Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lunch with BS: Chiki Sarkar

One of Indian publishing’s most visible faces talks about spotting great authors and her new job.

This is all a bit fraught. The day is hot, I’m getting late, she’s on time but the restaurant she picked is unexpectedly closed, she decides on another, a new place named Lah! three floors up from a tiny side lane in Hauz Khas Village, which passersby have not yet heard of and cannot offer directions to...

So, 15 minutes late, Rrishi Raote falls into a seat across from Rudrani “Chiki” Sarkar, lately Editor-in-Chief of publisher Random House India and now Publisher of Penguin India. Lah! is thankfully restful to begin with, isolated as it is near the rooftops, a single dim and cool room with deep green walls and a shiny floor.

Sarkar has studied the menu, so she orders for us both. Hers is a complicated-sounding noodle bowl with corn, black mushrooms, chicken and lamb, flat noodles and “soy garlic cilantro”. (Noodles? I think, impressed — isn’t that reckless, because potentially messy, for a working lunch?) Mine is a Malay chicken curry with rice. This will be washed down with beer.

Sarkar is, for an Indian publisher, an unusually visible figure, being quoted, written about and writing off and on in papers and magazines. In part the prominence is inherited – her father is Aveek Sarkar, whose family controls the Kolkata-headquartered media company ABP Group – but it also comes from the way she shaped Random House India and its publishing programme, the way she has made media-ready celebrities of her debut authors and commanded coverage on a scale not thought of by Indian publishers.

Pop fiction is a great leveller

Whatever your stand on the Jan Lokpal Bill issue, the one heartening aspect of the 13-day circus has been a mass of people from different social strata coming together for one cause. We don’t see this happen often.

We are hyper-aware of how diverse India is. And this diversity is tricky business, in the cultural world especially. There is work created for the masses, like a Bollywood blockbuster or a Page 3-inspired newspaper supplement; and then, there are products we don’t expect will have a wide appeal. However, before Anna Hazare united the nation —  rather than a sliver of disgruntled intelligentsia — India had one great unifier: cheap pop fiction.

Chetan Bhagat’s first novel, Five Point Someone, has sold over 700,000 copies. Karan Bajaj’s debut novel Keep Off The Grass was a bestseller with sales of more than 500,000. Recently, The Secret of the Nagas by Amish is believed to have sold 70,000 copies within a few weeks of its release. All these authors have a few things in common. They are management students; critics rubbish their writing; their books are cheap; and given the sales figures, everyone except the critics (probably the same disgruntled lot who are appalled by Hazare) is buying their books.

Full article here Firstpost

Man of myths

The Secret of the Nagas, the second book in the Meluha trilogy, is out. Writer Amish Tripathi tells Harshini Vakkalanka the books have made him a believer

What was supposed to be a banker's first piece of fiction on the philosophy of evil, was shaped into something quite different and much more magnanimous.

“I was told by friends and family that something like an adventure novel incorporating my philosophy of evil would be much better. And I thought, who better to represent the philosophy of evil than the destroyer of evil himself,” says Amish Tripathi, author of the best-selling Shiva Trilogy.

He was in the city to launch The Secret of the Nagas, the second book in the trilogy. The first book, his debut novel, The Immortals of Meluha has sold more than 125,000 copies since its release in February 2010 and dominated most of the best-seller lists last year. “I'm a voracious reader and I love reading about history. Over the past 25 years, I have been reading about almost every aspect of Indian history from archaeology to research. Also my family is an argumentative liberal Indian one. We were always discussing Indian mythology. I grew up listening to tales of yore. These things were always there at the back of my mind, so when He willed it, I guess they came out,” explains Amish.

Full report here Hindu

Photographs as history

Over the last 30 years, the bibliography of books on colonial photography, by the British as well as native photographers, has become quite long. The earliest was The Last Empire: Photography in British India, 1855-1911 by Clark Worswick and Ainslee T. Embree (Aperture, 1976); since then, many more publications have accompanied landmark curatorial projects, significantly advancing the study of photography in colonial India. The Marshall Albums is part of this effort and the Alkazi Collection should be commended for continuing to publish, with remarkable consistency, its vast archive and creating opportunities for extending research.


Since the 1980s, Subaltern Studies, its re-inscription of the colonial experience from the perspective of the oppressed and the dominated, semiotics, and the politics of representation have affected what scholars choose to study. The colonial experience and the creation of popular culture, both for the imperialist and the native, have brought photography centre stage. Not only is photography the “primary documentation”, it is also the first modern industrial technology of representation that grew hand in hand with Euro-American empire-building and with popular demands for images that could be acquired, circulated, and thus created opportunities for self-representation to the under-represented classes of people and objects.

Full report here Hindu

Books fest in Bangalore from Sep 2

Over 300 publishers and booksellers from all over the country will participate in one of India’s largest book festivals called the ‘World of Books -2011’ being held in Bangalore from September 2 to 11.

Being jointly organised by Bangalore University and Indya comics, the book fair will be held at Tripura Vasini in the Palace Grounds. Thousands of books in various languages, categories and subjects will be showcased in the festival.

According to Bangalore University Vice-Chancellor N Prabhu Dev, more than two lakh bibliophiles and visitors are expected to visit the 10-day fair. The university has committed itself to purchase books worth Rs five crore.

More than 700 affliated educational institutions of Bangalore University, the Department of Public Libraries, the University of Agricultural Sciences, Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, and others like Raja Ram Mohan Roy Library Foundation, Kolkata, will be among the participants. Further details can be had from Indya comics at 080-4084 9999.

Full report here Deccan Herald

For those with wanderlust, Delhi Book Fair is the stop

The pull of the unknown, wanderlust and India's richness as a destination of great heritage are the flavours of the 17th Delhi Book Fair 2011.

It is hardly surprising: the official theme of the fair, which opened Saturday at Pragati Maidan, is travel and tourism.

More than 250 Indian and foreign publishers are hosted here in a bid to promote the domain of travel and tourism in India by linking it to travel literature, a genre whose appeal cuts across all divides.

"The boom in travel in the last decade has created a demand for cheaper travel books in India," Bikash D. Niyogi, managing director of Niyogi Books, told IANS. "Travellers look for books that they can read and throw away."

Three of Niyogi's new high-end travel titles include Mussoorie Merchant by Hugh Ashley Rayner, a volume on Chittorgarh Fort by Dharmender Kunwar, and Tracing Marco Polo's Journey: The Silk Route by Major H.P.S. Ahluwalia.

"In the lower price segment, we are publishing Hugh and Colleen Gantzer's travels in four volumes," Niyogi said.

One of the highlights of the fair is "The Highway on My Plate" by travellers and foodies Rocky Singh and Mayur Sharma. The anthology reviews more than 100 eateries across India, including the Tawang monastery kitchen in the heights of Aruanchal Pradesh.

The demand for updated destination guide books has been consistently growing because of increased domestic travel.

"In India, when people set out on a holiday, they do not think of buying a book," Atulya Dev Issar of Diamond Books said. "They buy it impuslisvely at the destination."

Full report here Daijiworld

The life & mission of Maulana Azad

There is a consensus that India has failed to build a nation of the kind the Gandhi-led freedom fighters dreamt of. In fact, nowadays, there is even talk of the need for a ‘second' freedom movement, and the reasons advanced cannot be dismissed as totally ill-founded. However, it will be naïve to belittle the contribution of the anti-colonial movement.

