Jaya Posts

Literati: “For the price of a book…” ( 13 September 2015)


jaya_bhattacharji-300x300My monthly column, Literati, in the Hindu Literary Review was published online ( 12 September 2015) and will be in print ( 13 September 2015). Here is the http://www.thehindu.com/books/literary-review/jaya-bhattacharji-rose-on-the-hunger-for-books-in-india/article7641333.ece. I am also c&p the text below. 

How can you argue with the low prices, especially in a nation where such a hunger for books exists?

This year the Delhi Book Fair held at Pragati Maidan was held on a much smaller scale than previous years. It was dominated by stalls put up by publishers of school textbooks. Government institutions were represented by the National Book Trust, Sahitya Akademi and Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts with their reasonably priced publications in many Indian languages and dialects. Religious organisations too displayed their publications, some of which were being distributed free. Most of the larger publishing houses were conspicuous by their absence (preparing for the next edition of the World Book Fair 2016).

But it was the smaller stalls of remaindered books that were fascinating. These are books that are scheduled for

Visitors having a close look at the books available at the 21st Delhi Book Fair at Pragati Maidan, in New Delhi in August, 2015. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma ( The Hindu)

Visitors having a close look at the books available at the 21st Delhi Book Fair at Pragati Maidan, in New Delhi in August, 2015. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma ( The Hindu)

pulping in other book markets and are also disposed off by weight. These titles are brought into local markets, usually priced very low. Three books for Rs.100 or for Rs. 500, depending upon their condition and interest in the book or author. It is not unusual to find books with labels from overseas school libraries and institutions, personal inscriptions or treasures like the one Jairaj Singh, a journalist, found at the Delhi Book Fair — an autographed first edition of Kingsley Amis’ Memoirs for Rs. 50 only.

People noodle through these stalls, trailing bags on wheels. Within a limited budget it is possible to acquire a pile of books till the next book fair comes around. It is to these remaindered stalls that the maximum number of buyers— teachers, parents, school children, students, librarians — go. In fact, the presence of these stalls, piled high with books, thrown in an untidy heap, was frowned upon by established publishers at the World Book Fair, February 2015. But how can you argue with the low prices, especially in a nation where such a hunger for books exists? This is borne out by the Amazon India spokesperson who says, “the number of books sold per day has grown by 1400 per cent over the past two years. Over 2500 sellers today offer lakhs of books to their customers across India on amazon.in. The portal has the largest online selection of books in India across languages, including three major regional languages — Hindi, Tamil and Kannada — which have found a huge audience, especially in non-metro cities where regional language books have featured in the top 10 bestsellers list. Over 50 per cent of the orders are coming from outside of the top eight cities.” According to informed sources, online book portals in India are growing at the rate of 12 to 15 per cent per annum.

In August 2015, the longlist for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction was revealed. It is a fabulously diverse list, exciting for the range of debut and experienced writers, geographical regions, varied writing styles and publishers it showcases. A handful, such as Anuradha Roy’s Sleeping on Jupiter, Sunjeev Sahota’s The Year of the Runaways, Bill Clegg’s Did You Ever Have a Family, Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread, Marilynne Robinson’s Lila and Anne Enright’s The Green Road are readily available. But try getting hold of Leila Lalami’s The Moor’s Sigh, Chigozi Obioma’s The Fishermen or Anna Smaill’s The Chimes — you either have to pay for  it online (there seems to be no fixed price for the edition even on the same portal, so a comparison of prices is advisable) or bide your time till  it is available at a brick-and-mortar bookshop. Recently, there have been discussions on ebook sales plateauing, primarily because of price fluctuation and smartphones replacing ereaders. (“The plot may be unravelling for e-books” Aimee Picchi, CBS News, 4 September 2015, http://cbsn.ws/1XJDgCf )

final-logo-pratham-booksThis is a trend apparent in India too, as is evident with the launch of the non-profit trust Pratham Books’ open source digital platform, Storyweaver (https://storyweaver.org.in/ ). It features 800 stories in 26 languages (14 Indian and 12 international languages), with an image repository of over 2,000 images. It can be viewed on desktop computers, laptops, tablets or mobile phones. Users will be able to read, download, translate, create, print and publish new stories through the platform using the Creative Commons licensed content on the site. Similarly, Daily Hunt (http://dailyhunt.in/ ) offers news, free and some nominally priced books, in 12 languages and has had 2.3 billion views a month.

Freshly published print books continue to be unaffordable for many readers in India, as is evident from the rush to Amartya Senbuy cheaply priced, sometimes weathered, remaindered books. Yet, it is significant to note that most Indians, despite being economically challenged, possess a handheld device. Hence, innovative ways of bringing together literature and technology to whet a ferocious book appetite at affordable prices have to be explored. It is also a tremendous way of giving neo-literates a chance to practice their literacy too, instead of it stagnating. As Amartya Sen says in his introduction to The Country of First Boys “…having an educated …population can be a major contributor to enhancing steady and sustainable economic growth.”

12 September 2015 

Storyweaver, Pratham Books

final-logo-pratham-booksWelcome to StoryWeaver from Pratham Books : http://www.storyweaver.org.inbanner-2-fc6332eba5193186348e9c5190fee65b

A whole new world of children’s stories. It is a platform that hosts stories in languages across India and beyond. So that every child can have an endless stream of stories in her mother tongue to read and enjoy. StoryWeaver is an open platform designed to be innovative and interactive. It invites both, the weaver of stories and the reader to connect and share the fascinating world of words and illustrations. This then, marks a new chapter in children’s literature and publishing. Come discover the magic of stories and the joy of reading – a cornucopia that will delight endlessly.

Medianama has a wonderful article on Pratham Books and Storyweaver. It is available at: http://www.medianama.com/2015/09/223-pratham-books-open-source/ But I am also copy-pasting the text in case it is not easily available sometimes.

Non profit trust Pratham Books has launched StoryWeaver, an open source digital platform, which features 800 stories in 24 languages (14 Indian and 12 international languages), with an image repository of over 2,000 images. These will be openly licensed and free of cost; content creators and other users will be able to read, download, translate, version-ise and print through the platform. Users will also be able to create and publish new stories, using the Creative Commons licensed content on the site.

The stories are available in Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Konkani, Malayalam, Marathi and Odiya, along with English translations to all these languages (and Tamil and Telugu, excepting Assamese and Malayalam). It lists publishers like itself, African StoryBook Initiative and World Konkani Centre. The stories can be filtered by reading levels as well. The platform provides DIY videos for creating and translating stories. ( https://storyweaver.org.in/tutorials )

Anyone can translate stories by clicking on the ‘translate’ option under the selected story, which redirects you to login via Pratham Books, Facebook or Google+ and provides a host of Indian and African languages, along with French, German and Spanish to translate to. It displays the original text for reference and once done translating it lets users put in a new title, creator details and publish. Pratham Books says that it has generated more work opportunities for illustrators through their CC work. It also states that its primary users are teachers, librarians, writers and parents.

The trust hopes that this move will not only encourage more content creation but also address the scarcity of multilingual story resources in India and multiply it. With the launch of the platform, the trust has also created a “Weave a story” campaign where it has roped in children’s books writers Anushka Ravishankar, Soumya Rajendran, Rohini Nilekani and Rukmini Banerjee to write a special story for children. StoryWeaver will invite users to translate these stories and the trust expects that 100 new versions will spawn out of the 3 original stories. The first story to be launched on the platform is Ravishankar’s “Its All the Cat’s Fault”, which is expected to get 5 derivative versions today.

Google Impact Challenge shortlist
In August 2013, Google had shortlisted 10 non-profit organisations in India as finalists for its Google Impact Challenge intended to support a technology based social project with an award of Rs 3 crores. Among these was Pratham Books which intended to develop an open source platform to create and translate 20,000 e-books in minimum 25 languages to enable 20 million book reads by 2015.

Launch of books crowdsourcing platform
In June, Pratham Books launched a crowdsourcing platform called DonateABook which let nonprofits and schools raise funding for books in order to provide them to Indian children. It connected book seekers with people who wanted to give books away. Then, there were 30 campaigns on the website, looking to raise between Rs 3,500- Rs 110,000 for multiple cities and towns in India.

