Sunil Sethi Posts

Palestine in India: A Writers’ Colloquium, Organised by Women Unlimited (Delhi, March 11-13, 2016)

Women Unlimited logo(Ritu Menon, founder, Women Unlimited is organising this fantastic literary festival in New Delhi. It is delicious programming. I was so looking forward to attending it but alas, I cannot. Thanks to the traffic diversions set up by the Delhi Police to allow the Art of Living three-day cultural festival to take place without a hitch on the Yamuna river bed. I am most disappointed. So those who can attend, must!) 

 

Palestine in India: A Writers’ Colloquium

 

March 11-13, 2016

Main Auditorium

                     India International Centre

           Programme

 

 

Friday, March 11, 2016, 4:00 – 5:30 p.m.

Main Auditorium, IIC

 

Film Screening: The Time That Remains

(109 min; 2009; DVD; English subtitles)

Director: Elia Suleiman

 

Recipient of the Jury Grand Prize, Asia Pacific Screen Awards 2009; Audience Award & Silver Alhambra, Grenada Film Festival Cine del Sur 2010; ACCA Jury Prize & Award for Best Director, Mar del Plata Film Festival 2009

 

Elia Suleiman’s memoir of his family under Israeli occupation continues the mood of his earlier Divine Intervention (2002).

 

Friday, March 11, 2016, 6:30 p.m.

Main Auditorium, IIC

 

Memory & Imagination: A discussion on writing and resistance; on home and exile; on seeking, finding… with Mourid Barghouti and Sharif Elmusa.

 

Moderated by Ahdaf Soueif & Ritu Menon

 

 Saturday, March 12, 2016, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.

Main Auditorium, IIC

 

Counterfacts on the Ground: A discussion on living under occupation in Gaza and the West Bank, and on writing back to subvert suppression.

 

Laila El-Haddad and Adania Shibli talk to Raghu Karnad, and read from their work

 

Saturday, March 12, 2016, 4:30 – 5:30 p.m.

Main Auditorium, IIC

 

Palestine in Publishing: A discussion on the challenge of publishing and selling Palestinian writing in, and outside, Palestine.

 

Michel Moushabeck, Interlink, USA; Mahmoud Muna, Educational Bookshop, Jerusalem; Sudhanva Deshpande, Leftword Books, New Delhi & Ritu Menon, Women Unlimited, New Delhi exchange experiences and views, talk about difficulties and how they overcome them, intelligently!

 

Saturday, March 12, 2016, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Main Auditorium, IIC

 

“The Blue Between Sky and Water”

 

Susan Abulhawa reads from her new book and discusses it with Githa Hariharan

 

Sunday, March 13, 2016, 2:30 – 4:00 p.m.

Main Auditorium, IIC

 

Poetry Reading: “My Country: Distant as My Heart from Me”

 

Mourid Barghouti and Tamim Albarghouti read their poetry in a mesmerising jugalbandhi

 

Sunday, March 13, 2016, 4:00 – 5:30 p.m.

Main Auditorium, IIC

 

“Stuck in Historical Amber?”: Susan Abulhawa and Sharif Elmusa speak about what it means to be “out of time, out of place”, to be never at home, and much else besides.

 

A free-wheeling conversation with well-known book critic, Sunil Sethi

 

Sunday, March 13, 2016, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Main Auditorium, IIC

 

Double Bill!!

 

“Palestine: Nothing Makes Sense, Why Should I?”

Suad Amiry performs the tragi-comedy of her situation as a Palestinian under Occupation in the West Bank.

 

Book launch: My Damascus. Suad Amiry takes the reader by the hand and walks her through the city of her childhood, interleaving Damascus in history from the 1860s to the 2000s, with family history, of roughly the same period.  A tour de force.

 

Ahdaf Soueif is the mistress of ceremonies.

11 March 2016

Akhil Sharma, “Family Life”

Akhil Sharma, “Family Life”

Before we came to America, I had never read a book just to read it. When I began doing so, at first, whatever I read seemed obviously a lie. If a book said a boy walked into a room, I was aware that there was no boy and there was no room. Still, I read so much that often I imagined myself in the book. (p.30)

I was always lost in a book, whether I was actually reading or imagining myself as a character. If bad things happened, like Birju developing pneumonia and having to wear an oxygen mask, I would think that soon I would be able to go back to my reading and then time would vanish and when I reentered the world, the difficult thing would be gone or changed. ( p.153)

Akhil Sharma, Family Lif eFamily Life is Akhil Sharma’s second novel. It took nearly a decade to write, but the wait has been well worth it. Family Life is about his family moving to America in mid-1970s. Unfortunately his brother with a promising future, hit his head n a swimming pool, and slipped in to a coma. This incident changed the life of the family.

It is a stunning novel. Not a spare word is used. The flashbacks  to their time spent in India are recorded faithfully, yet referred to in such a manner that an international reader would not get lost. For instance a description from his early days in America recounts how they received ads on coloured paper in their mailbox regularly. But “in India coloured paper could be sold to the recycler for more money than newsprint.” It is rare to find a writer of Indian origin who writes painfully accurately on what it means to be an Indian living in America. He captures the bewilderment and confusion marvellously and it is not necessarily having the god men visit them at home, in the hope of looking for a cure for his sick brother. It is in everyday life.

