Tag Archives: Jhumpa Lahiri

The Week In Literature and Translation [Jan 23-29, 2015]


  • DD Kosambi’s seminal An Introduction to the Study of Indian History has been translated to Telugu.
  • Prajwal Parajuly’s ‘The Gurkha’s Daughter’ has been translated into Nepali
  • Poet Javed Akhtar has translated 8 Tagore songs to Hindi; to be sung by Sangeeta Dutt
  • After some drama, Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore has been translated to Bengali.
  • A new website on Kannada poet Kanakdasa contains vast amounts of material in English and Kannada
  • Watch Navayana’s Annual Lecture, delivered by Aboriginal writer Ali Cobby Eckermann
  • Two works by historian and author S Settar have been translated to Kannada – Inviting Death and Pursuing Death
  • The Konkani Bhasha Mandal has released a pettul (treasure trove) of children’s writing in Konkani.
  • Speaking Tiger Books has their lineup and website running!


Columns and Articles

  • Arunima Mazumdar in Livemint says festivals are giving children’s storytelling a boost.
  • Here’s an excellent reference list of contemporary Hindi poets to follow, prepared by Ranjeet Pratap Singh (of Pratilipi, where you can read most of these poets).
  • Pratilipi, an online archive of Indian writing in several languages, has posted an interesting user analysis for 2014  (“Less than 25% of our visitors are female but just like our older readers, they visit more often (35%), and read significantly more (37%)”)
  • Irfan Mehraj writes in the Kashmir Dispatch on radical Kashmiri poet Kashmiri poet Abdul Ahad Azad (What is life but the book of change?/ Change – more change – and yet more change!)
  • TCA Srinivasa-Raghavan rants here about the vulgarity of literature awards and festivals and recommends supporting libraries instead
  • Min Pun has a fascinating column on the debate surrounding the inclusion of English writers in the Nepali canon.
  • Jash Sen on the evolution of Bengali detective Byomkesh Bakshi, from Bandopadhyay’s novels to Bollywood
  • Here’s Anuradha Sengupta’s literary guide to Kolkata.
  • Vikas Datta on politically incorrect satire in Urdu poetry


  • Reviews of Anita Anand’s new biography of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh are floating in – here’s Navtej Sarna for India Today, William O’Connor for The Daily Beast,
  • Gargi Gupta reviews Mirza Waheed’s The Book of Gold Leaves for DNA.
  • Are techie writers graduating from sordid romances? Here’s a review of Jaimeet Patel’s An Exceptional Case.
  • T.D. Ramakrishnan’s new Malayalam novel is inspired by rights activist and feminist Dr. Rajani Thiranagama



  • Arundhati Subramaniam won the inaugural Khushwant Singh Memorial Prize for Poetry – here are nine poems from her book, When God is  a Traveller.
  • British writer Ahmad Lunat wins the Gujarat Darpan Award for Ajaanya – “Strangers” (short stories)
  • Disappointed that Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland won the DSC Prize. Ok, you disagree. This is my opinion.
  • Vishnunarayanan Namboothiri won the the Ezhuthachan Prize 2014 f


  • Beloved Indian artist, RK Laxman, who drew fantastic political cartoons, passed away.
  • Veteran Marathi writer MD Hatkananglekar passed away at 89
  • Former Union Minister, teacher and translator Sarojini Mahishi passes away at 88
  • Kannada writer writer S. M. Vrushabhendra Swamy passes away at 88.
  •  Dr Jose Pereira, Sanskrit scholar, historian, musicologist, writer, linguist and artist, passes away at 84.
  • Bengaluru celebrated the centenary of Kannada poet KS Narasimhaswamy, famous for his 1942 collection of poems, Mysore Mallige.
  • Ruskin Bond says, I’m a writer because I am a reader.