The projects have been assigned for underprivileged kids, kids from government schools in villages, immigrant construction workers’ children and more, and sought books across Indian and English languages. Individuals as well as organisations who wanted to get books for the children they work with could also start campaigns on the platform. The platform sought to get 50,000 books for children by this Children’s Day, which falls on 14 November every year.

The Bangalore-based trust publishes cost effective books across Indian languages. It publishes books across genres like fiction, science, history, maths and nature among others. It claims to have published over 300 original titles in 18 languages, totalling up to 2,000 books across genres of fiction, nonfiction, and story books on science, history, mathematics and nature

 

8 Sept 2015

Penguin Classics from Penguin Random House India ( 8 Sept 2015)

This is a fabulous catalogue of books. Many of them are being reissued, many are translations commissioned for the first time and some are award-winning books. They have been rejacketed splendidly. A collection worth reading, dipping into, owning in personal and library collections. I am copy-pasting the catalogue with some of the beautiful book covers. For more information please contact Ambar Sahil Chatterjee, Associate Commissioning Editor, Penguin Random House India. 

Penguin_Group-logo-311DF536C6-seeklogo.com

PENGUIN CLASSICS

MODERN CLASSICS
Bengali

BENGALI
CHATTOPADHYAY, SARATCHANDRA
The Final Question
Translated by Dept of English, Jadavpur University
9780143067788 • 392 • `399 • B/PB • World
Srikanta
Translated by Aruna Chakravarthi
9780143066477 • 504 • `499 • B/PB • World
DAS, JIBANANANDA Selected Poems
Translated by C. Das Gupta
9780143100263 • 104 • `199 • B/PB • World
MITRA, PREMENDRA Mosquito and Other Stories
Translated by Amlan Das Gupta
9780143063902 • 192 • `200 • B/PB • World
PARASHURAM Selected Stories
Translated by Sukanto Chaudhuri and Palash Baran Pal
9780143062202 • 324 • `299 • B/PB • World
RAY, SATYAJIT Indigo: Selected Stories
Translated by Indrani Majumdar
9780143068099 • 264 • `350 • B/PB • World
TAGORE, RABINDRANATH
‘A towering figure in the millennium-old literature of Bengal’ New York Review of Books
‘Not only an immensely versatile poet; he was also a great short story writer, novelist, [and] essayist’ Amartya Sen
Farewell Song
Translated by Radha Chakravarthy
978014341632 • 162 • `199 • B/PB • World except US

Gitanjali
Translated by William Radice
9780143419563 • 344 • `399 • B/PB • World
Gora
Translated by Radha Chakravarthy
9780143065838 • 544 • `499 • B/PB • World
He (Shey)
Translated by Aparna Chaudhuri
9780143102090 • 176 • `250 • B/PB • World
Home and the World
Translated by Sreejata Guha
9780143031413 • 240 • `350 • B/PB • World
Letters from a Young Poet: 1887-1895
Translated by Rosinka Chaudhuri
9780143415763 • 364 • `499 • B/PB • World
Postmaster: Selected Stories
Translated by William Radice
9780140188547 • 322 • `350 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
Selected Poems
Translated by William Radice
9780140183665 • 208 • `299 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
English

ALI, AGHA SHAHID The Country Without a Post Office
9780143420736 • 104 • `250 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only

ANAND, MULK RAJ
Coolie
9780140186802 • 208 • `299 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
Seven Summers
9780144000180 • 256 • `250 • B/PB • World
Untouchable
9780143027805 • 160 • `200 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
DAS, KAMALA Selected Poems
Edited with an introduction by Devindra Kohli
9780143421047 • 328 • `399 • B/PB • World
HOSAIN, ATTIA Sunlight on a Broken Column
9780143066484 • 336 • `399 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent and
Singapore only
MARKANDAYA, KAMALA Nectar in a Sieve
9780143066576 • 200 • `250 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent and
Singapore only
MEHROTRA, ARVIND KRISHNA Collected Poems: 1969-2014
Introduction by Amit Chaudhuri
9780143420842 • 336 • `399 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
MEHTA, VED
Daddyji
9780143421030 • 232 • `399 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
Face to Face: An Autobiography
9780143420767 • 328 • `499 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
Mahatma Gandhi and His Apostles
9780143421023 • 312 • `399 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
Portrait of India
9780143422303 • 640 • `699 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
MORAES, DOM Selected Poems: 1954-2004
Edited with an introduction by Ranjit Hoskote
9780143418320 • 368 • `499 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent and
Singapore only

NARAYAN, R.K.
‘A first-rate storyteller’ New Yorker
The Guide
Introduction by Pico Iyer
9780143414988 • 224 • `299 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
The Man-eater of Malgudi
Introduction by Pico Iyer
9780143414964 • 216 • `225 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
The Vendor of Sweets
Introduction by Pico Iyer
9780143414971 • 176 • `250 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
Waiting for the Mahatma
Introduction by Pico Iyer
9780143414995 • 224 • `225 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
NEHRU, JAWAHARLAL The Discovery of India
9780143031031 • 656 • `650 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent and
Singapore only
‘Gives an understanding of the glorious intellectual and spiritual
tradition of [a] great country’ Albert Einstein
RAMANUJAN, A.K. Folktales from India
9780143066439 • 456 • `499 • Demy/PB • India only
RAO, RAJA
‘A pathbreaker of Indian writing in English’ Guardian
The Cat and Shakespeare
Introduction by R. Parthasarathy
9780143422327 • 240 • `299 • B/PB • World except North America
Collected Stories
Introduction by R. Parthasarathy
9780143422310 • 240 • `299 • B/PB • World except North America

Kanthapura
Introduction by R. Parthasarathy
9780143422341 • 240 • `299 • B/PB • World except North America
The Serpent and the Rope
Introduction by R. Parthasarathy
9780143422334 • 400 • `499 • B/PB • World except North America
TAGORE, RABINDRANATH Nationalism
Introduction by Ramachandra Guha
9780143064671 • 164 • `250 • B/PB • World

Hindi

ASHK, UPENDRANATH
Falling Walls
Translated by Daisy Rockwell
9780143423690 • 440 • `599 • Demy/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
Hats and Doctors
Translated by Daisy Rockwell
9780143417187 • 240 • `299 • B/PB • World except North America
JAINENDRA The Resignation: Tyagpatra
Translated by Rohini Chowdhury
Introduction by Mridula Garg
9780143415244 • 200 • `250 • B/PB • World
KAMLESHWAR Partitions
Translated by Ameena Kazi Ansari
9780143063704 • 384 • `350 • B/PB • World

PREMCHAND
‘One of the subcontinent’s best loved writers’ The Hindu
The Co-wife and Other Stories
Translated by Ruth Vanita
9780143101727 • 304 • `350 • B/PB • World
Playground: Rangbhoomi
Translated by Manju Jain
9780143102113 • 692 • `599 • Demy/PB • World
RAKESH, MOHAN One Day in the Season of Rain
Translated by Aparna Dharwadker and Vinay Dharwadker
9780670088027 • 288 • `499 • B/HB • World
SAHNI, BHISHAM
‘His literary merits—sharp wit, gentle irony, all-pervasive humour, penetrating
insight into character, mastery as raconteur, and profound grasp of the yearnings
of the human heart’ Outlook
Today’s Pasts: A Memoir
Translated by Snehal Shinghavi
9780670086665 • 300 • `499 • B/HB • World
Basanti
Translated by Shveta Sarda
9780143419815 • 220 • `299 • B/PB • World
Mansion
Translated by Shveta Sarda
9780143419822 • 352 • `399 • B/PB • World
Middle India
Translated by Gillian Wright
9780143066460 • 256 • `350 • B/PB • World
Boyhood
Translated by Anna Khanna
9780143420071 • 240 • `299 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent except Bhutan
Tamas
Translated by the author
9780143063681 • 360 • `399 • B/PB • World

Tamas
Translated by Daisy Rockwell
9780670088058 • 360 • `499 • B/HB • Indian Subcontinent only
SHUKLA, SHRILAL Raag Darbari
Translated by Gillian Wright
9780143418894 • 360 • `399 • B/PB • World
‘If fiction is the moral history of our time, Shrilal Shukla chronicled
it with a poignancy never seen before’ Frontline
VAID, KRISHNA BALDEV
‘A stalwart of Hindi literature’ The Hindu
The Broken Mirror
Translated by Charles Sparrows and the author
9780143419785 • 420 • `499 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
The Sculptor in Exile
Translated by the author
9780143419808 • 296 • `399 • B/PB • World
Steps in Darkness
Translated by the author
9780143419792 • 184 • `299 • B/PB • World
VERMA, NIRMAL
‘A uniquely tender sensibility’ Amitav Ghosh
Days of Longing
Translated by Krishna Baldev Vaid
9780143419143 • 232 • `299 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
A Rag Called Happiness
Translated by Kuldip Singh
9780143420033 • 192 • `299 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only