It is a pleasure to read Family Life since it tells a story, also observes and analyses in a matter-of-fact tone. Yet the clarity of writing, the manner in which it resonates with the reader, does not always mask the anguish and torment Akhil Sharma must have put himself through, to write this brilliant book. And then I read  this article he wrote in The New York Times, “The Trick of Life” where talks about the agonizing experience of writing this novel:     http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/opinion/sunday/the-trick-of-life.html .  Well it was worth it.

It is a novel worth reading.

Here are a few more related links:

9ihttp://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/97jan/9701fict/sharma.htm ( “Cosmopolitan”, short story, The Atlantic, 1997)

http://www.guernicamag.com/daily/akhil-sharma-when-despair-and-tenderness-collide/

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/04/book-review-podcast-akhil-sharmas-family-life/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2014/04/akhil-sharma-on-writing-family-life.html&mbid=social_twitter

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2014/01/this-week-in-fiction-akhil-sharma.html

https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/tag/akhil-sharma/

http://www.londonreviewbookshop.co.uk/blog/2014/4/tender-and-funny-em-family-life-em-by-akhil-sharma

On 20 June 2014, it was included in a list of the 54 best novels from India published by Brunch, Hindustan Times: http://www.hindustantimes.com/brunch/brunch-stories/greatest-indian-novels-ever-part-i/article1-1231662.aspx The jury members were Amitava Kumar, Chiki Sarkar, David Davidar, Harish Trivedi, Jeet Thayil, Jerry Pinto, Ravi Singh and Sunil Sethi.

Akhil Sharma Family Life Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Books India, New Delhi, 2014. Hb. pp. 240. Rs. 499 

Interviewing authors

Interviewing authors

John Freeman, How to read a novelistRead. Read. Read. Read.

The mantra that most writers suggest is the best way to hone one’s craft. The same holds true for reviewers, publishing professionals and anyone else in this profession of letters. In order to improve the skill one seeks to excel at, it is best to read as much as possible. Yet there is always more to learn about an author. Usually a good interviewer creates a portrait of the author that is deftly written and sharp in its analysis of their writing. ( It is fascinating to observe the interviewer being influenced by the writer, evident in the style of writing, the form the interview takes shape and at times even in the vocabulary.) With the internet becoming a repository of information about authors, their lives and anything else of remote interest to them and being at times to connect with contemporary authors in real time via social media platforms, the need to publish a book of author interviews seems to be futile. Having said that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading How to Read a Novelist by John Freeman and British Muslim Fictions by Claire Chambers. Two exquisite collections of excellent interviewers engaging with authors. In a matter of few pages they are able to introduce the author, give a bit of personal history (if required and relevant to the interview), a perspective on their oeuvre and highlight at least one essential aspect of the author that makes their writing unique. When John Freeman interviews Sarajevo-born, now settled in Chicago, Aleksandar Hemon, Freeman observes: ‘Hemon has been widely praised for the unexpected images this style creates, but it was not, he says, the hallmark of a deliberate, honed, and in some cases mapped out. “I wanted to write with intense sensory detail, to bring a heightened state.” He is a sentence writer who counts beats as a poet does syllables.’ (p.134) Or what he has to say of Michael Ondaatje — “Genres bleed between books in Ondaatje’s work.” Or about E. L. Doctorow that “his novels don’t read like researched books but restored originals, recently rediscovered.” Similarly Claire Chambers too has wonderful insights about the authors she meets whether it is Nadeem Aslam, Kamila Shamsie, Aamer Hussein or Mohsin Hamid to name some of them. The hard work that both John Freeman and Claire Chambers put into familiarize themselves with the authors is masked so well that each interview seems to effortlessly done. Yet it is obvious that considerable thought has gone into the preparation for every interview. They seem to be acutely aware of not being “over-prepared”, instead focusing on having “an actual conversation with all the unpredictability and freshness of a good one”. British Muslim Fictions

The beauty of each interview is that there is something for every reader to glean—it could be a person discovering an author for the first time or of a reader familiar with the author being interviewed. There is a restraint and a respect that each interviewer has for their author that shines through every profile. It also helps achieve the fine balance of the professional and personal dimensions of an author being presented without it seeming to be voyeuristic. Just enough of the authors personal lives, descriptions of their homes or even of their peculiar habits, such as Kazuo Ishiguro never likes to discuss what he is writing till he is done with it. These are two books worth buying, treasuring, reading for pleasure, to ponder over and if a student of creative writing, essential reading.

Women writingWhile reading these books, there were two other books from India that I recalled — Just Between Us: Women speak about their writing and The Big Bookshelf . Books published a long time ago, but continue to be relevant since they too consist of author interviews. The Big Bookshelf is based upon the years of experience Sunil Sethi had as host of NDTV’s Just Books. (http://profit.ndtv.com/videos/watch-just-books)  It ran for many years to finally end in summer of 2013. All though in October 2013, the state television channel, Doordarshan, launched a books programme called Kitabnama:Books and More. ( Link to episode 2:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPCp8QyqAD4 ) It is a weekly programme, designed and curated by author Namita Gokhale. ( She is also one of the directors of the Jaipur Literature Festival.) Sunil Sethi