Maulana Azad and the
Making of the Indian Nation
Rizwan Qaiser;
Manohar Publishers
Rs 950
In this context, it is comforting that the book under review attempts to recall Maulana Azad's life and mission and bring out the relevance of his politics in the current situation. Contemporary Muslim politics needs to be understood as much from the political forces at play today as from the lives of iconic political figures such as Maulana Azad.

The Maulana's role in shaping India's anti-colonial movement was unique. Yet his legacy is progressively fading away from the national consciousness.

Owing to his less contentious personality, Azad is not as much a sought-after or written-about historic figure as Muhammad Ali Jinnah is. The fact is that so long as South Asian politics remains polarised between the ‘communal' and the ‘ secular' there will be invaluable lessons to learn from Maulana Azad's political leadership and his vision of a better world.

Full report here Hindu

From kings to cabbages

This collection of pieces by Kaushik Basu, written over the last five years, is verily a potpourri of thoughts on a variety of subjects, the only common element being the catholicity of his tastes.

Basu has had a fairly long stint abroad holding prestigious academic positions. Yet he retains the Indian weltanschauung lightly without being righteous. Respected for his research on development economics, industrial organisations, and globalisation, among others, he has edited commemorative volumes in honour of Nobel Laureates Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz. He is a self-confessed agnostic; but may not mind a prayer to Goddess Kali of Kolkata for its continuance! (He has a delightful piece on Praying at the foothills of Mount Fuji to get over his stomach pains!)


A collection of this kind is surely a reader's delight, but a reviewer's peril. The subjects range from kings to cabbages: a comparison of the performance of India with China's; the state of the Indian economy, its strength, potential and failings; personalities; current economic issues; personal memorabilia; a couple of stories translated from Bengali and, finally, a play set in academic cloisters.

Full report here Hindu

For an effective counter-insurgency strategy

Of the three internal conflicts rocking India, the one involving Left Wing Extremism (LWE) tops the other two — witnessed in Kashmir and the North-Eastern region — in terms of the number of lives lost and the geographical spread.

The rapid spread of the LWE in central India and the ever increasing military capabilities of the members of the People's Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA) — the fighting force of the CPI (Maoist) — have forced security analysts to recognise the need for reassessing the capabilities of the security forces drafted for counter-insurgency operations.

The state's counter-strategy has predominantly been militaristic, as evidenced by the heavy deployment of security personnel for the purpose. The causes of Maoist insurgency, which require to be tackled by galvanising civil administration, received only cursory attention.

Full review here Hindu 

Vodadone Crossword Book Awards back

Which is that one platform that brings together august names in the field of Literary excellence such as Sudhir Kakar, Omair Ahmad, Amish Tripathi, Rashmi Bansal, Captain Gopinath, Anushka Ravishankar, Ishrat Syed?

Vodafone and Crossword comes together once again in a beautiful amalgamation, India's answer to The Pulitzer, The Booker or The Commonwealth - The Vodafone Crossword Book Awards (VCBA) 2010. In its tenth year now, VCBA 2010 is the only Indian award that not only recognises and rewards good writing but also actively promotes the authors and their books. Prepare to know which Indian author has captured the minds of readers both young and old as the Awards unfold.

The Categories to be awarded are Indian Language translation, Indian Non fiction, Indian Fiction, Children's writing and Popular Category. R Sriram, Founder Crossword and Inceptor to the Vodafone Crossword Awards continues to be the guiding light as Mrinal Pande will Chair the Award Ceremony. Theatre doyenne Lilette Dubey will host the function.

Date: 2nd September 2011
Venue: TATA Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point
Time: 7pm onwards

IIPM honours poets, journalists

The Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM), a prominent B school, honoured different individuals from the the world of literature and journalism at its campus in Kolkata on Tuesday.

As part of the honouring, the Surama Chowdhury Memorial Award 2011 will be conferred to three Bangladeshi intellectuals - Akhtar Ur Jamal Ilyas, Emabdul haq Milan, Selina Hossain besides one Indian Prafulla Roy at the 3rd Bangladesh Book Fair at Dhaka, Moloy Chadhuri, Director, IIPM said.

Along with this seven more awards were given away in varied fields like healthcare, film making and sports.

Most of the awards carried a gold medal and Rs 1 lakh as cash.

"These awards convey the philosophy of the institute. We want to reach out to the students and the masses across the nation by appreciating the effort of people who have contributed extensively in their respectiver fields," he said.

Literature special: Night and Darkness

Darkness is such a strange thing. And yet so familiar because we are acquainted with it every day of our lives, for nearly half the day.

Stranger because it’s so enveloping, so complete. That we are unable to fathom its depths, skin its opaqueness or tear it down to discern what is beyond. It is so impregnable that our mind’s thoughts and vision cannot penetrate it.

That perhaps lends to it a mystery. A mesmerizing quality that adds to its beauty.

George Edgar Montgomery describes her loveliness in ‘At Night’:

“The Sun is sinking over hill and sea,
Its red light fires a spectral line of shore;
Night droops upon our half-world mistily
With sombre glory and ghost-haunted lore;
The stars show dim and pallid in the sky,
Vague, wraith-white glimmerings of volcanic spheres,
And a slim crescent of the moon appears
Like some young herald in the hours that die.”

Full report here Zeenews

A poet's muse writes back

After being performed in front of an 8,000-member audience at the Netaji Indoor Stadium in Kolkata, the Bengali play Key Tumi's second showing was in Bangalore on Tuesday as former chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification Sharmila Tagore took to the stage at Chowdiah Memorial Hall. This was the first time the veteran actor performed in the city.

Written and directed by Dr Amit Ranjan Biswas, a London-based psychiatrist and playwright, Key Tumi is in the form of a soliloquy. Tagore's is the solo spoken part, as the narrative is in the form of an open letter that she enacts on stage. The action of the play is interspersed with Tagore songs performed by vocalists Lopamudra Mitra and Paromita Bandopadhyay.

The form of the play is abstract and mystical, said Biswas, who has also written a dramatic piece based on the life of Rabindranath Tagore, Hey Bondhu Bidaye, which was performed in Bangalore in 2010. Key Tumi is an open letter from a woman who is a poet's muse, to the poet who loves and worships her. Some have chosen to interpret it as a play based on the relationship between Rabindranath Tagore and his sister-in-law Kadambari Debi, but I would like to clarify that she is never named. The protagonist is a woman who is timeless and transcendental," said Biswas.

Full report here Times of India

Vicious Facebook campaign hijacks J-K litfest

Jammu & Kashmir’s first All-India Literature Festival, scheduled for September, has been put off indefinitely. The decision followed a vicious campaign on Facebook describing the Litfest as ‘Indian propaganda’ and calling upon the people to disrupt the festival by throwing stones.

The organisers’ plans to keep the festival ‘apolitical’ boomeranged, because some elements in the valley saw it as a ‘government agenda’ to tom tom normalcy in the Valley. The political campaign was spearheaded by a couple of Kashmiri writers settled abroad.

Ironically, New York based author Basharat Peer (author of Curfewed Night) and London based Mirza Waheed (author of The Collaborator), both of whom declined to attend the festival on the ground that their writing is political, have received acclaim in various literature festivals including the one in Jaipur.

“It is bizarre; first a national daily claiming to be the ‘masthead of India’ erroneously reported that Salman Rushdie will be attending the festival, then writers like Mirza and Basharat denounced the festival,” exclaimed one of the organisers on Tuesday.