The Red Tin Roof
Translated by Kuldip Singh
9780143420019 • 240 • `299 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
YADAV, RAJENDRA Strangers on a Roof
Translated by Ruth Vanita
9780143423829 • 264 • `299 • B/PB • World
YASHPAL
Divya
Translated by Anand
9780143103127 • 304 • `299 • B/PB • World
This Is Not That Dawn: Jhootha Sach
Translated by Anand
Introduction by Harish Trivedi
9780143103134 • 1119 • `799 • Demy/PB • World

Malayalam

DAS, KAMALA
‘A rebel who defied categorisation’ The Times
Childhood in Malabar
Translated by Gita Krishnankutty
9780143068358 • 224 • `299 • B/PB • World
VIJAYAN, O.V. The Legends of Khasak
Translated by the author
9780143063674 • 216 • `250 • B/PB • World

Oriya

 

TAMIL
NAGARAJAN, G. Tomorrow Is One More Day
Translated by A. Julie and Abbie Ziffren
9780143414124 • 128 • `199 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent,
Singapore and Malaysia only
RAMASWAMY, SUNDARA
One of the most versatile and innovative of Tamil writers, a great modernist
and a dazzling stylist
Children, Women, Men
Translated by Lakshmi Holmstrom
9780143420149 • 552 • `499 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
Winner of the Crossword Prize for Translation 2014
Tamarind History
Translated by Blake Wentworth
9780143065616 • 220 • `299 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
Waves
Translated by Lakshmi Holmstrom and Gomathi Narayanan
9780143420156 • 200 • `299 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
22
TELUGU
CHASO Doll’s Wedding and Other Stories
Translated by David Shulman and Velcheru Narayana Rao
9780143068686 • 216 • `299 • B/PB • World
URDU
ALI, AHMED; MAHMUD-UZ-ZAFAR; JAHAN, RASHID
AND ZAHEER, SAJJAD Angaaray
Translated by Snehal Shingavi
9780670087174 • 208 • `499 • B/HB • World
The iconic book that changed the rules of Urdu literature
CHUGTAI, ISMAT
‘Urdu’s most courageous and controversial woman writer’ Sunday Herald
A Life in Words: Memoirs
Translated by M. Asaduddin
9780143420316 • 312 • `399 • B/PB • World
Winner of the Crossword Prize for Translation 2013
Lifting the Veil: Selected Stories
Translated by M. Asaduddin
9780143066453 • 288 • `350 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
Winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award for Translation 2004
IKRAMULLAH Regret: Two Novellas
Translated by Faruq Hassan and Muhammad Umar Memon
9780143423126 • 264 • `299 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
25
IQBAL Taking Issue and Allah’s Answer
Translated by Mustansir Dalvi
9780143416852 • 184 • `299 • B/PB • World
MANTO, SAADAT HASAN
‘The undisputed master of the modern Indian short story’ Salman Rushdie
Bitter Fruit: The Very Best of Saadat Hasan Manto
Translated by Khalid Hasan
9780143102175 • 736 • `650 • Demy/PB • World
Kingdom’s End: Selected Stories
Translated by Khalid Hasan
97801434102182 • 240 • `399 • B/PB • World
Mottled Dawn: Fifty Sketches and Stories of Partition
Translated by Khalid Hasan
Introduction by Daniyal Mueenuddin
9780143418313 • 214 • `299 • B/PB • World
My Name Is Radha: The Essential Manto
Translated by Muhammad Umar Memon
9780670086900 • 340 • `599 • Royal/HB • Indian Subcontinent only
Stars from Another Sky
Translated by Khalid Hasan
Introduction by Jerry Pinto
9780143415367 • 200 • `350 • B/PB • World
MAZOOM, REZA RAHI A Village Divided
Translated by Gillian Wright
9780143063667 • 395 • `395 • B/PB • World
NAIYER, MASUD
‘A poet’s storyteller’ Agha Shahid Ali
Collected Stories
Translated by Muhammad Umar Memon
TBC • 600 • Royal/HB • `899 • World
The Occult
Translated by Muhammad Umar Memon
9780670086993 • 240 • `399 • B/HB • South Asia except Pakistan

BLACK CLASSICS

BENGALI
CHAKRAVARTI, KAVIKANKAN MUKUNDARAM Chandimangal Translated by Edward M. Yazijian
9780143422181 • 360 • `399 • B/PB • World
DUTT, MICHAEL MADHUSUDAN The Poem of the Killing of Meghnad: Meghnādbadh kābya
Translated by William Radice
9780143414131 • 552 • `499 • B/PB • World
HOSSAIN, ROKEYA SAKHAWAT Sultana’s Dream and Padmarag Translated by Barnita Bagchi
9780144000036 • 228 • `250 • B/PB • World
A feminist utopian cult classic
ENGLISH
CHATTOPADHYAY, BANKIM CHANDRA Rajmohan’s Wife
Introduction by Meenakshi Mukherjee
9780143067436 • 168 • `250 • B/PB • World
FRENCH
DUTT, TORU Diary of Mademoiselle D’Arvers
9780143032557 • 168 • `200 • B/PB • World
32 33
GUJARATI
ANANDGHAN It’s a City-showman’s Show!: Transcendental Songs of Anandghan
Translated by Imre Bangha and Richard Fynes
9780143415558 • 168 • `299 • B/PB • World except North America
and Australia
HINDI
BANARASIDAS Ardhakathanak: A Half Story
Translated by Rohini Chowdhury
Introduction by Rupert Snell
9780143100546 • 360 • `399 • B/PB • World
The first autobiography in the Indian literary tradition
KABIR Kabir: The Weaver’s Songs
Translated by Vinay Dharwadker
9780143029687 • 328 • `399 • B/PB • World
Winner of the Sahitya Akademi English Translation Award 2007
KANNADA
I Keep Vigil of Rudra: The Vachanas
Translated with an introduction by H.S. Shivaprakash
9780143063575 • 262 • `299 • B/PB • World
Speaking of Siva
Translated by A.K. Ramanujan
9780140442700 • 200 • `250 • B/PB • India only
KASHMIRI
DĚD, LAL I, Lalla: The Poems of Lal Děd
Translated by Ranjit Hoskote
9780143420781 • 328 • `299 • B/PB • World
Winner of the Sahitya Akademi English Translation Award 2013
MALAYALAM
PUNTANAM AND MELPATTUR Two Measures of Bhakti
Translated by Vijay Nambisan
9780143064480 • 108 • `150 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent and
Singapore only
PALI
Jatakas, The: Birth Stories of the Bodhisatta
Translated by Sarah Shaw
9780144001477 • 408 • `399 • B/PB • World

PERSIAN
GHANI, TAHIR The Captured Gazelle: The Poems of Ghani Kashmiri
Translated by Mufti Mudasir Farooqi and Nusrat Bazaz
9780143415626 • 280 • `399 • B/PB • World
KHUSRAU, AMIR In the Bazaar of Love: The Selected Poetry of Amir Khusrau Translated by Paul E. Losensky and Sunil Sharma
9780143420798 • 224 • `299 • B/PB • World
A comprehensive selection from one of the best-loved and most accomplished poets of the subcontinent
PRAKRIT
The Absent Traveller: Prakit Love Poetry from the Gathasaptasati of Satavahana Hala Translated by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra
9780143100805 • 120 • `199 • B/PB • World
‘Witty, terse, spare, memorable’ A.K. Ramanujan
Circle of Six Seasons: A Selection from Old Tamil, Prakrit and Sanskrit Poetry Translated by Martha Ann Selby
9780141007724 • 200 • `250 • B/PB • World
Forest of Thieves and the Magic Garden
Translated by Phyllis Granoff
9780140437225 • 384 • `399 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only

