Archive for October, 2012

Uzma Aslam Khan: “Listen to silence, not to others”

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

A fantastic new interview with Uzma Aslam Khan is just out in Pakistan’s Friday Times. Uzma’s fourth novel, Thinner than Skin, has just been released (for those who haven’t gotten it yet!); she also discusses her 2009 novel The Geometry of God:

AA: In the years since you wrote The Geometry of God, the country has seen some of the most gruesome attacks on religious minorities, including inhumane abuses of the blasphemy law. What is your perspective on this?

UAK: When The Geometry of God was completed in 2007, there were many documented cases of blasphemy charges being leveled against innocent civilians, particularly Ahmadis and Christians. My character Nana was not based directly on any one person, but I read several case studies, including those involving ridiculous spelling errors, word shuffling, rumor, and revisionism – including of Jinnah’s famous speech in which he emphatically declares us all “equal citizens of one State” – all of which I draw on in the book. And then last year it happened again: a Christian eighth-grader was accused of blasphemy for a spelling error in a poem. For a Pakistani writer, life imitates art all the time. When in the book Nana is falsely accused of blasphemy, he is also called an Ahmadi, as though calling someone this is an insult. His response is to refuse to wear it as an insult by refusing to say what he is. He says instead, “My faith is what they bury when they force me to expose it.” And I think that the increasingly furious pace of hate crimes against our religious minorities – from the attack on an Ahmadi mosque in Lahore on May 28, 2010, which should be declared a national day of mourning, to the assassinations of Shahbaz Bhatti and Salmaan Taseer, to the present-day case of young Rimsha Masih – all of this, on top of terrorizing those already vulnerable in our society, makes us all guilty, for two reasons. First, for staying silent about what we know to be wrong. And second, because we are all forced to say what we are, all the time. We can’t even get our passport renewed without ‘confessing’ to not being Ahmadis. I’ve even been asked my religion while registering for a blood test. And to whom are we always in need of confessing? Not to God, but to a bunch of people who call themselves the state. If this were a civilized land, faith would be private and proof against those we know are playing God would be public. But in Pakistan, it’s the other way around: Faith is public and proof is private.

Read the rest here.

So Good in Black long-listed for the DSC Prize

Friday, October 19th, 2012

We’ve just had the fantastic news that Sunetra Gupta’s So Good in Black is on the long-list for this year’s DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. The shortlist will be announced in November; the sixteen long-listed books are:

  1. Jamil Ahmad: The Wandering Falcon (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin India)

  2. Alice Albinia: Leela’s Book (Harvill Secker, London)

  3. Tahmima Anam: The Good Muslim (Penguin Books)

  4. Rahul Bhattacharya: The Sly Company of People Who Care (Picador, London / Farrar Strauss and Giroux, New York)

  5. Roopa Farooki: The Flying Man (Headline Review/ Hachette, London

  6. Musharraf Ali Farooqi: Between Clay and Dust (Aleph Book Company, India)

  7. Amitav Ghosh: River of Smoke (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin India)

  8. Niven Govinden: Black Bread White Beer (Fourth Estate/ Harper Collins India)

  9. Sunetra Gupta: So Good in Black (Clockroot Books, Massachusetts)

  10. Mohammed Hanif, Our Lady of Alice Bhatti (Random House India)

  11. Jerry Pinto: Em and the Big Hoom (Aleph Book Company, India)

  12. Uday Prakash: The Walls of Delhi (Translated by Jason Grunebaum; UWA Publishing, W. Australia)

  13. Anuradha Roy: The Folded Earth (Hachette India)

  14. Saswati Sengupta: The Song Seekers (Zubaan, India)

  15. Geetanjali Shree: The Empty Space (Translated by Nivedita Menon; Harper Perennial/ Harper Collins India)

  16. Jeet Thayil: Narcopolis ( Faber and Faber, London)

Many thanks to the DSC Prize for all their work, and congratulations to Sunetra!

This week in Recommended Reading: Alex Epstein

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Seven new stories by our own Alex Epstein—author of Lunar Savings Time and Blue Has No South—are featured this week as Electric Literature’s “Recommended Reading.”

“While the word counts of Alex Epstein’s ‘microfictions’ may rarely reach triple digits, the seven stories this week, from his new collection, For My Next Illusion I Will Use Wings, occupy the space of something much larger,” writes editor Benjamin Samuel, and notes that “The refined nature of these stories is so unusual, so remarkable, that we’re departing from Recommended Reading’s normal publication schedule. Instead of one story a week, starting October 10, we’re publishing one microfiction a day for seven days, each accompanied by a beautiful illustration by David Polonsky. Later, they’ll all be available together online, and in Kindle and ePub formats.”

Today’s story is “Plot Twist,” translated by Jessica Cohen. Read them all here!

Benjamin Hollander in the Brooklyn Rail

Friday, October 5th, 2012

We’re thrilled to announce that in spring 2013 we’ll be publishing Benjamin Hollander’s In the House Un-American. Today you can get a first taste of this extraordinary work (a novel? what shall we call it? it’s not so easy to say) over at the Brooklyn Rail, where an excerpt has just gone up: “Just Call Me Al.”

“Dark, beautiful exploration of the human psyche”—on Adania Shibli

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Writing in the Electronic Intifada, Sarah Irving offers a wonderful new review of We Are All Equally Far from Love:

“If her first novel, Touch, wasn’t evidence enough, Adania Shibli’s second book We Are All Equally Far From Love confirms her as a rare, challenging talent. It is neither an easy nor always a pleasant read, but it is an extraordinary piece of writing which weaves together melancholia, beauty, violence and brutish physicality in an extended meditation on love and loneliness.”

Read the rest here!

Thank you, Michael Henry Heim

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012


I am in awe of this man’s talent (translations from half a dozen languages!) and his extraordinary commitment and vision. Contemplate the life story tucked into this press release from PEN today:

In 2003, to help translators pursue their art, Michael Henry Heim and his wife Priscilla did something extraordinary. They created the PEN Translation Fund to award competitive grants to translators each year. Mike and Priscilla Heim endowed the Translation Fund personally and anonymously with a gift of $734,000. Esther Allen, chair of the PEN Translation Committee when the Fund was created, describes Mike as “enormously embarrassed at the thought of being publicly associated with the donation, having as he did a visceral horror of money, which he associated with excess and waste and all of the things he most deplored.”

The money donated for the Fund grew from a death benefit that his mother received in 1945, when Mike’s father, a Hungarian composer and pastry chef serving in the U.S. military, was killed. Mike and Priscilla, through careful investment and the most frugal of lifestyles, slowly built up the money with the dream of supporting future generations of gifted translators and prodding publishers to share their art with the world. As Priscilla, who gave permission yesterday to reveal her husband as the Fund’s donor, explained, “We never went to restaurants or movies, and Mike wore his clothes for years on end, including his good blazer after moth holes appeared. Those things add up, and added to the fund.” Since 2003, the PEN Translation Fund has supported more than 100 translations.

For more, check out Susan Bernofsky’s post at her blog, Translationista.