Full report here Tribune 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Q&A with Siddhartha Deb

New York-based novelist Siddhartha Deb's book of narrative nonfiction, The Beautiful And the Damned: Life In The New India hit bookstores in India earlier this month. I quite enjoyed interviewing him over email, and this Q&A first appeared in print in the DNA Books page on Aug 28, 2011, though in a heavily abridged form for want of space. Posting here the complete interview.

What was the transition like, from fiction to nonfiction? Do you think of yourself primarily as novelist who also writes nonfiction or as a nonfiction writer who also writes fiction? Which form gives you a bigger kick?
The transition to nonfiction was difficult for practical reasons. I had to fund long stretches of reporting, and that was difficult at the beginning. I also had to spend a lot of time away from my very young son, and I didn't enjoy that at all. But writing nonfiction is easier in the sense that the boundaries are more clearly defined, and so it's harder to go wrong. If you're reasonably methodical, you can produce something that is, at the very least, acceptable. With fiction, there are no clear boundaries, at least for me, which means there are many more ways to go wrong but also a shot at transcendence, at magic, at creating life out of even nonsense, all of which I rather like. Since I'm desperate to return to fiction, let's take this book as a novelist's foray into nonfiction.

Full interview here DNA

Hindi fares well at the DBF

They brought books on Anna, but ironically it was Anna who took the limelight away. The opening day of the Delhi Book Fair at Pragati Maidan drew a lukewarm response, and publishers who had dotted pathways leading to the hall with posters of books on Anna Hazare expecting the social worker’s popularity to sweep the sales, were left disappointed because all roads in the capital led to Ramlila Grounds this weekend.
Assuring that there’s no cause for concern over the lack of crowds at the fair, V. K. Gauba, officer on special duty, at ITPO, said, “The footfall takes time to pick up. It’s a 9-day-long fair and we’ve seen in the past that the last few days have had the highest turnout. So we can expect the usual packed halls by the next weekend.”

While the focus this year will be on travel and tourism, participants also inform that alongwith English and Hindi, a sizeable percentage of books were in other 16 official languages. Raghuvir Verma of Prabhat Prakashan, says, “The 10 top selling Hindi publishers are regulars (at the fair), but vernacular languages like Urdu, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, have caught up. In fact a lot many visitors come looking for these languages and foreign stalls as well.”

Parth Kumar, Class 4 student of Vivekanand School, Vivek Vihar, was busy looking for Hindi versions of Anne Frank’s Diary and Ruskin Bond’s Rusty series. “They have a little problem following their favourite author JK Rowling in English and certain terms need to be explained. But the novels in Hindi are a breeze,” informs his mother.

Full report here Asian Age

Chetan Bhagat to promote Hong Kong

Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) has announced a marketing association with novelist Chetan Bhagat to create a 360-degree campaign to showcase Hong Kong's appeal to Indian tourists, a senior official said today.

"We aim to connect with our local Indian consumers even more, by working with a local Indian personality with strong India-Hong Kong link. Through the 'personal touch' and first hand experience of Chetan Bhagat and his connection with Hong Kong, Indian viewers will be able to relate and appreciate Hong Kong through his eyes," HKTB Regional Director-South & Southeast Asia, Mr David Leung told reporters here.

An integrated marketing campaign spread across TV, print and digital media will showcase Hong Kong's highlights through a first-hand experience of Chetan Bhagat, who used to be an investment banker in Hong Kong for eleven years before he moved to Mumbai. His first three novels were written during his tenure as an investment banker in Hong Kong, according to an official release.

The campaign, anchored by Chetan Bhagat, will kickstart with an exciting half-hour programme on television where he will be shown taking viewers around Hong Kong showcasing his favourite spots during his stay and also discovering new attractions in the city. "Hong Kong is very inspiring for me as a writer. It was real fun to relive some great moments in this dynamic city offering both traditional Chinese culture and spectacular colonial heritage. We have been able to capture diverse moods and melodies of Hong Kong," Chetan Bhagat said. The highlights of the campaign would include Bhagat's trip to Sky 100, Ocean Park Hong Kong, NP360, Po Lin Monastery, Wisdom Path, Lamma Island, Victoria Peak, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, as well as Discovery Bay. This will also be supplemented by advertorials in print and online promotions, an official release said.

Full report here IBNLive

An author's notes

Mitra Phukan talks about her new novel, A Monsoon of Music that was launched on Friday in New Delhi.

Indian classical music belongs to a tradition that has resisted being caught in written scores till nearly the present day. For generations, it has been possible to be illiterate and yet a maestro of music. Today, if musicians are also highly qualified academically, it is usually due to factors other than the pursuit of musical excellence alone. But in this changing world, one of the more positive upshots has been committed artistes who are as adept with the pen as with their art practice, and these individuals very often form a bridge between the relatively opposite worlds of the classical arts and the rest of life. Mitra Phukan, a vocalist trained under the late Biren Phukan and now under Pandit Samaresh Choudhury of Kolkata, is among such artistes. The protagonists of her new novel, A Monsoon of Music, being launched by Zubaan and Penguin Books India this Friday evening in New Delhi, are practitioners of Hindustani music. If one is a dedicated student on the brink of professionalism, two are serene gurus and accomplished performers, while the fourth is a globe-trotting star who seems to have it made. The duality between spirituality and materialism of classical music, old-world images and modern performers, a gentle satire on the ambitions of today's youngsters…all these find a place in the novel. Here Mitra speaks about what went into the writing of the book that took her several years. Edited excerpts from a conversation with the author:

Do you perform regularly?
I used to perform very regularly on the radio and TV and in various performances. But now my writing is taking over, it seems. Also, because of all the conflict, it's difficult for organisers to arrange programmes, especially of classical music. People don't want to stay out late. For the last 10-15 years there has been a dwindling of such shows. If there is a bomb blast the atmosphere changes and you don't really feel like organising a music programme. And if there is a bandh on the day...such events cost lakhs of rupees, so people don't want to take the risk of inviting musicians and having to cancel the programme.

Full interview here Hindu

Suffering and its source

Arun Shourie says he has realised that nothing can be done about the main cause of suffering, but it teaches him how to deal with consequences

.Does He Know a Mother's Heart
Arun Shourie;
HarperCollins; Rs 599

The title of Arun Shourie's latest book, Does He Know a Mother's Heart comes out of an incident involving the philosopher J. Krishnamurti.

“The book deals with the question we all connect at sometime — ‘Why do we suffer?',” said Arun Shourie in an interaction at the Reliance TimeOut recently. Shourie launched his book in the city at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) with former Infosys CEO Narayan Murthy and IIM-B Director Pankaj Chandra.

“I looked at the explanations given in texts like the Bible, Quran, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Brahma Sutras. I have also taken up explanations given by people like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Ramana Maharishi. But I have found that none of these explanations really speak up for themselves.”

His questioning stems from his experiences with his differently-abled son (who has cerebral palsy) and his wife, who is afflicted by Parkinson's disease.

Once, while meeting with Krishnamurti in Delhi, the philosopher asked him to bring his son along, with whom he would spend time talking. On a few such occasions, Krishnamurti would ask Arun where his wife was and each time Arun would make up some “silly excuse” for his wife's absence. His wife meanwhile refused to meet with spiritual gurus as her “hopes were raised again and again, and again and again they are shattered.”

Full report here Hindu

Monday, August 29, 2011

Harud festival postponed!

The Harud Literature Festival, which was to be held in Srinagar at the end of September, has been postponed due to controversy. Some writers and others opposing the festival felt that the festival was an effort by the "repressive government" to gag the freedom of Kashmiris.