SANSKRIT
BANA Kadambari
Translated by Padmini Rajappa
9780143064664 • 424 • `399 • B/PB • World
Winner of the Sahitya Akademi English Translation Award 2014
Bhagavad Gita, The
Translated by Juan Mascaro
9780140441215 • 128 • `250 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
BHASA The Shattered Thigh and Other Plays
Translated by A.N.D. Haksar
9780143104308 • 160 • `250 • B/PB • World
DANDIN Tales of the Ten Princes: Dasa Kumara Charitam
Translated by A.N.D. Haksar
9780143104223 • 218 • `250 • B/PB • World
Hindu Myths
Translated by Wendy Doniger
9780144000111 • 357 • `399 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
KALIDASA
The greatest poet of the Sanskrit language
Abhijnanashakuntalam: The Recognition of Shakuntala
Translated by Vinay Dharwadker
9780670087464 • 300 • `399 • B/HB • World
Kumarasambhavam: The Origin of the Young God
Translated by Hank Heifetz
9780143424079 • 240 • `399 • B/PB • World
The Loom of Time
Translated by Chandra Rajan
9780144000784 • 344 • `399 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only

Malavikagnimitram: The Dancer and the King
Translated by Srinivas Reddy
9780143424086 • 176 • `399 • B/PB • World
Raghuvamsam: The Line of Raghu
Translated by A.N.D. Haksar
9780670087105 • 208 • `399 • B/HB • World
KAUTILYA The Arthashastra
Translated by L.N. Rangarajan
9780140446036 • 872 • `650 • Demy/PB • World
The pre-eminent manual on statecraft
KSHEMENDRA
The Courtesan’s Keeper: Samaya Matrika
Translated by A.N.D. Haksar
9780143421474 • 200 • `299 • B/PB • World
Three Satires from Ancient Kashmir
Translated by A.N.D. Haksar
9780143063230 • 184 • `250 • B/PB • World
MALLA, KALYANA Suleiman Charitra
Translated by A.N.D. Haksar
9780143420590 • 144 • `250 • B/PB • World
MANU Laws of Manu
Translated by Wendy Doniger and Brian K. Smith
9780140445404 • 368 • `450 • B/PB • India only
NARAYANA Hitopadesa
Translated by A.N.D. Haksar
9780144000791 • 260 • `299 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
PATANJALI Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra
Translated by Shyam Ranganathan
9780143102199 • 336 • `399 • B/PB • Commonwealth countries and South Asia only
The foundational text for the practice of yoga

Rig Veda
Translated by Wendy Doniger
9780140444025 • 344 • `399 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
SANKARA The Roots of Vedanta
Translated by Sudhakshina Rangaswami
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ŚARMA, VISNU The Panćatantra
Translated by Chandra Rajan
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Seduction of Shiva, The: Tales of Life and Love
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Simhasana Dvatrimsika: Thirty-Two Tales
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SIVADASA The Five and Twenty Tales of the Genie
Translated by Chandra Rajan
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SOMADEVA Tales from the Kathasaritasagara
Translated by Arshia Sattar
9780140247213 • 264 • `350 • B/PB • World
Subhashitavali: An Anthology of Comic, Erotic and other Verse
Translated by A.N.D. Haksar
9780143101369 • 208 • `250 • B/PB • World
TRYAMBKAYAJVAN The Perfect Wife: Stridharmapaddhati
Translated by Julia Leslie
9780140435986 • 392 • `375 • B/PB • World

Upanisads, The
Translated by Valerie J. Roebuck
9780140447491 • 503 • `499 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
VALMIKI Ramayana
Translated by Arshia Sattar
9780140298666 • 696 • `699 • B/PB • World
A brilliant, beloved translation of the great Indian great epic
VATSYAYANA
Kama Sutra: A Guide to the Art of Pleasure
Translated by A.N.D. Haksar
9780670085637 • 240 • `450 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana
Translated by Richard Burton
9780143066446 • 258 • `350 • B/PB • World
TAMIL
Extraordinary Child
Translated by Paula Richman
9780143063179 • 312 • `375 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent and
UK only
ILANGO Cilappatikaram: The Tale of an Anklet
Translated by R. Parthasarathy
9780143031963 • 440 • `450 • Demy/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
Winner of the Sahitya Akademi English Translation Award 1995
KAMBAN The Kamba Ramayana
Translated by P.S. Sundaram
9780143028154 • 464 • `450 • B/PB • World
Love Stands Alone: Selections from Tamil Sangam Poetry
Translated by M.L. Thangappa
Introduction by A.R. Venkatachalapathy
9780143103974 • 256 • `299 • B/PB • World
Winner of the Sahitya Akademi English Translation Award 2012
River Speaks,The: The Vaiyai Poems from the Paripatal
Translated by V.N. Muthukumar and Elizabeth Rani Segran
9780143415077 • 182 • `250 • B/PB • World except North America

NAMMĀLVĀR
A Hundred Measures of Time: Tiruviruttam Translated by Archana Venkatesan
9780143066378 • 280 • `399 • B/PB • World
Hymns for the Drowning Translated by A.K. Ramanujan
9780144000104 • 175 • `250 • B/PB • World
Red Lilies and Frightened Birds: Muttollayiram Translated by M.L. Thangappa
Introduction by A.R. Venkatachalapathy
9780143064855 • 240 • `299 • B/PB • World
TIRUVALLUVAR Kural
Translated by P.S. Sundaram
9780144000098 • 168 • `250 • B/PB • World
TELUGU
APPARAO, GURAJADA Girls for Sale: Kanyasulkam Translated by Velcheru Narayana Rao
9780143066880 • 366 • `350 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
KRISHNADEVARAYA, SRI The Giver of the Worn Garland: Amuktamalyada Translated by Srinivas Reddy
9780143065456 • 264 • `250 • B/PB • World
A masterpiece by the sixteenth-century emperor Krishnadevaraya
of Vijayanagaram

MUDDUPALANI The Appeasement of Radhika
Translated by Sandhya Mulchandani
9780143417484 • 200 • `250 • B/PB • World
TURKISH
BABUR Babur Nama
Translated by Annette Beveridge
Selected with an introduction by Dilip Hiro
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URDU
AMMAN, MIR A Tale of Four Dervishes
Translated by Mohammed Zakir
9780140245738 • 158 • `199 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
Tilism-e-Hoshruba: The Enchantment of the Senses
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The world’s first magical fantasy epic

 

MISCELLANEOUS CLASSICS

ARABIC
Quran
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9780143416142 • 320 • `450 • Demy/PB • Indian Subcontinent and
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ANAND, MULK RAJ Classic Mulk Raj Anand
Edited with an introduction by Saros Coswajee
9780143422402 • 728 • `599 • Demy/PB • Indian Subcontinent only
AUSTEN, JANE Classic Jane Austen
9780143068594 • 1336 • `550 • Demy/PB • World
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DOYLE, SIR ARTHUR CONAN Classic Sherlock Holmes
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NARAYAN, R.K. Indian Epics Retold
9780140255645 • 630 • `599 • B/PB • Indian Subcontinent and
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Bhagavad Gita, The
Translated by Juan Mascaro
9780670084166 • 124 • `350 • B/HB • Indian Subcontinent only
Mahabharata, The Volumes 1-10
Translated by Bibek Debroy
9780143424789 • `4999 • Demy/PB • World
The greatest story ever told, now in its definitive translation
‘Debroy’s lucid and nuanced retelling of the original makes
the masterpiece even more enjoyably accessible’ Open
‘Excellent . . . A pleasure to read’ Tribune
Volume 1
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9780143425151 • 528 • `499 • Demy/PB • World
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Volume 9
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Volume 10
9780143425236 • 726 • `499 • Demy/PB • World
VALMIKI Ramayana
Translated by Arshia Sattar
9780670084180 • 696 • `699 • B/HB • World

 

For more information please contact:

Ambar Sahil Chatterjee ( achatterjee@penguinrandomhouse.in )

Associate Commissioning Editor

Penguin Books India

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ABIJNANASAKUNTALAM_WEB

 

 

 

A HUNDRED MEASURES OF TIME_web

THE CAT AND SHAKESPEARE_webANGAARAY_web (1)

 

 

MY NAME IS RADHA_web (2)

Nell Zink, “The Wallcreeper”

The WallcreeperNell Zink’s debut novel, The Wallcreeper, was published in 2014. (It has recently been followed by Mislaid.) The Wallcreeper is a slim novel, about Tiffany and Stephen who met when they were colleagues at a pharmaceutical firm in Philadelphia USA. They married within few weeks and relocated to Berlin, Germany. Tiffany learns, “I wasn’t a feminist. Even men in their seventies…would raise their eyebrows when I said I had followed my husband from Philadelphia to Berne and then to Berlin. I couldn’t come up with a step I’d taken in life for my own sake.” The Wallcreeper  is also about birding, open marriage, environmental activism and later, environmental sabotage too.

