Prufrock's Page

Friday, November 10, 2006

Still Looking For A Room Of Their Own?

There is, Ruiyan Xu argues, something about the atmosphere of American letters and criticism that does not foster the cultivation and success of great female novelists.

Sentences, Stories

“A good translation does not just convey the same meaning, but it gets the music of the words right..A good sentence is one that plays with the expectation of the reader.”

- Orhan Pamuk

“I grew up with the tradition of the wonderful tale. And because we were raised with this tradition of the wonderful tale, we learned at an early age that fiction is actually not true....An author’s responsibility in fiction is to make the reader believe a story. And he has to make the reader believe until the end of the book. Otherwise, you say ‘to hell with this,’ and you go read another book.”

- Salman Rushdie

(From a report on a session of readings by Salman Rushdie, Norman Manea, and Orhan Pamuk.)

Ha, Ha, It's Chekhov

"[Chekhov] began as a comic writer of short stories and then got serious. In the theater it was the other way round — he started with serious plays, had no success, then started to write short comedies like ‘The Bear’ and ‘The Proposal,’ and then turned serious...He began as a comic writer and ended as a comic writer.”

- Author and playwright Michael Frayn

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Naipaul Lets Fly, Again

Some of his comments from Brussels, where he was invited to be part of the India Festival:

"There is a fracture at this moment of great hope for India. A fracture in the country itself. It is possibly quite dangerous at the moment... [the consequences] could be a very radical kind of revolution - village against city."

"There is no tradition of reading in India. There is no tradition of contemporary literature. [Bengal apart] in the rest of India until quite recently people had no idea what books were for."

"Indians have no regard for museums. They stole even [Tagore's] Nobel medal."

On Gandhi's Indian Home Rule: "It's an absurdity. He knows nothing. He said he wrote it in two weeks. He is against everything that is modern in 1909."

"In India [caste] is having trouble at the moment because it rules politics. Foolish people think that the upper castes are oppressing the lower caste. It is the other way."

Finally, when asked if he could he live in India: "Naipaul paused for a moment, but his wife Nadira replied: 'Yes, quite happily, if we didn't have a cat. Our cat is an English cat. It is hard for it to live in India, but we can.' "

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Truly Asia. (Yeah, Right.)

And now, one comes across the dismaying information that the works of Salman Rushdie, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Anthony Burgess and Alan Hollinghurst, among others, have been banned by the Malaysian home ministry. A complete list of the proscribed books is here -- it also includes, oddly enough, a volume entitled 'Breastfeeding Your Baby'. (Perhaps they've stumbled upon a sociological finding indicating that breastfeeding as an activity will rip apart the social fabric?)

A bemused columnist says of another banned book: "My colleague and I had a good chuckle over the banning of Practice of Business Statistics. The cover shows coffee cups against a white background, so I suggested that Mr Home Ministry had just completed a course in lateral thinking, which led him to think: Cups. Cup size. Bras. Breasts. Sex. Rape. Bad. Ban!"

(Update: Oh, and their treatment of the press is dodgy, too.)

Gird Your Loins

The first 'books of the year' list is out.

Prizes, Shortlists

Jonathan Littell has been awarded the Prix Goncourt for his Les Bienveillantes ('The Kindly Ones') .

The 138-novel Impac longlist is out, and it includes John Banville and Sebastian Barry.

And here's hoping Yiyun Li wins the Guardian First Book Award, for which she's been shortlisted.

A Burning Question

They've raised the question in Singapore. They talked about it in Toronto. And now, the country of this year's literature Nobel winner asks: why is Turkish literature stagnant?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Memories Of Malgudi

Amit Chaudhuri did it. Then, it was Jhumpa Lahiri. And now, it's Monica Ali's turn to eulogise the work of R.K. Narayan: "With each successive visit to Malgudi one becomes more and more enmeshed, thrilling with recognition as a familiar character turns the corner or rolling one's eyes in anticipation as the adjournment lawyer opens his mouth."

Oh, Get Over It

Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr speaks to people fascinated by Ayn Rand. (And some who aren't.)

Torontonians, Arise!

Rohinton Mistry, Shyam Selvadurai and Sheila Heti are just a few of the illustrious writers who live and work in Toronto. So why isn't there a Great Toronto Novel yet?

Pico's Writing

"If I were to summarise my writing, it might be: it's relatively easy to live a life of clarity and peace if you take yourself on retreat to a mountaintop. But how do we bring the fruits of that stillness and clarity into the rush of the modern world and the need to be a real human being living in a world of change and flux....Writing for me is like a kind of scribbling in the air that tries to undo itself as it goes along; it's the best way I know — like prayer, I suppose — trying to transport us to those places where we have nothing to say and have to accept that we are beyond the reach of our thoughts. Those places where love and worship converge."

- In The Hindu Literary Review, the estimable Pradeep Sebastian speaks with Pico Iyer.


"Rushdie blushed like a bride, hiding his face behind a hand, when asked to comment on his reputation as a womaniser. His answer was a Freudian slip -- the non-believer thanking God that his wife was not there to hear him being called a Casanova in public."

- From a report on a literary festival in Austria

'Victims Of Love'

"But it is those 20th-century heterosexual relationships, charged by sexual passion and either flittering out when that passion dies, or, in some cases, imploding with horrific consequences, that are the most complex, the most teasing, and ultimately the ones that intrigue us most. Above and beyond their work, West, Mansfield, Rhys, Beauvoir, Gellhorn, Plath and Smart are famous for being essentially 'victims of love'. "

- In The Independent, Lesley McDowell assesses literary partnerships from a feminist perspective. (No, Rushdie and Padma Lakshmi aren't mentioned. Authors of cookbooks don't count, one supposes.)