For the record, in none of the other festivals organised by Teamwork, such as the Jaipur Literature Festival or Hay in Thiruvananthapuram, or Bookaroo in Delhi has the government been the chief supporter, though different sections of the government have associated themselves with the festivals.

The organisers of the Harud festival of Literature have issued the following statement:

"It is with great sadness that we announce the postponement of the Harud Literary Festival. Born out of the best intentions to platform work of emerging and established writers in Kashmir, the festival has been hijacked by those who hold extreme views in the name of free speech.

A few people who began the movement to boycott the festival have no qualms in speaking on and about Kashmir across international forums, but have refused to allow other voices, including writers, poets and theatre people from the Valley and across India to enjoy the right to express themselves at the Harud festival.

If those opposing the festival truly believed in free speech, they would have allowed this forum to go ahead and would come and express their dissent at the festival. They could have put to test their claims that the festival would not allow for free speech and expression.

Expression through the arts are at risk across the world and more so in India. Literature is one way to transcend these barriers and provide a platform for inclusive ideas. This unfortunately will be the biggest loss, not just for Srinagar, but for all artists who believe in the right to express themselves.

We wish to reiterate the following:
 1.    The festival had invited approx 30 authors from Jammu and Kashmir and 20 from other parts of India. The festival had neither invited nor was planning to invite Salman Rushdie.
2.     The festival program included sessions on 'The Silenced Voice: Creativity and Dissent', 'Jail Diaries',  'Gulistan: The Forgotten Environment' , 'Lol'ha'rov: Echoes of the Valley' , 'Harud: Songs of the Season' , 'Chronicles of Exile' , apart from other sessions on popular fiction, poetry, theatre etc.
3.      We have received some funding support from corporate sources but we have received no funding from any government source.
4.      The festival was to be hosted at the Delhi Public School, which earlier this summer hosted a literature festival for children that invited authors to come in from other parts of India.

With many authors voicing their concerns about possible violence during the festival due to the heightened nature of the debate, and a call for protest at the venues, we neither have the desire to be responsible for yet more unrest in the valley nor to propagate mindless violence in the name of free speech. We are therefore left with little alternative but to cancel the festival for now.

We hope that when calmer sense prevails, and we are confidently able to provide a sense of security to our speakers and guests, and writers from Kashmir feel the need for a platform to express themselves, we will reenergize the festival. Till then it is a sad day for us, and a victory for a vocal minority who feel that they alone are the doorkeepers to peoples’ minds and hearts."

Controversy brews over Srinagar Lit fest

Harud - The Autumn Literature Festival, to be held in Srinagar Sep 24-26, has stirred a controversy with a section of authors, filmmakers and intelligentsia from the state alleging the festival is an effort by the "repressive government" to gag the freedom of Kashmiris.

The protesters have devoted a Facebook page to criticise the festival, being presented by Teamworks Production, the organisers of the Jaipur Literature Festival.

They say there is no freedom in Kashmir for people to speak their minds, as the festival claimed.

Promoted as the state's first national literary festival, "Harud- The Autumn Literature Festival" has promised to bring together local, regional and national literature under one platform to allow exchange of ideas and assimilation.

The festival is scheduled to be held on the Kashmir University premises.

In a appeal Saturday, the organisers expressed grief at the malicious campaign to tarnish the spirit of the festival, billed as "apolitical and inclusive".

An open letter this week said: "Holding such a festival would dovetail with the state's concerted attempt to portray that all is normal in Kashmir".

The letter was signed by writers Basharat Peer, Mirza Waheed, journalist Najib Mubaraki, research scholar Insha Malik, filmmaker Sanjay Kak, rights activist Gautam Navlakha, author-activist Anjum Zamrud Habib and academician Nivedita Menon, among others.

Full report here Daijiworld

Statement from the organisers of Harud

Statement from the organisers of Harud – The Autumn Literature Festival

We wish to categorically state that the Harud literature festival is not government sponsored. It has been conceived with the intent of creating a platform for free and open, debate, discussion and dialogue through contemporary narratives, literary fiction, poetry and theatre.

The festival aims at showcasing writing in Urdu, Kashmiri, Dogri and English from the region and other parts of India.

False and provocative rumours of Salman Rushdie attending the festival have been circulated Via a dedicated facebook book page without seeking any clarification about the authenticity of this statement. We wish to reiterate that Salman Rushdie was never invited to attend the festival.

We are surprised that some people who profess to stand for free speech have hijacked this sincere effort to create a transparent and inclusive platform for the arts and saddened that a literary initiative should become a point for confrontation.

We seek support for the spirit of the festival which is plural, inclusive and aims to be a platform for free speech and expression.

Delhi’s date with books

It’s almost like a mini-paradise for book lovers and distributors, as the 17th annual Delhi Book Fair kicked off in the Capital on Saturday. With over 300 publishers participating in the fair, there are thousands  of books to choose from.

“This year, the theme of the fair is travel and tourism. We have 625 stalls and 300 publishers who are participating, and we also have delegates from countries such as UK, Pakistan and the US,” says Shakti Malik, general secretary, The Federation of Indian Publishers.

Among the participating publishers are Penguin, Rupa & Co, S Chand, Pustak Mahal. Besides networking opportunities for publishers, the fair is also a great venue for book launches and workshops. “People coming into the book fair and browsing through the books is a very different experience from checking out books at a store that can stock limited number of books. At our stall, we will be talking about two books - Pakistan Beyond The ‘Crisis State’ by Maleeha Lodhi and The Punjab Bloodied Partitioned And Cleansed by Ishtiaq Ahmed,” says Kapish Mehra, managing director of Rupa & Co.

Full report here Hindustan Times

Mind your business

An increase in the number of B-schools, rapid change in technology and the demand for management principles apt for Indian conditions have led to a rise in the number of business authors in India. Team Viva reports

A glance at the bookshelf of any management professional or a young MBA would reveal that it is not just the usual bestsellers — Getting Things Done by David Allen, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey and The Goal by Eliyahu M Goldratt and Jeff Cox that adorn the racks but an equal number of leadership and management books by Indian authors form the part of the collection there. While it is important to get your basics strong by reading writings by renowned foreign authors, practical knowledge only comes by reading books of Indian managers and experts who often compile their own experiences and come up with self-help books.

The scenario in the business book section has definitely changed over the last few years. Until 1990s, the business book market in India was ruled by the writings of foreign authors and most of them dealt with the basics of business and readership. Be it the management institutes across the country, the shelves at bookstores or personal collections of a management professional or businessman, they all read the similar content by the same authors. “It was then that the management gurus in India thought they needed something that talked about Indian situations and about the Indian business scenario. Some of them then thought of penning down themselves to set the trend rolling. After coming out of a business school, nobody wanted to pursue their professional life reading something about America. On the other hand, with the growth of the number of management institutions in the country, there was an increased demand for different kind of text books and academicians went up to publishers with the demand for Indian text. It was then that the publishers started looking at the collaboration of Indian and foreign authors and for management experts who were willing to write business books. Since then there has been no looking back. In fact, there has been a steady growth and demand of business books,” explains management cartoonist Prriya Raj who has been a part of many business books and has witnessed this changing trend. So it was after the 90s that we started having business books that spoke of India and Indian mindset.

Business books in India can be broadly divided in two categories — self-help kinds and text books for professionals. Where most of the self-help books are by young management professionals, text books are by management and leadership gurus who have been old players in the industry. Talking about how well business books by Indian authors are doing in India, Vivek Mehra, managing director and CEO of Sage Publishers, says, “Though the demand in both these segments has been consistent over the last few years, the requirement for books that can serve as study material for management students is still rising by leaps and bounds. Business as a term now has fragmented into segments like leadership, entrepreneurial and managerial skills with each of them having an increased demand related with it. Also, there has been an amplified focus on quality.”