From the opening line of the novel you are hooked to the story. “I was looking at the map when Stephen swerved, hit the rock, and occasioned the marriage.” The novel continues in the same calm, confident, feisty and forthright tone. The former bricklayer and secretary, fifty-year-old Nell Zink was published for the first time last year at the insistence of Jonathan Franzen. She had written a fanzine to him a few years ago. Upon reading her prose that she began sending him regularly, he persuaded her to stop writing for an audience of one and consider a larger readership. Her debut novel, The Wallcreeper, had already been accepted by a small press called Dorothy that specialises in women’s writing. So Nell Zink’s second novel, Mislaid, was represented by Franzen’s agent and got Zink a six-figure advance. Both the novels have received a resounding reception in USA and are soon to be available in India too.

When you write for an audience of one, it is inevitable that the writing is imbued with a rawness and a sense of intimacy that is refreshingly confident. It a no-holds-barred style of writing. Surprisingly Nell Zink’s novels are churned out rapidly in a period of three weeks. They are well structured, with no flabbiness to the prose and bring in pithy observations on issues such as science, ethics, environment, feminism, freedom, the institution of marriage etc. On marriage, Nell Zink writes, “Marriage isn’t a sacrament. It’s just a bunch of forms to fill out. It either works or it doesn’t. Do what you want.” She is an eclectic and voracious reader judging by the literary references sprinkled throughout the novel. Otherwise how else do you account for a casual reference made yoking together Stanislaw Lem and The World of Apu in one paragraph? ( The World of Apu is a 1959 Bengali film drama made by noted filmmaker Satyajit Ray. It was based on the 1932 Bengali novel, Aparajito, by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay.) She writes as people would speak when sure that their statements are being made in confidence. The one-liners that are embedded throughout her story come across as off-the-cuff perceptive comments that seem to have been carried over from the spoken word onto paper and fixed. This probably occurs due to the speed at which she thinks and writes prose. It is an incredible form of writing.

The cover design for the book is stupendous showing a wallcreeper feather. Yet I cannot help but think the design is Burial Ritesvery similar to another fantastic debut novel, Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.

This profile of Nell Zink in the New Yorker by Kathryn Schulz published on 18 May 2015 is fabulous. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/05/18/outside-in . Some other links worth reading are:

Robin Romm, review of The Wallcreeper, NYT, 17 Oct 2014  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/19/books/review/nell-zink-wallcreeper-review.html?_r=0

From the Guardian, January 2015: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/04/nell-zink-jonathan-franzen-clear-distinction-taking-career-seriously-writing-seriously

The Paris Review, December 2014:  http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2014/12/08/purity-of-essence-one-question-for-nell-zink/

An interview in  Vice, June 2015: http://www.vice.com/read/nell-zink-is-damn-free-585

A profile in The Literary Hub, May 2015: http://lithub.com/the-mislaid-plans-of-nell-zink/

I cannot recommend this book enough. It is not necessarily only for the story, but the style too.

Nell Zink The Wallcreeper Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, London, 2014. Hb. pp.168 

4 September 2015 

 

Michel Bussi, “After the Crash”

Michel BussiInteresting little book. It is a translation. A thriller. Detailed as you would expect mystery stories to be. Bulk of the action takes place in 48 hours, although the air crash and mixed-up identities around which the story revolves took place eighteen years earlier. It employs the literary technique of interspersing journal entries with the plot moving in real time as well. So it is not always the flashback technique in a straightforward narrative but text that appears at the right moment — just when the character reading the journal and  reader of After the Crash begin to have questions, they are neatly supplied by the journal. Many readers and critics of After the Crash are putting Michel Bussi in the same league as Steig Larsson and Joel Dicker. The comparison is inevitable since all three authors have written gripping thrillers, each unique in its treatment of plot, style and storytelling and curiously enough, the books are translations that seem to have transcended all cultural barriers and caught the imagination of readers worldwide. Michel Bussi too is a man worth reading. 

Michel Bussi After the Crash ( Translated from the French by Sam Taylor) Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Hachette, Great Britain, 2015. Pb. pp.390 Rs 399

1 September 2015

Saikat Majumdar, “The Firebird”

LR

LR

(Saikat Majumdar’s second novel, The Firebird, was published recently by Hachette India. I enjoyed reading it. Saikat and I exchanged a few emails. With the author’s permission, I am publishing an extract from the correspondence.) 

Dear Saikat,

I realised in my mail of the morning I did not specify how much I enjoyed reading your novel. I liked it for the sparing use of words but just enough to keep the story moving on. Yet it was packed with sufficient information to create an atmosphere. I would be careful not to use the word ‘detail’, since it does not have much, only that which is required. The story is evocative. And for many of us who may not have lived in Calcutta but were familiar with the Naxal movement and rise of the Communist Party, it does bring memories of stories conveyed by eyewitnesses. I particularly liked the way you wove in a decaying theatre with the determination of a young actress to work. Obviously given the set up at home there was no crying urgency for her to step out. Women were looked after. But I liked the steely resolve of this woman to step out every evening to perform, irrespective of the comments made at home, snide remarks directed at her in public and later the interference of the party members. She was trying to do the balancing act with no help from her husband. He really comes across as a weak man. In the slim novel, you take one through a range of conflicting emotions. I was not even very sure at the end whether to feel sorry or plain angry at the madman who strangled the young girl. I did feel very sad for the young girl and empathised with the young man when he left his mother’s apartment, years later. As for the father and aunt, no chance. Painful creatures.

It is a sad, sad novel with a claustrophobic air to it. But it gets the spirit of Calcutta and Bengali families ever so well. While reading it, my senses were tickled. I could get the smell and visualise much of Calcutta, even though it was not etched in as many words by you.

And yet, it is a wonderful story. Memorable.

One day, you must tell me more about it. How did you begin to write it? What inspired it? 8 years is a long time to spend writing it. Did it involve a lot of research?

I hope it sells well.

Warmly,

JAYA

Dear Jaya,

Thank you so much for your lovely words on The Firebird! It means the world to me! I wrote it after having done a novel and a book of criticism, as it were, getting the ‘firsts’ out of the way, after which I felt ready to write the ‘first’ real book! It sounds strange, but if you have read my first novel, Silverfish, you will perhaps know what I mean. I’m happy I wrote Silverfish and yet it obviously feels like a first novel now, and no, not one of the magical first novels that some writers produce either!

It took me about five and a half years to write this novel. I started this in August 2010, after abandoning about 80 or so pages of a novel that I realized was not going to work. Also, this was the period when I wrote most of Prose of the World, my book of criticism, so my attention was somewhat divided, especially during the early part of this period.

I think the most important that happened between my first and second novels is that I learnt, or rather unlearnt, the shadow of the intellectual, the metafictional, all that clever stuff that stays with us from our engagement with much 20th century fiction. Silverfish was similar to The Firebird in setting and even time period, but for all its attempt to evoke the local, there was something ethnographic about it, which is why, I think, the emotions did not pack the punch they should have. This one came out more viscerally, with more raw, physical power, almost beyond my control. However,  I worked hard to get the ‘spareness’ that you point out so well. I’ve always been a descriptive writer, something of a sensualist, but in The Firebird I learnt to achieve effect with minimal words, a hard lesson for a writer who grew up on Joyce and Woolf. Sometimes the narrative instinct and the descriptive instinct, I think, work against each other – one moves through time and the other through space – and description can slow down narrative. One of the most satisfying things about this novel for me is narration and description seems to have found a mutual equilibrium, and one has not hindered the other. People seem to be taking from it what they like. While most say they are gripped by the narrative, there are also those who have told me that the larger arc of the narrative seems – happily – overwhelmed by the fragrance of Chinese food or the odour of rum with Coke, or the blistering dust of burgeoning suburbs, whatever, and they didn’t even care about the narrative at those points. Completely paradoxical reactions, but I’m happy that the novel has evoked both.

Warmly,

Saikat

31 August 2015

Saikat Majumdar The Firebird Hachette India, Gurgaon, India, 2015. Hb. 

