event is something that the JLF organisers will be trying to develop in future years. The discussions–from Indian and international publishers, editors, book-sellers, and so on–were more specialised and industry-focused than many of those held at the Diggi Palace, but for people with any interest in the industry it was a welcome opportunity to interact with other professionals. And the calm of the Narain Niwas grounds was more than welcome.