Full report here Pioneer

Observant storyteller

With his short fiction being republished recently, well-known poet and author Keki Daruwalla looks back on his literary career.

In his simple sentences you discern life's depths. In his humdrum world you come across people with stories quite special, their moments worthy of being wrapped in muslin.

Well-known poet-writer Keki N. Daruwalla's short stories are of everyday life. A quirk of a character, a sudden twist in routine life, a twirl of chance or crumbs of a tailing past... some sourced from real life, some the products of his imagination are triggers that shape his tales set in a style quite distant from what a short story looks like today.

Distinct sub-text

Daruwalla's stories also almost always come with a distinct subtext to modern history. Blending the general with the individual in a seamless manner, this retired IPS officer has succeeded in giving readers a pleasing literary experience over the years.

Take for instance, his 1979 short story, Love across the Salt Desert. Generations fed on NCERT books have read and remembered this extraordinary story of a young, unlettered couple who defy man-made borders. Hinging on the universal idea of the quest of a lover's heart, the story has travelled the times with ease.

Full report here Hindu

Glimpses into the life of a pioneer

A winter morning in Calcutta, year 1890. A classroom of Presidency College. A bearer walks in wearing a high-collared coat. A little while later, Prafulla Chandra Ray, young and bilet-pherot (England-returned), walks in, wearing the same coat.
Charuchandra Bhattacharya, his student, later came to know that Prafulla Chandra would buy cloth for four coat lengths, two for him, two for the bearer.

Prafulla Chandra Ray had led an exceptional life: as a scientist, an entrepreneur and a teacher. But his humanity was his greatest attribute, said Soumyajit Roy, who delivered the keynote address on Ray’s life, titled “Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, an academician, a chemist, an entrepreneur”, at National Library on August 19 to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Ray that fell on August 2.

Roy, who teaches at the newly established Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Calcutta, in Mohanpur in Nadia district, offered glimpses into the life of Prafulla Chandra: a pioneer Indian chemist, nationalist, the founder of Bengal Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals, India’s first pharmaceutical company, and a teacher who was like a father to his students. But this is a life on which not much light has been thrown.

Prafulla Chandra’s generous nature may have been genetic. His father Harish Chandra, who lived in Raruli-Katipara village in Khulna district, did not believe in the caste-system, for which he was called “mlechchha (unchaste)”. Harish Chandra had opened a library in his village.

Full review here Telegraph

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Anna is season’s flavour at 17th Delhi Book Fair

Anna Hazare seems to be the flavour of the season.  At the 17th Delhi Book Fair, which opened at Pragati Maidan on Saturday, the social activist almost stole the limelight from the fair’s theme of travel and tourism. While some stalls at the book fair displayed Hazare posters and pictures, a slim biography of Anna Hazare, published by Diamond Pocket Books in both Hindi and English, was flying off the shelves.

“Anna Hazare’s biography is the best seller of the day at our stall. We have sold about 100 copies of the book since morning,” said Ashish Gupta, director Saraswati House, a publisher who has set up a stall here. The stall also shows a large picture of Anna Hazare and the India Against Corruption logo at the cash counter.

The small biography of Hazare in English is called Anna Hazare: The New Revolutionary; while the one in Hindi is titled Krantidoot: Anna Hazare. The small books, apart from a brief biographical sketch of Hazare also has chapters on major scams in India, ‘philosophy of Anna’ , a note on The Jan Lok Pal Bill etc. “There is a lot of interest in the Hazare book. People from varied backgrounds want to know more about the Jan Lokpal,” says a salesman at the Diamond books counter which has prominently displayed copies of the book.

Full report here Hindustan Times

Lop-sided growth is beginning to threaten even the middle class

Siddhartha Deb’s The Beautiful And the Damned: Life In The New India hit bookstores in India earlier this month. In an email interview with G Sampath, he talks his new book, about the challenges of narrative nonfiction, and the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption movement.

What was the transition like, from fiction to nonfiction? Do you think of yourself primarily as novelist who also writes nonfiction or as a nonfiction writer who also writes fiction? Which form gives you a bigger kick?
The transition to nonfiction was difficult for practical reasons. I had to fund long stretches of reporting, and that was difficult at the beginning. I also had to spend a lot of time away from my very young son, and I didn't enjoy that at all. But writing nonfiction is easier in the sense that the boundaries are more clearly defined, and so it's harder to go wrong. If you're reasonably methodical, you can produce something that is, at the very least, acceptable. With fiction, there are no clear boundaries, at least for me, which means there are many more ways to go wrong but also a shot at transcendence, at magic, at creating life out of even nonsense, all of which I rather like. Since I'm desperate to return to fiction, let's take this book as a novelist's foray into nonfiction.

You no longer live in India. How does this geographical translocation affect you as a writer? Apart from other things, especially in terms of choice of subject matter? Do you find America a better place to write from?
My first two novels were set in the north-east of India, which was not the most career affirming move to make while trying to survive as a writer in New York. So, in that sense, I've never been writing for a western audience, and my choice of subjects has been determined on what interests me rather than what sells. And if I possess something of the outsider's eye in writing about India because I've been living in New York, I should add that the outsider's sensibility was honed earlier by the experience of having grown up in the north-east, and of being pretty hard up for a good many years in India. As far as New York being a better place to write from, that's not a guaranteed thing. But the city did push me harder, especially in the beginning. It taught me a degree of professionalism, gave me relatively easy access to an enormous wealth of books and other material, and handed me a surplus of hard-earned confidence.

Full interview here DNA

Go Indian to sell in India

Domino's asked "Hungry Kya" and McDonald's appealed to the Indian palate by abandoning beef and introducing aloo tikki burgers - examples to prove that the Indian market has a distinct identity and even global brands must modify their selling strategy, says management educator and writer Arindam Chaudhuri.

Companies must understand the cultural sensitivities of a market and identity needs of a consumer in emerging economies like India, China and rest of the developing world to sell their products and stay ahead of competition, Chaudhuri said.

"Western markets models don't always work here. Organisations are more aggressive in the west; they can use comparative marketing (comparing one product with another). But to create an understanding about a product and market it in India, a multinational firm often has to modify its strategy, campaign and, if necessary, innovate the product to suit the Indian market and culture," Chaudhuri told IANS.

Chaudhuri and his wife Rajita have explored competition in the Indian market with examples and ways to trounce rivals with an effective mix of advertising, campaigning and aggression in a new book, Thorns to Competition. The book will arrive in bookstores by the end of this month.

Full report here Economic Times

Nation marking Nazrul's death anniversary

Bangladesh is observing national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam's 35th death anniversary in line with the Bengali calendar.

The revolutionary poet and renowned Bengali lyricist died on Vadra 12, 1383 (August 29, 1976) at the age of 77.

Various socio-cultural and political organisations have undertaken elaborate programmes to mark the occasion on Saturday.

Bangla Academy, Shilpakala Academy and Nazrul Institute have chalked out separate programmes. Bangladesh Television and Bangladesh Betar and private TV channels are broadcasting programmes portraying the rebel poet's life and works.

The day began with Nazrul's family placing wreaths at his grave at the Dhaka University in the morning.

The cultural affairs ministry, Jatiya Kobi Kazi Nazrul Islam University, Dhaka University, Nazrul Academy, Nazrul Institute and many other organisation also placed wreaths at the poet's grave.