Saad Z. Hossain, “Escape from Baghdad!”

EFB-front

( Aleph sent me an advance reading copy of Saad Z. Hossain’s debut novel, Escape from Baghdad!  Upon reading it, Saad and I exchanged emails furiously. Here is an extract from the correspondence, published with the author’s permission.

I read your novel in more or less one sitting.  The idea of Dagr, an ex-economics professor, and Kinza, a black marketeer, make a very odd couple. To top it when they discover they have been handed over a former aide of Saddam Hussein who persuades them with the promise of gold if they help him escape from Baghdad is downright ridiculous. But given the absurdity of war, it is a plausible plot too. Anything can happen. Escape from Baghdad! is a satirical novel that is outrageously funny in parts, disconcerting too and quite, quite bizarre. I do not know why I kept thinking of that particular episode of Alan Alda as Hawkeye Pierce and his colleagues trying to make gin in their tent while the Korean War reached a miserable crescendo around them. The micro-detailing of a few characters, inevitably male save for the chic Sabeen, is so well done. It is also so characteristic of war where there are more men to be seen, women are in the background and play a more active role at the time of post-conflict reconstruction. They do exist but not necessarily in the areas of combat. It is a rare Sabeen who ventures forth. Sure women combatants are to be seen more now in contemporary warfare, but it was probably still rare at the time of Operation Desert Storm. Yet it is as if these characters are at peace with themselves, happy to survive playing along with the evolving rules (does war have any rules?), not caring about emotions and learning to quell any sensitivity they had like Dagr remembering his wife’s hand on her deathbed.

Saad: Thanks for the kind words, and for getting through the book so fast. Aleph has been amazingly easy to work with, they are clearly good people 🙂

JBR: Why did you choose to write a novel about the Gulf War?
When I started writing this, it was before Isis, or Syria, or the Arab Spring. The Gulf War was really the big war of our times, and looking back at Iraq now, I feel that it still is. I wanted to tell a war story, and the history of Baghdad, with all the great mythology, and just the location next to the Tigris and Euphrates was really attractive. I think I started it around 2010. I wasn’t very serious about it at first. The book was first published in Dhaka in 2013 by Bengal Publications.
According to an interview you did with LARB, you never went to Baghdad, and yet this story? Why?

I wrote the story as more of a fantasy than an outright satire or war history. For me, large parts of it existed outside of time and logic. Much of it too, was set in closed spaces, like safe houses and alley ways, and this was just how it turned out. In the very first chapter I had actually envisioned a sweeping, circuitous journey from Baghdad to Mosul, but I couldn’t even get them past two neighborhoods.

But isn’t that exactly what war does to a society/civilization? 

Yes, that’s why I prefer using fantasy elements/techniques to deal with war itself. The surreal quality represents also the mental state of the observer, who is himself altered by the horrible things he is experiencing. I’m also now beginning to appreciate the long term after effects of war on a population’s psyche. For example Bangladesh is still so firmly rooted in the past of our 1971 War, almost every aspect of life, including literature is somehow tied to it. The damage is not short lived.

Bangladesh fiction in English is very mature and sophisticated. Much of it is set in the country itself, focused on political violence, so why not write about Bangladesh? Not that I want to bracket you to a localised space but someone like you who obviously has such a strong and nuanced grasp of the English language could produce some fantastic literary satirical commentary on the present. In India Shovon Choudhary has produced a remarkable satirical novel — The Competent Authority, also published by Aleph.

You are right, of course, Bangladesh is ripe for satire, as are most third world countries. I’m a bit afraid because I want to do it right, and I know that if certain things don’t ring true, I’ll face a lot of criticism at home for it 🙂 Technically, I am still struggling to develop a voice that I’m comfortable with. I need my Bengali characters to operate in a certain way, yet I still want them to be authentic, and plausible. I also rely on mythology and fantasy a lot, and this poses a linguistic challenge. I’ve found that sometimes the flavor of mythology doesn’t really translate very well. Each language has a lot of mythology built into it, like English uses a lot of Norse and Greek mythology, for example in the way the days of the week are named after Odin, Freya, Tue. There are situations where you are trying to describe an Asian fantasy element in English, and it doesn’t quite work. It is necessary, in a way, to rewrite mythology from the ground up, which is a very big job.

Fascinating point. Now why do you feel this? Is there an example you can share? 

Well just the word djinn, for example. The English word is genie. A genie is a cute girl wearing harem pants granting wishes to Larry Hagman. How can I get across the menace, the fear, the hundreds of years of dread our people have of djinns? How much space do I have to waste on paper trying to erase the bubble gum connotation of genie? Will it be successful in the end, or will the English reader just be confused? What about a word like Ravan, which has an instant connotation for us, a name like a bomb on a page, but in English, it’s just a foreign sounding word that requires a footnote, something alien that the eye just blips over. For me to convey the weight of Ravan, I’d have to build that up, to recreate the mythology for the reader, to act out everything.

Isn’t the purpose of a writer to disturb the equanimity?  Will there be a second book? If so, what? Btw, have you read The Black Coat by Neamat Imam?

I haven’t read it. I just googled it, it looks good, I’m going to find a copy. There isn’t a second book, this was not designed to have a serial, the ending is left open to allow the readers to make their own judgments for the surviving characters. I am writing a second novel on Djinns, which is set in Dhaka, so I hope to address some of the issues facing us there.

The story you choose to etch is a fine line between a dystopian world and a war novel. Is that how it is meant to be?

Yes, in my mind there is not one specific reality, but rather many versions which exist at the same time, and if we consider war as a pocket reality, it would certainly reflect a very dystopian nature. While we do not live in a dystopia, there are certainly pockets of time and space in this world which very strongly resemble it.

It is particularly devastating to consider a people who believed in economics, and GDP growth, education, houses, mortgages, retirements and pensions to suddenly be pitched into a new existence that has neither hope, nor logic, nor any use for their civilian skills.

True. I often think we are living a scifi life. It makes me wonder on what is reality?

My understanding is that the human brain uses sensory input to create a simulation of the world, which is essentially the ‘reality’ we are carrying around in our minds. This is a formidable tool since it allows us to analyze situations, recall and recalibrate the model, and even to run mental games to predict the outcome of various actions. For a hunter gatherer, the brain must have been an extremely powerful tool, like having a computer in the Stone Age. But at the same time, because these mental simulations are just approximations of what is actually there I can see that reality for everyone can be subtly different, and if we stretch that a little bit, it makes sense that many different worlds exist in this one.

The Indian subcontinent is a hotbed for political nationalism and neverending skirmishes, with peace not in sight. Living in Dhaka and writing this novel at the back of car while commuting in the hellish traffic Escape from Baghdad! seems like a strong indictment of war but also builds a case for pacifism. Was that intentional?

War is a complex thing. It’s easy to say that we are anti-war, and for the most part, who would actually be pro-war? I mean what lunatic would give up the normalcy of their existence to go and bleed and die in the mud? Even for wars of aggression, the math often doesn’t work out: the cost of conquering and pacifying another country isn’t worth the consequences of doing so. Yet, for all that, war has been a constant companion of humanity from ancient times. It is, I think, tied into our pack animal mentality. The very quality which allows us to freely collaborate, to collectively build large projects, is the same thing which leads to organized violence as a response to certain trigger situations. I believe that the causes of wars have all been minutely parsed and analyzed, broken down into the actions and motivations of different pressure groups, but all of this still does not explain the reality of battalions of ordinary people willing to strap on swords and guns and armor and commit to slaughtering each other. That willingness is a psychological problem for the entire human race to contend with, I think.

JB: As long as you raise questions or leave situations ambiguous, forcing readers to ask questions about war, the novel will survive for a long time.

The creation of old women especially Mother Davala are very reminiscent of those found in mythology across the world. It is an interesting literary technique to introduce in a war novel.

Mother Davala is one of the three furies of Greek myth, the fates whom even the Gods are afraid of. They are also in charge of retribution, which was apt for this particular scenario. This was one of the things I was talking about earlier, with the mythology built into the language. The Furies have such a resonance in English, such a long history in literature, that they carry a hefty weight. I could have used, instead, someone like Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love and conflict, but that name has no real oomph in English, and so it would be a wasted reference.

So if you find it challenging to work mythological elements from other cultures into your fiction, how were The Furies easy to work with? 

