North Korea Posts

“Crudo: A Novel” by Olivia Lang

Kim Jong-un had called Trump a dotard, perhaps they’d all be blown to smithereens. Still, ants at least would proceed, building up their infinite cities, stealing honey from the cupboards. She held on to her bag. She waited for her flight. She loved him, she loved him. Love is the world, pain is the world. She was in it now, she was boarding, there was nowhere to hide. 

Olivia Lang’s debut novel Crudo is about Kathy, a writer, and her impending marriage — the bare storyline. While reflecting on her personal life undergoing a massive transformation. She, who is in her early forties, successful writer and teacher who is at ease in Britain and USA, soon-to-be-married, third wife of her future husband, ponders over what it would be like to share spaces with a husband. While reflecting upon the changes in her life she inevitably begins to look at the socio-political landscape.  She cogitates about Brexit.  She wonders about the consequences of electing Trump as President of USA and few months into his presidency has been a series of catastrophes. She often remarks upon the acrimonious relationship between the presidents of USA and North Korea. She escapes to social media (” stalking the internet”) often but its a noisy universe.

People weren’t sane anymore, which didn’t mean they were wrong. Some sort of cord between action and consequence had been severed. Things still happened, but not in any sensible order, it was hard to talk about truth because some bits were hidden, the result or maybe the cause, and anyway the space between them was full of misleading data, nonsense and lies. It was very dizzying, you wasted a lot of time figuring it out. Had decisions really once led plainly to things happening, in a way you could report on? She remembered it but distantly. A lot had changed this year. The people who opposed it were often annoying but that didn’t make them wrong. 

Kim Jong-un and Trump, Singapore, 12 June 2018

Olivia Lang captures exquisitely the loneliness of a person in a rapidly evolving world which engulfs an individual 24×7 in a cacophony of images, words and experiences particularly if they are hooked to social media. Olivia Lang’s character Kathy seems to be an amalgamation of all the lonely individuals Lang describes in her non-fiction bestseller The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone. It is as if Lang wishes to explore further how an individual who seems to be successful in all senses of the word — professionally, socially and economically — how do they actually exist? The Lonely City is a collection of essays reflecting upon the decadence of humans on technology particularly noticeable in cities. And yet, ironically, while there is this veneer of being super connected, socially active and part of a thriving community there are many who are terribly lonely in the city.  In some cases this solitude is by choice. Olivia Lang is curious and understanding about this individuals while being inquisitive too and this inquisitiveness she hopes will be fulfilled to some degree by her character Kathy in Crudo who is an epitome of all the lonely souls of The Lonely City. The political commentary that is as fascinating to her as the changes in her personal space makes her a sharp and perceptive observer, a trait many quietly reserved souls exhibit. Towards the conclusion it is hard to discern the difference between Kathy the character and Olivia Lang the writer, they seem to become one:

Writing, she can be anyone. On the page that I dissolves, becomes amorphous, proliferates wildly. 

Concealed behind the thin guise of fiction, it is perhaps “easier” to express fear about the increasing political instability in global politics, its ramifications on the individual, and yet “she was in it now, …, there was nowhere to hide.” Take for instance the conversation about Kim Jong-Un and Trump, Kathy/Olivia are fearful of what the stubborness of the two leaders may result in and yet who was to know that weeks before the publication of Crudo* ( 28 June 2018) the two leaders would actually meet in a historic summit held in Singapore on 12 June 2018.

Truth is stranger than fiction and fiction lives off reality. Politics and literature have always been and always will be inextricably linked. Crudo is a stunning testament to the fact.

Olivia Lang Crudo Picador, Macmillan, London, 2018. Hb. pp.  156 

12 June 2018 

*I read an advance review copy ( ARC). While this blog post was composed and written on 12 June 2018 as mentioned it was not made public till after the release date of the book of 28 June 2018.

** All images are off the internet. I do not own the copyright. If you do please let me know and I will update the blog with the correct information.

 

 

On the Marrakesh Treaty and DK Braille Books

cd0877026f8140d697c127619a68bea4On 30 June 2016 Canada became the 20th country to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled (Marrakesh Treaty). According to logothe fabulously informative online community Spicy IP “The significance of this 20th ratification, (almost exactly three years since the date of adoption) is due to Article 18 of the Treaty which provides that the Treaty shall come into force 3 months after the 20th country ratifies it – thus setting 30th September 2016 up for the Marrakesh Treaty to finally become a reality!” ( 3 July 2016, http://spicyip.com/2016/07/the-miracle-of-marrakesh-finally-to-be-realised.html )

Spicy IP continues: “this treaty provides exceptions to copyright in order to provide access to published materials to the blind, visually disabled, and otherwise print disabled persons. With the coming into force of this Treaty, countries that have ratified it will finally be able to exchange accessible format copies across their borders. This is especially good news for countries such as India, where accessible formats are very hard to get.

The 20 countries that have ratified the treaty are India, El Salvador, United Arab Emirates, Mali, Uruguay, Paraguay, Singapore, Argentina, Mexico, Mongolia, South Korea, Australia, Brazil, Peru, North Korea, Israel, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala and Canada. It is pertinent to note that the United States is not a part of this Treaty as yet.

India was the very first country to ratify this Treaty in 2014, and thanks to the efforts of Rahul Cherian and others, back in 2012 had already brought in domestic legislation amendments which were in line with the treaty would eventually go on to say.”a66314d2c14d49bba85591d532aa1595

Given that only 1% of the books published are available in Braille this is a huge market waiting to be tapped. In terms of publishing what is truly exciting is that DK earlier this year began experimenting with Braille books. With the happy coincidence of the Marrakesh Treaty becoming a reality on 30 September 2016 it puts DK in an enviable position since they have spent a good amount of time researching this market space. ( http://www.dk.com/uk/explore/education/an-intro-to-dk-braille-books/ )

Though this project was originally conceptualised in UK, the books are available across book markets including India. They are available at online stores such as Amazon. A few weeks ago I saw some of these books. They are magnificently produced. The aim is to produce a series of high-quality, custom books with braille and tactile images for blind and partially sighted children, or sighted children with blind parents. The emphasis is on making the braille books fully inclusive, books that could be shared with sighted friends and siblings, teachers and parents. According to one of the production team members, Charlotte, who developed this list, “Children that have a visual impairment are more likely to have nightmares and experience them for longer than sighted children. Books about the world can help to reduce or at least mitigate these nightly terrors. Also, being able to access books means that people with visual impairments feel less socially isolated and experience improved mental health.” With this series “visually impaired people around the world can put their hands down onto DK book pages and instead of feeling nothing, words and pictures will reach out to them and will inform them of some of the pretty amazing things about our planet. Sighted readers will be able to feel the images too, and it will be a more interesting, exciting, and immersive experience. Both audiences can learn the same things by reading and sharing the same book.” These braille books are meant to be affordable, globally accessible, and fully inclusive.

Here are some sample images of the books:

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5 July 2016