Dhaka University arranged a discussion to mark the day at the Nazrul Complex where Nazrul researcher Prof Rafiqul Islam lectured on the poet's life and literary work.

Full report here BDNews

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A book throbs with Chennai

With the air in the city still lively with events, anecdotes and history of the city as part of Madras Week celebrations, here comes a book pulsating with Chennai. The Elliots Beach, Chennai Zoo, Madras Museum and other descriptions came alive here on Thursday when actor Dhritiman Chatterjee read excerpts from Tulsi Badrinath's book Man of a Thousand Chances.

The book, published by Hachette, revolves around an otherwise honest Harihar who steals a rare gold coin minted by Mughal Emperor Jahangir from the museum to meet his daughter's wedding expense, with the intention of returning it. But, when Harihar finds himself in a position to redeem it, he learns that it has been melted by the pawnbroker.

Cultural activist Ranvir Shah interspersed the reading with questions for the author. Replying to a query on choosing Elliots Beach, the author said those of us who live near the beach take it for granted. “But it actually opens up the city with the snatches of conversation… I always wanted to write a story where you never know the beginning or end, but conjures up a parallel universe,” said Ms. Badrinath, whose first novel ‘Meeting Lives' was published in 2008.

Full report here Hindu

Authors brainstorm on corruption at Delhi Book Fair

Inspired by Anna Hazare's ongoing fast against corruption, writers, poets, playwrights and other authors are set to brainstorm on practical ways to tackle the social menace at the 17th edition of the Delhi Book Fair.

Beginning in the national capital on August 27, the week-long fair will see a seminar on "Corruption: Different Dimension" organised by the Authors Guild of India.

"There are movements all over the country and everybody today is talking about corruption. We thought, however, that as authors we should discuss the issue in an objective manner and try to find possible solutions," S Awasthy, General Secretary, Authors Guild of India told PTI.

Established in 1974, the guild with a membership of 1800 authors, has been participating in every edition of the the Delhi Book Fair.

The Book Fair organised jointly by the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) and The Federation of Indian Publishers (FIP) is attracting as many as 300 Indian and foreign publishers and organisers say they expect 5 lakh visitors this year.

Full report here Outlook

'My books are like SRK's movies'

Says Chetan Bhagat, whose next book, Revolution 2020, hits book stands this October. The author speaks on corruption, coming of age as a writer and his detractors even as he lends his support to Anna Hazare at the Ramleela Maidan in New Delhi

Your next, Revolution 2020, is particularly relevant in Anna Hazare's India. What prompted you to write it?
I started writing it two years ago, well before Anna Hazare happened. The rebellious nature of young people is something I have explored even in my earlier books. Revolution is inevitable. I am lucky that I will release the book in the middle of a revolution.

My premonition, about a major public uprise in India, came true. When I travel for my talks, I see a lot of resentment among the youth. The government is disconnected in terms of providing them a good college or a job.The book deals with corruption in the education sector. It's set in present day India and the revolution, that will change the system, will come in 2020.

You have set it in Varanasi, in small town India. Why?
I feel the voices in small town India are not heard enough. I can bring their stories alive in an interesting manner. If you switch on the tv, whatever happens in the metros is given attention. Besides, seventy per cent of my readers are in small town India.

Full interview here Mid-day

Chetan Bhagat's Revolution 2020 becomes the fastest selling book online

Revolution 2020 is one of the most awaited books in recent times. Announced a couple of days ago, it has created ripples and is raring to go. Readers are eagerly awaiting the launch and online portals are gearing up with pre-order and freebies.

The launch date for Revolution 2020 by bestselling author Chetan Bhagat is finally out. Yes, the much awaited book will be launched in October. Sprucing up for a Diwali launch, it is much anticipated in the readers' circles. Revolution 2020 is set in small-town India and revolves around three friends. Gopal and Raghav are in pursuit of success but with different goals. They are in love with the same girl. Will Varanasi prove lucky for them? Ever since the new book was announced, Indian readers have shown an overwhelming response, proven by the way they have taken to online pre-order options.

Similar response was last seen for Amish Tripathi's The Secret of The Nagas. Online portals were abreast with contests, freebies and author signed memorabilia. Some even had ongoing contests where participants could get lucky and meet the author himself. Amish Tripathi, Rashmi Bansal and Chetan Bhagat are amongst the new age writers. They have changed the way an Indian reader looks at a bookshelf dedicated to Indian authors. New age readership has truly arrived and India is lapping up the literary boom like never before.

Adding to the euphoria surrounding the October launch is the pre-order option. Online marts like Infibeam and Flipkarthave started taking pre-orders with much gusto. According to sources, Infibeam offered a whopping discount in the first 24h and recorded over 3000 pre-orders, so much so that, it has become the fastest selling book on Infibeam and others. The sales figures are likely to touch over tens of thousands across portals.

Full report here SBWire

Frankfurt Book Fair launches training campaigns in India

The prestigious Frankfurt Book Fair is reaching out to new segment of Indian readers at the grassroots to enhance literacy and reading competence.

'Jumpstart', a programme under the 'Litcam - Competence for Life' programme, is part of the fair's three-pronged outreach programme to tap into the exploding readers' and publishing market, bring the marginalised sections of readership to the mainstream and combat functional illiteracy.

At the core of the campaign is promotion of education in India and media literacy. Children in urban slums and villages are under spotlight.

Full report here IBNLive

Voyage of the well-read

Lonely Planet guides are not the only must-reads for a holiday

I often want, before going to a foreign city, to read literature set in that city. But between packing and scrambling for visas, there is little time for, say, the memoirs of Orhan Pamuk. So I usually travel as a literary blank slate.

This holiday to Rome, Venice, and Florence had been organised back in January, and I had planned to read Patricia Highsmith's “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” or the Venetian parts of “Brideshead Revisited.” But as the months crept up, I hadn't even flipped through a phrasebook, much less soaked in the history and atmosphere of Italy.

With just weeks to go, I scanned my shelves for what might be useful. Shakespeare is not. He wrote “Othello” and “Julius Caesar” on a London street, and it shows. But subsequent British writers saw the foreign places they wrote about. Mostly they showed English sensitivities clashing against Continental aesthetics, and they worked in plenty of scenery.

Full report here Hindu

I was an atheist: Author Amish Tripathi

When author Amish Tripathi had an idea about eight years back — a theory to be more specific — to write a book on Gods, his family asked him to pen down his thoughts.

What followed was a ‘pure philosophical thesis’ and his family tagged it ‘boring’ and a ‘cure for insomnia’. But if Tripathi had sulked and stopped then, his book

The Immortals of Meluha wouldn’t have been an overnight literary sensation and his latest offering, The Secret of the Nagas, would have remained just another idea.

The MBA author, who self-published his book, says, “Every single publisher rejected my manuscript. I stopped counting after 20. All of them told me that book had no chance of success; it wasn’t a chick lit or a self-help book. They said it had no sex scenes, no romance and that I was trying to alienate every single segment of readers. Then I got an agent.” Tripathi took up the marketing himself through social media.

As a kid, Tripathi used to write poetry, but confesses that they were really “pathetic”. “I was a sports guy in school. I had no creative bone in my body. I bought many self-help books, which suggested the three-act structure to write a book. I made a plan on Excel sheet, made character sketches. It didn’t help at all, boss! Then my wife told me I was being my corporate self and asked me to stop controlling my story. My story eventually started flowing after I took the advice.”