I think the challenge is to use non English mythology while writing in English. English mythology kind of covers Norse, Greek, Arthurian, as well as Christian mythology, of course. To use elements of any of those is very easy because there is a lot of precedent, and the words already exist in the lexicon. The problem arises when you are writing in English about a non western culture. Then you are forced to describe gods, goddesses, demons, etc, which sound childish and irrational, because they have no linguistic resonance in English. If I say the words Christ and crucifixion, there is an instant emotional response from the reader. If I describe the story of the falcon god Horus who was born in a strange way from his mother Osiris, and performed magical acts in the desert and then eventually died and returned to life, it just sounds quaint, and peculiar.

Have you written fiction before this novel?

I’ve been writing for a long time, since I was in middle school, and my earlier efforts have produced a vast quantity of bad science fiction and fantasy. It started with a bunch of friends trying to collaborate on a story for some class. We each picked a character, and made a race, history, etc for them. The idea was to create a kind of mainstream fantasy story. I remember we all used to read a lot of David Eddings back then. The others all dropped out, but I just kept going. Writing a lot of bad genre fiction helps you though, because you lose the fear of finishing things, plus all that writing actually hones your skills.

How long did it take you to write this story and how did you get a publication deal? Was it an uphill task as is often made out to be?

I took a couple of years to write this. It started when I joined a writers group, and I had to submit something. That was when I wrote the first chapter. The group was very serious and we had strict deadlines, so I just kept writing the story to appease them, and then I was ten chapters in and growing attached to the characters, so I decided to go ahead and finish it. This was a group in Dhaka, it was offline, we used to physically meet and critique stuff. A lot of good work was published out of that. It’s definitely one of the critical things an author needs.

Publishing seemed impossibly daunting at first, but when it happened, it was easy, and through word of mouth. I knew my publisher in Bangladesh, and when they started a new English imprint, they were looking for new titles, and I was selected. Some of my friends knew the US publisher, Unnamed Press, and I got introduced, they liked it, and decided to print. Aleph, too, happened similarly. You can spend years querying and filling up random people’s slush piles, and sometimes things just happen without effort. My philosophy is that I am writing for myself, with a readership of half a dozen people in mind, and I am happy if I can improve my craft and produce something clever. The subsequent success or failure of it isn’t something I can necessarily control.

Saad Z Hossain Escape from Baghdad! Aleph Book Company, New Delhi, 2015. Pb. pp 286. Rs. 399

28 August 2015

 

Sunjeev Sahota, “The Year of the Runaways”

Sunjeev Sahota‘It really is a pathetic thing. To mourn a past you never had. Don’t you think?’ 

p.216

Sunjeev Sahota’s The Year of the Runaways is his second novel. According to Granta in 2014, he was one of the promising writers from Britain. I have liked his writing ever since I reviewed his debut novel, Ours are the Streets, for DNA in 2011. The first chapter of The Year of the Runaways was extracted in Granta, Best of British novelists. It is about a few men from India who choose to migrate to the UK. They are from different socio-economic classes. Tochi is a chamar, an “untouchable”, from Bihar who had gone to Punjab in search of a job, but with his father falling ill, returned to the village. Unfortunately during the massacres perpetrated by the upper castes his family was destroyed too. So he gathered his life-savings and left India. The other men who leave around the same time are Avtar and Randeep, migrants from Punjab. Randeep is from a “better” social class since his father is a government officer and he is able to migrate using the “visa-wife” route. But when these young men get to Britain, they are “equal”. It is immaterial whether they are working as bonded labour or on construction sites or cooking or even cleaning drains. They are willing to do any task as long as it allows them to stay on in the country. Apparently living a life of uncertainty and in constant fear of raids by the immigration officers is far preferable to life at home.

The women characters of Narinder, Baba Jeet Kaur and Savraj are annoying. Maybe they are meant to be. Given how much effort and time has been spent figuring out the male characters, the women come across as flat characters. Narinder, Randeep’s visa-wife, seems to have the maximum social mobility in society as well as amongst these migrants but she remains a mystery. It is only towards the end of the novel that just as she begins to find her voice and asserts herself, the story comes to an abrupt end.

I like Sunjeev Sahota’s writing for the language and sensual descriptions. He makes visible what usually lurks in the shadows, confined to the margins. He makes it come alive. It is remarkable to see the lengths a storyteller can go to tell a story that has a visceral reaction in the reader. Also it is admirable that while living in Leeds, UK, Sunjeev Sahota has written a powerful example of South Asian fiction that is set in Britain without ever really showing a white except for the old man Randeep had befriended while working at the call centre. Sunjeev Sahota admires Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. ( It was also the first novel he read as he admits in the YouTube interview on Granta’s channel.) Rushdie too has given a glowing endorsement to The Year of the Runaways saying, “All you can do is surrender, happily, to its power”. ( http://granta.com/Salman-Rushdie-on-Sunjeev-Sahota/) True. The only way to read this novel is to surrender to it. But has Sunjeev Sahota broken new ground as his literary idol, Rushdie did with his award-winning novel? The purpose of literary fiction is to make the reader unsettled rather than just hold a mirror up to the reality. As a tiny insight into the hardships economic migrants experience this novel is astounding. But it falls short of being thought-provoking and disturbing or breaking new ground in literary fiction. I doubt it.

Sunjeev Sahota’s gaze on India is an example of poverty porn in literature. He has got the migration patterns, the hostility at ground level in Bihar and Punjab and the nasty descriptions of the Ranvir Sena or the Maheshwar Sena as they are referred to in the novel accurately. ( I think the novel alludes to these massacres as described in this wonderful article by G. Sampath in the Hindu, published on 22 August 2015 http://www.thehindu.com/sunday-anchor/sunday-anchor-g-sampaths-article-on-children-of-a-different-law/article7569719.ece ) Disappointingly Sunjev Sahota’s voice is clunky at times and comes across as well-researched but a trifle jagged in the Indian parts. The British bits are brilliant as if to the Manor born, which Sunjeev Sahota is! Much is explained by what he hopes to explore in this novel in an interview he gave Granta ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65mtLCbODCk : 23 April 2013) :

What does it mean being unmoored from your homeland and what does that do to a person and subsequent generations? What happens to that hold that is created? What fills it? Then where does one go from there? 

This is a strong and fresh voice. Sunjeev Sahota must be read even if this novel ends with a bit of a convenient ending. This is an author whose trajectory in contemporary literature will be worth mapping.

The Year of the Runaway is wholly deserving to be on the ManBooker longlist 2015 but I will be pleasantly surprised to see it on the shortlist.

Sunjeev Sahota The Year of the Runaways Picador India, Pan Macmillan India, New Delhi, 2015. Hb. pp. 480 Rs 599 

27 August 2015

Twinkle Khanna and Brigid Keenan

MRS FUNNYBONES_webI have had immense good fortune of reading Twinkle Khanna’s Mrs Funnybones and Brigid Keenan’s Packing Up back-to-back.

Mrs Funnybones is Twinkle Khanna’s debut as an author. It is based upon her immensely popular and delightfully irreverent column of the same name published in Mumbai newspaper, DNA. It is a sharp, witty and tongue-in-cheek commentary on the many roles a modern woman fulfils — career woman, housekeeper, mother, wife, counsellor, daughter, daughter-in-law, accountant, Man Friday etc. Many would be sceptical that a famous star like Twinkle Khanna is able to write on her own without the assistance of a ghost writer, but there is an authenticity about the book which rings true. I would not term it as “chick lit” but many would view it so. It is hard to put one’s finger on it but reading it from cover-to-cover followed by listening to her at the book launch convince one about Mrs Funnybones being wholly original. Twinkle Khanna had been an actress but is a more accomplished interior designer, voracious reader especially of scifi literature and if her friends at the book launch are to be believed, always known for her wit.

A sample of her writing on her observations on Karva Chauth, an annual ritual in the Hindu calendar when north Indian women fast for the day, ostensibly for seeking better health of their husbands. The day ends with the wife looking at the reflection of the moon through a sieve to secure the lunar deity’s blessings, then she turns to her husband and views his face indirectly in the same manner. This is what Twinkle Khanna has to say:

We Indians are a strange race; we send MOM to Mars, but listen to mom-in-law and look for the moon. One of the better qualities we possess is that most of us will follow traditions and rituals as long as they do not demean or harm us, or cause us to do the same to another, while making our elders happy. We simply do it rather than prove a point as to how liberated and independent we truly are. Perhaps, this is how we harmoniously hold our large families together as we celebrate different aspects of our lives.  ( p.101)

Here is a link to the star-studded book launch organised earlier this week in Mumbai. The conversation with Karan Johar, Aamir Khan, etc are worth watching. Apparently her husband, the mega-Bollywood star, Akshay Kumar reads every single word she spins out and is her first editor. In recent times as mentioned in the YouTube link, he has gently advised her to not use the word “Pakistan” on a few occasions.