Publishing / Industry news

  • Navayana is offering a special discount on their beautiful graphic novel based on Ambedkar’s life, written by publisher S Anand and Srividya Natarajan and illustrated beautifully by Gond artists Durgabai and Subhash Vyam.
  • HarperCollins publisher Karthika VK talked to HT about censorship and publishing in India. Nothing new here.
  • Support is pouring in from the writing community for Perumal Murugan – from Salem in Tamil Nadu, Coimbatore , and Ongole in AP.  Author Anita Nair made a statement, too.  Arun Janardhan, who went to Namakkal (where Murugan lives) has a story from the local people. Harish Nambiar blames the author for not standing up to critics. Overall I would recommend this essay by V Geetha on the entire controversy.
  • Indraprastha College for Women (IPCW), University of Delhi, has set up a new translation centre
  • An attempt to edit Kuvempu’s poem ‘Nada Geethe’ meets with protesting schoolkids.


* edited to correct the description of Pratilipi (it’s not just for Hindi writing) and to add the TimesLitFest Bengaluru in events.

The Week in Literature and Translation [Dec 19-25, 2014]


  • The Dalgado Konknni Akademi (DKA) will release three new Konkani books in the Romi script: C ‘Na-em’, a collection of poems by Guadalupe Dias, ‘Kapaz Jaki’, a novel by Willy Goes and another book of poems ‘Motiam’ by Anil Kamat Shankwalkar.
  • Four more Konkani books were released during the Konkani Saahith Kuswar Sammel” :two novels and a collection of short stories translated by Dr Fr William DaSilva, and a collection of poetry
  • Aldous Mawlong, poet from Meghalaya, released his second collection of poems, ‘Collage’
  • Penguin has a new collection of poetry by Kamala Das.
  • Navayana has announced two forthcoming books for 2015, by Aboriginal authors Alexis Wright and Ali Cobby Eckermann’
  • An excerpt from a new graphic novel that “reimagines the story of Anarkali as an anthem for freedom”
  • Aruni Kashyap tweeted that he was working on a new seralised novel in Assamese..
  • A new translation of stories by Devibharati, titled ‘Farewell, Mahatma’ has been released. The translator is N Kalyan Raman.


Columns and Articles

  • Vikram Doctor on 120 years of Kipling’s The Jungle Book.
  • Garga Chatterjee has a list of the top political books in India, for 2014
  • Swati Daftuar has a list of the top-selling Hindi books this year
  • Malati Mathur on translating Indian fiction
  • On sustaining aksharaslokam, an art of reciting verses from Malayalam literature
  • Arunava Sinha’s personal history of Calcutta, “my once and always city of books”
  • Shovon Chowdhury’s tongue-in-cheek column takes a dig at formulaic Indian romance novels.
  • Chandan Gowda on MN Srinivas and the lure of the literary
  • ZM Nofil reviews the year in Indian literature.


  • Two reviews of R Sreeram, debut novel, the political thriller ‘Kalyug’ – Archana Ravi in TNIE and Sravasti Datta in The Hindu.
  • Lisa Hill from the ANZ Lit blog has reviews of Shamsur Rahman Faruqi‘s The Mirror of Beauty and Jhumpa Lahiri‘s The Lowland.
  • Deccan Chronicle has a review of Janice Pariat’s Seahorse


  • The Sahitya Akademi Awards for 2014 were announced. I’ll be posting in more detail about those, by and by.
  • Tamil writer Jayamohan has been selected for this year’s Iyal Award
  • Iqbal Sayeedi, Konkani poet from Bhatkal has won the Kavita Trust’s Mathias Family Poetry Award for the year 2014
  • Madhukar Dattatrya Hatkanangalekar has been selected for the Sangli Bhushan award


  • Tulu writer and editor SR Hegde died, tragically, in a drowning incident.
  • Madhavi Sardesai, who just won the 2014 Sahitya Akademi Award, passed away.
  • On Gobinda Halder — a celebrity poet in Bangladesh and a non-entity in his native West Bengal


  • Penguin has a competition going: design a new cover for their new fantasy novel, ‘Warrior’
  • Odia books saw great sales at the Cuttack book fair.
  • Academic publisher Permanent Black will soon turn 15
  • The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective has raised $10,000 in seed funding to publish books of poetry by contemporary writers with a connection to India


  • Agra will host the SAARC lit fest in 2015.
  • Poet Siddalingaiah will chair the 81st Akhila Bharatha Kannada Sahitya Sammelana in 2015/
  • Mangaluru to host Konkani lit fest on December 20, 2014
  • Patna had a three day Maithili literature festival last week.
  • Aligarh Muslim University had a seminar on Tamil poet, Subramania Bharti
  • The Mumbai Lit Fest was as precious and irrelevant as one expected. Aakar Patel ruefully reports for Mint.