Full report here DNA

An American quilt

Hari Kunzru’s new novel is a majestic work with memorable characters, all disparate but connected through a credible plot

Gods without Men
Hari Kunzru
Hamish Hamilton,
384 pages; Rs975
Towards the end of Steven Spielberg’s 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, as the alien spacecraft is about to make contact with the planet Earth, among the people who have gathered to see the landing is a scientist, played by the talented French film director, François Truffaut. Setting aside his rational scepticism, Truffaut looks at the extravagant sight of the spacecraft with a childlike wonder, visible on his face as his eyebrows widen, eyes go bigger, and the flicker of a smile appears on his awestruck face. Years of reason-based digital logic fade away; innocent amazement replaces that, and he looks as if he is witnessing a miracle.

The fresh-faced nature of that discovery has an older cinematic parallel: Think of young Apu and Durga rushing to the palash field after they hear the sound of the train, looking for the engine both ways, stunned as the train rushes through the Bengali landscape, in Satyajit Ray’s film, Pather Panchali (1955). Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, who wrote the novel, had titled that chapter Achenar Anand, or the delight of the unknown.

Full review here Mint

Ashwin Sanghi on a high

After his bestselling book, The Rozabal Line, made waves when it released in 2008, Ashwin Sanghi's latest offering Chanakya's Chant has made it to the news too...and for all the right reasons.

Ashwin Sanghi is self-confessed lover of oddity, and it is this quality that has led to the depth of his books. It is no wonder then that his 2010 book Chanakya's Chant has been shortlisted for the Vodafone-Crossword Popular Choice Award 2011. The book is a fictional retelling of the life of Chanakya, the great political strategist of ancient India.

The novel relates two stories- the first of Chanakya's scheming to bring Chandragupta Maurya to the throne of Magadha; and the other, that of a modern-day character called Gangasagar Mishra who wants to position a child from the slums as the Prime Minister of India. With riveting tales woven around historical facts and events, this book has found favour among scores of readers from around the country. Only naturally, the author, who counts Archer, Sheldon, Hailey, Forsyth and Ludlum among his favourites, is over the moon. The final winner of the contest will be chosen from among ten shortlisted books via public voting.

Full report here Times of India

In the face of fate, we should be shameless and defiant: Arun Shourie

“The secret to writing 26 books is to be unemployed from time to time,” quipped Arun Shourie, author, journalist, scholar and politician, releasing Does He Know a Mother’s Heart? - his 26th book.

“I am not a creative writer. I am lawyer, and all my books are arguments for the prosecution, whether it is on Ambedkar or on suffering.” That was a comment well in character with the man who is known for persuasive arguments while remaining as much self-effacing as an active public life allows.

Does He Know a Mother’s Heart? critically examines the explanations for human suffering in various religious scriptures, and in the teachings of prominent spiritual masters.

Shourie is no stranger to pain. His wife Anita suffers from Parkinson’s syndrome. And their son, “Aditya, our life, is 35 now. He cannot walk or stand. He can see only from the left side of his eyes. He cannot use his right arm or hand. He speaks syllable by syllable. Yet he laughs,” Shourie writes.

This book comes from what his wife and he learnt over 35 years. “All religions explain suffering. But they do not stand up to strict examinations. The theory of Karma always ends up blaming the victim,” he said.

Full report here DNA

Friday, August 26, 2011

Everyday dog tales told with a touching simplicity

From a nutty watchdog, a social bee, an enthusiastic foodie, a travel buddy to a constant companion, dogs have been such an inseparable part of our lives that we often end up taking the little joys and surprises they bring us, for granted.
With an editor, Dhiraj Nayyar, who is crazy about dogs and shares his varied experiences with three of them, the book becomes a sensitive portrayal of the love-hate-love relationship between humans and their canine friends!
While 'pet' talks are a conversation starter for many, there are those who find therapeutic value in writing about their beloved dogs. Your degree of involvement with a dog notwithstanding, you'll find the confessional quality in How Cheeka Became a Star and other Dog Stories stirring. Bound in bright colours, the 218-pager is a crispy collection of anecdotes, confessions, tributes and observations by noted authors, media personalities, filmmakers, actors and entrepreneurs on the bond they share with their dogs.

Full report here Times of India

Chetan Bhagat on his fifth novel

With a tagline that reads – Love. Corruption. Ambition, you would assume that Chetan Bhagat was swayed by the current revolution that has gripped the country.

But author of 2 States and Five Point Someone clarifies that his new book, Revolution 2020, is “foremost a love story, in fact a love triangle, as both Gopal and Raghav love the same girl (Aarti). Corruption, particularly in the education sector, is the backdrop of the story.”

Bhagat’s stint as a motivational speaker, which really came about by accident, took him on travels across the country. His interactions with young people from over 50 cities that he visited inspired him to work on a story about them.

Thus came about a story about three young people from Varanasi. Bhagat explores their aspirations and ambitions and how far they’re willing to go to get what they want.

But Bhagat promises that, in keeping with his style, the story will appeal to most anyone.

Full report here Hindustan Times

DBF to focus on travel, children's books

The Delhi Book Fair 2011, beginning at the Pragati Maidan here on August 27, will have travel and tourism as its theme, with a special focus on children’s literature and the growth of e-book business, an official said.

More than 300 Indian and foreign publishers will take part in the fair to be inaugurated by Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal.

The fair will be organised jointly by the India Trade Promotion Organisation and The Federation of Indian Publishers.

“Fair will be more aggressive this year because the publishers will be competing for the Excellence in Book Production award 2011,” said a spokesperson for the Indian Trade Promotion Organisation.

Three major literary events involving children are being billed as the highlights of the fair, the spokesperson said.

Discover the Genius in Your Child, How to Study Intelligently and Ghummaked Lok Katha (Roving Folk Tales), will see participation of children from schools here and from the National Capital Region.

Full report here Hindustan Times 

The spiffy truth fantasy

When tired philosophy comes wrapped in grand storytelling

This is not my story. It is the story of a book I have read.

It is not a long book. Some people would read it in the time it takes to look up the Wikipedia entry for Ayn Rand, even though every sentence in it is meant to be one of the eternal truths, crafted with the conviction of the philosopher, the grandeur of the illusionist, and the immutability of the artist, who will never tell in 30 pages what can be told in 330.

Many were the tests I was subjected to. I cast aside the doubts that arose from the congruency with Rand’s Anthem, where, too, the protagonist—his name also alphanumeric—eventually rises in revolt against the submerging of the individual “I” in the collective “we”. I even suppressed my giggle successfully on reading that you do not find the master, the master finds you. For my easily distracted mind instantly replaced the prophet figure in the book with Rajinikanth.

Full review here Mint

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Oral odyssey

Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty strikes up a conversation with H. Masud Taj, an oral poet, a rare breed in a scenario where anything literary means the printed word

Ottawa-based H. Masud Taj is certainly an experience if you can catch him reciting his poems, one couplet tailing the other, like dominoes falling to high winds. The words spoken have the power to drape you in implicit joy and you are easily immersed in his mood, wide-eyed. You hate to impede him, knit in a query only to ensure that he continues. As he recites the lines, his soft, silken voice rides a knoll at times, reacting to the string of words mouthed. And the effect is simply marvellous.

At a New Delhi hotel, striking up a conversation with this oral poet, you throw the obvious question at him at the first opportunity — so who is an oral poet? What makes him different from a regular poet? “An oral poet is one who recites his verses and may not publish them. They believe that a poem primarily belongs to the sound and sense,” he replies. Living in an age when anything literary means the printed word, you have long forgotten that the first works of literature were oral. “Beowulf”, “Odyssey”…all were first recited before alphabets took over.