 

Brigid Keenan’s Packing Up she suggests falls into the category of “decreplit” or books written by older Packing Upwomen. Packing Up is a hilarious account of her travels as a diplomat’s wife, retirement and grandmotherhood. When she is not mending her tarantula ( seriously! a souvenir collected in Trinidad, after her husband squashed it), Brigid Keenan’s keen eye observes life around her whether it is in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Suffolk, London, Brussels, Jaipur or Sri Lanka. She is one of the co-founders of the Palestinian Festival of Literature. Whatever she does, it is with passion.

With both these women writers it is the frank honesty with which they write, the ability to laugh at themselves and gaily comment on the world around them. The facetiousness with which they seemingly write, garbs the brutal and sharp understanding of reality they have. Mrs Funnybones and Packing Up are excellent examples of using one’s wit with panache.

These books are a must buy.

Twinkle Khanna Mrs Funnybones Penguin Books, Gurgaon, India, 2015. Pb. pp. 240 Rs. 299

Brigid Keenan Packing Up: Further Adventures of a Trailing Spouse Bloomsbury, London, 2014. Pb. pp. 320 Rs 399

21 August 2015

Press Release: Rupa Publications turns 80!

INDIA’S LARGEST INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING HOUSE TURNS 80!

RupaRupa Publications turns 80 this August, and reiterates its continuing commitment to books, authors and the industry.

Rupa Publications’ journey began eighty years ago, when an enterprising young man, D. Mehra, managed to impress an English bookseller by his salesmanship and became his representative.

From Jawaharlal Nehru’s letter to Indira GandhiNehru's letter to Indira Gandhi

While we have come a long way since, that enterprising spirit has remained a constant, and the company has creatively and strategically expanded the scope of publishing in India to emerge as India’s largest independent publishing house, registering robust year-on-year top line growth over the years, at a level unparalleled in the publishing industry.

Success is a function of a combination of things: passion and energy, innovation and expertise, teams and leaders. All of which exemplifies Rupa Publications. It is no wonder it’s the House of Bestsellers. Happy 80th to my publisher.—RONNIE SCREWVALA

The company has been at the forefront of Indian publishing throughout its existence, finding and promoting the most exciting writing talent the country has to offer. Over the years, the company has published numerous acclaimed novelists, and non-fiction writers including well-known sportsmen, politicians, economists, journalists, actors, entrepreneurs and industrialists.

I am what I am because of Rupa Publications. They were the first people to have believed in me and, after more than a decade, remain my publisher. Together we have a mission to make India read, and we are still as enthusiastic about it as ever.—CHETAN BHAGAT

In recent times, the company’s non-fiction publishing has captured the country’s imagination, among them Jaswant Singh’s Jinnah, which raised serious questions about Partition; The Dramatic Decade, the first of a three-volume autobiography by the first citizen of India, President Pranab Mukherjee; the provocative memoir of well-known politician and diplomat K. Natwar Singh, One Life Is Not Enough; the former governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Bimal Jalan’s volume on the interface between politics and economics, Politics Trumps Economy; A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s wonderfully inspirational and educative The Guiding Light; popular actor Ayushmann Khurrana’s experiential guide to making it in Bollywood, Cracking the Code; top media professional and serial entrepreneur Ronnie Screwvala’s Dream With Your Eyes Open; the straight-talking memoir of the former Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Vinod Rai, Not Just an Accountant; and former Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi’s deeply analytical study of the Indian elections, An Undocumented Wonder. The backlist includes many other heavyweight writers such as Wytze Keuning, Acharya Kripalani, L.K. Advani, J.R.D. Tata, Maharani Gayatri Devi and Mark Tully, to name a few.

In fiction, Rupa Publications continues to publish some of the country’s biggest writers of commercial fiction, most notably Chetan Bhagat, the No. 1 bestselling novelist in India. His latest novel, Half Girlfriend, and his just released work of non-fiction, Making India Awesome, have had the largest ever first print run, where English language trade publishing in India is concerned. Another notable bestselling author has been Varun Agarwal with his How I Braved Anu Aunty and Co-founded a Million Dollar Company.

I’d be forever grateful to Rupa for believing in me and backing me up in spite of [my] being a first-time writer. I still remember the excitement when I got a mail from Rupa saying my book would be published. Not only do I think Rupa is one the finest publishing houses in the country, it’s also one of the most disruptive. I’d like to thank Rupa for changing my life and also making Anu Aunty a household name.

I wish you guys all the best for the future. Like always, keep kicking ass.—VARUN AGARWAL

Other popular writers on Rupa’s list include Samrat Upadhyay, Nitasha Kaul (who was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize for her debut novel Residue), Siddhartha Gigoo (nominated for the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize), Gulzar, Ruskin Bond, Kavita Kané, Damodar Mauzo, Anuja Chandramouli and Madhuri Banerjee.

Rupa is my ‘home’ publishing house, given my long-standing and fruitful relationship with the group. Thanks, Rupa. Wish you a thousand returns of the day.—GULZAR

Rupa’s publishing has been innovative and designed to meet the needs of the fast-changing Indian marketplace. In 2012, the company launched Red Turtle, the premier children’s imprint which has brought out beautifully illustrated and designed books such as Babayan by Kiku Adatto; The Tigers of Taboo Valley by Ranjit Lal; and translations from Satyajit Ray, The Magic Moonlight Flower and Other Stories.

In 2015, Rupa Publications celebrated India’s business and entrepreneurial spirit by launching its business imprint, Maven, with marketing wizard Suhel Seth’s Mantras for Success: India’s Greatest CEOs Tell You How to Win, profiling the czars of Indian business and HSBC honcho Naina Lal Kidwai’s 30 Women in Power, featuring the struggle and successes of India’s extraordinary women achievers.

Rupa completes 80 years not just of being one of India’s most revered publishers but more than that one of India’s foremost knowledge disseminators. Rupa combines a rare understanding of the Indian psyche and has, over the years, honed its tremendous insights into creating books which have had the greatest impact on the Indian mind.—SUHEL SETH

The strength of its publishing apart, Rupa has ensured that its titles are sold and distributed effectively by owning its own distribution network—the only major publishing house in India with such an asset. In addition, it has been at the forefront of pioneering marketing and publicity initiatives. Some of these innovations include managing to place, in association with Flipkart, front-page advertising for Chetan Bhagat’s novel in the country’s highest circulated English language newspaper, and strategizing massive media as well as trade support for the President’s memoirs.

Rupa Publications have been my publishers since 1998. A formidable and dynamic entity, its reach is unsurpassed, as I discovered during my promotional travels related to One Life Is Not Enough. An outstanding publisher, I congratulate them on their achievement and dedication.                             —K. NATWAR SINGH

Constantly pushing the boundaries of possibilities to leverage the best for its books and its authors, Rupa Publications has redefined the rules of publishing by understanding and seizing the opportunity of the middle of the pyramid of the 400 million inhabiting ‘middle’ India. Rupa has been pioneering in its attempt to reach this untapped audience—by packaging good content with affordable pricing and extended distribution—and this is evident not only in its core frontlist but also in terms of sales of regional language rights.

And, never sitting on its laurels, Rupa Publications is now focusing on how it can leverage the digital space, and is readying to exploit the opportunities arising from the digitization of content made possible by the advances in hard technology over the last ten years.

Kapish Mehra, managing director, Rupa Publications, expressed his delight at crossing the 80-year milestone, and said “Breaking new ground has been our constant focus, and we will continue to do so in the days, months and years to come so as to contribute to the growth of the industry and provide an enhanced reading experience for all.”

Rupa Publications. Eight decades of being in your good books.

 

For further information please contact:

Vasundhara Raj Baigra, Head of Marketing and Publicity, Rupa Publications India.

Email: vasundhara@rupapublications.com | Tel: 011 4922 6627

 

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