India and the IMPAC Dublin Awards

The IMPAC Awards around the world

The IMPAC Dublin Awards are generally very odd. The (very long) longlist of 142 books are chosen by libraries from participating countries. How are the libraries chosen? No one knows, but they are described as participating libraries on the FAQs and as public libraries on the title page.

MA Orthofer, as usual, has done a good job of deconstructing the odd process (and odder nominations) that end up in the IMPAC longlist, pointing particularly to the inevitable problem of localism. M Lynx Qualey has pointed to some problems with the IMPAC prize and Arabic literature, and more generally, to the absence of translations.

India’s participation: which library?

India’s nominating library for the IMPAC Dublin Awards is the India International Centre Library. Let us review this choice, briefly. The India International Centre is a privately-owned and run “cultural centre” that contains a library open only to its members. Non-members aren’t even allowed into the library. Members of the India International Centre are a small, exclusive lot – one generally has to know someone (as one often does, in Delhi) and membership is not currently open, nor has been for a while. The library itself is has vast collections, particularly a notable India collection and an art collection. The library collection is selected by a nebulous committee, which may or may not consider member suggestions for the acquisition of new books. There’s no public acquisition policy (although there well may be one accessible to members).

Why is this bizarre? Because IMPAC’s website says they invite public libraries to nominate books. By no standard is this privately owned, privately run, exclusive library a public library. (Note: the main website’s section on the nomination process says “public libraries”. The FAQs do not.) Most other countries, however, have state and public libraries as the nominating entities. Why not the the National Library? The Delhi Public Library? The central but autonomous Rammohun Roy Library?

India’s participation: Nominated books

It should be no surprise to anyone then, that this private library nominated these books from India for the IMPAC award:

  1. Jhumpa Lahiri‘s The Lowland
  2. Amitabha Bagchi‘s This Place
  3. Ravinder Singh‘s Like it Happened Yesterday

Let me explain why I’m incredulous about these choices. First of all, the IIC’s own library OPAC shows that Ravinder Singh’s book has been requested a grand total of zero times. The same goes for Amitabha Bagchi’s This Place. They don’t even have a copy of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland.

Lahiri, in addition, may come from Indian roots, but is herself an American citizen (she may ‘struggle to feel American‘ but I don’t see her giving up her citizenship and moving to India, where she has never lived. Her novels, indeed, are mostly about the immigrant experience). I find it hard to believe that the IIC could not find a single author from India, who had been published or translated into English in 2013, apart from Bagchi and Singh.

Literary Merit

The IMPAC Awards, though, are not for popularity. They’re awarded based on the library’s opinion of “high literary merit”. I really don’t have much to say about the merit of these three books involved (I haven’t read any of them, to be honest).

I’m not going to include reviews to Lahiri’s The Lowland (it’s been reviewed everywhere, she’s well known in America, where she lives, writes and publishes).

Bagchi’s third book, This Place, has received generally positive reviews. Somak Ghoshal in Livemint said it “outgrows every expectation”. Rajat Choudhuri in Outlook praised the novel’s “purity of … prose married to a clear-eyed storytelling”.

I will, however, express some doubts about Ravinder Singh’s nomination. I know he’s immensely popular, and if that were the basis of the prize there would be no difficulty (200,000 copies were preordered). Interviews and reviews seem to indicate, however, that the book is autobiographical, not fictional, while the IMPAC award is very clearly for a ‘novel’.

In sum, I find both, the choice of library and the choice of books somewhat bizarre. I am also, like M Lynx Qualey, concerned about the absence of translations. This has been a rich year for writing and translation in India – even with the narrow window of a book written in English in 2013 or written between 2009-2013 and translated in 2013, it should have been possible for IIC to nominate atleast one book that wasn’t written in English.


  • Bruce Humes has a breakdown of the nominations by language.