Best of Khushwant Singh back in new avatar

Khushwant Singh, the grand old man of contemporary Indo-Anglian literature has returned in a new avatar with an updated edition of his signature anthology, Not a Nice Man to Know: The Best of Khushwant Singh.

The anthology, first published 20 years ago with 30 of Singh’s selected works, has been revised to include 18 more of his essays, short stories and opinions.

The revised edition was launched by Penguin India at the Le Meridien in the capital here Saturday.

It was accompanied with a dramatized reading of his postcolonial play which features in the book – Tyger Tyger, Burning Bright – by adman and stage personality Suhel Seth.

The 96-year-old writer could not join the gathering because of ill-health.

Releasing the anthology, editor Nandini Mehta, who edited the first edition of the collection 20 years ago, said, “When I edited the first volume of the best of Khushwant Singh 20 years ago, the writer had said it was perhaps the last book on him and he would not be able to write any more.”

Full report here Hindustan Times

Greek mythology inspires teen’s debut novel

Inspired by stories from Greek mythology, a Delhi schoolboy spins a magical tale of fantasy envisaging the defeat of evil by a teen wizard who the author hopes would go on to be popular in the country.
Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit released Damien Black: The Battle of Lost Ages a fantasy novel by 14-year-old Kevin Solomon Missal in the national capital recently.
“The book is about Damien Black a teenager who belongs to a hunter clan,” says the author Missal, who is studying  in class X. Started as a summer vacation project, the book, says Missal was completed within of two months.
“It is fascinating to see that the book has been inspired by Greek mythology characters. Such good work by young authors must carry on,” Dikshit said after releasing the book.
The Chief Minister said parents should encourage their children to write books and explore avenues that interest them.
Full report here Hindustan Times

Snakes on a plain

A new pulp phenomenon tells a great story, but is derailed by corporate-speak and sloppy editing

There are probably years to go before an Indian book series achieves the level of devotion (or the sales) of the Harry Potter series. We do not have costumed fans thronging book stores for midnight readings (which the Shops and Establishments Act would make impossible anyway), or websites dedicated to picking apart plot points and sneaky hints.

But the last month has shown that we’re capable of getting there, with the explosion of interest in The Secret of the Nagas, the second book in Amish’s Shiva Trilogy. The Shiva Trilogy brings two new things to Indian books. Commercially, it brought its publishers blockbuster sales in a new segment. Chetan Bhagat’s raging sales have been helped in large part by Rupa and Co. pricing his books at Rs.95, a tactic quickly adopted by other mass-market publishers such as Srishti. The Secret of the Nagas, though, is retailing at Rs. 295 (the first book, The Immortals of Meluha, which has sold more than 125,000 copies, is published in two editions, for Rs. 195 and Rs. 295).

Full report here Mint

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Girish Karnad's story, in his own words

The autobiography of Kannada playwright and Jnanpith Award winner Girish Karnad was released here on Sunday by Prajavani editor K.N. Shanth Kumar.

Titled Aadaadtha Ayushya (life moves on while playing), the book is Mr. Karnad's memoirs of the first half of his life. Its title has been inspired by Da.Ra. Bendre's famous lines, a release has said.

The memoirs run into 350 pages, and are divided into 11 chapters named after places where Mr. Karnad spent his life.

On the occasion, the playwright read out a section about his early life in the United Kingdom as a student, and his take on pub culture in Britain. Stating that the number of pubs in Britain was on a decline, he said: “A Britain without pubs is not Britain at all for me.”

Recalling his association with the publishers, Mr. Karnad said: “Manohara Grantha Mala published my first book in 1961 and 50 years later, my autobiography has been published by them.”

Antarangada Mrudanga, a compilation of essays by Narahalli Balasubramanya; Hole Makkalu, a novel by Bidarahalli Narasimhamurthy; and Na Badukalikke Ollepa, a collection of short plays with only two characters penned by Lohit Naiker; were also released by Mr. Kumar.

Full report here Hindu

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's business, as usual

P.G. Bhaskar's debut novel, a mix of fact and fiction, focuses on the 2008 financial crisis

Jack Patel might sound like the proverbial banker but his rather quirky sense of being and tongue-in-cheek humour gives you a new perspective on a man whose dreams don't seem too far from reality.

P.G. Bhaskar's Jack Patel's Dubai Dreams is a mix of fiction and fact, focussing on the life of his protagonist during the 2008 financial crisis, “I'm a banker myself and I guess I just took the easy way out. Basing a fictional story against the backdrop of the financial crisis and its aftermath seemed the natural thing to do. I wrote the book without thinking too much about it and had great fun doing it,” says the author, “The way I see it, my book is a potpourri, a very light-hearted mix of fiction and business, with a liberal dose of nonsense.”

Full report here Hindu

Malgudi Express likely

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna has appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that one of the trains running between Bangalore and Mysore be named Malgudi Express in commemoration of noted writer RK Narayan.

“This year marks the 10th anniversary of R K Narayan’s passing away, which also happens to be his 106th birth anniversary. Thus, it would be befitting that the great writer is honoured this year,” stated Krishna’s letter.

He added that the writer, who was credited with bringing Indian literature in English to the rest of the world and was hailed as India’s greatest English writer of the 20th century, and also a recipient of the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan awards, would be befittingly honored by having a train named after his most famous piece of writing.

Narayan had created the enchanting fictional world of Malgudi through several novels and short stories, which captivated readers throughout the world.

“He (Narayan) had created the imaginary town of Malgudi between Mysore and Bangalore, where realistic characters in a typical Indian setting lived amid unpredictable events,” Krishna stated in his letter.

Further, in another letter to Union Minister for Railways Dinesh Trivedi, Krishna has made a similar request. Both Manmohan Singh and Trivedi have assured Krishna that they would look into the matter and take a decision soon.

Anna Hazare is not secular: Arundhati Roy

Writer-activist Arundhati Roy has launched a scathing attack on social activist Anna Hazare, the leader of the ongoing anti-corruption movement. She has questioned his secular credentials and further said that the 74-year-old Hazare "supports Raj Thackeray's "Marathi Manoos xenophobia." The article has drawn a barrage of online response. Most are sharply critical of her views.

In an edit page article published on Monday in The Hindu newspaper, she asks, "Who is he really, this new saint, this Voice of the People? Oddly enough we've heard him say nothing about things of urgent concern. Nothing about the farmer's suicides in his neighbourhood, or about Operation Greyhound further away. He doesn't seem to have a view about the government's plans to deploy the Indian Army in the forests of Central India."

Full report here Times of India 

Tweet lands Taslima Nasrin in controversy

Exiled Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasrin has willy-nilly whipped up a storm in Nepal, with a comment on social networking site Twitter that was interpreted by some as casting doubts on the republic’s sovereignty.

The 48-year-old controversial author, whose books have been banned in Bangladesh forcing her to go into exile since 1994, had been invited to Nepal to attend its first-ever literary festival held in Kathmandu valley from Friday to Sunday.

Taslima was to have released an English translation of one of her books at the Ncell Literature Festival, also attended by former BBC chief in India, Mark Tully, on Saturday.

However, she missed the flight from New Delhi, where she currently resides, as she had left her passport at home by mistake.

By way of an apology, the maverick writer wrote on her Twitter page: “My Nepali friends, I missed my flight to go to Kathmandu today. I forgot to bring my passport as I didn’t consider Nepal a foreign country!”

Full report here Hindustan Times