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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Uzma Aslam Khan’s Thinner than Skin

September 26th, 2012

My my, this blog has been quiet. But now some great news: Uzma Aslam Khan’s Thinner than Skin is just back from the printers. We’re enormously excited and honored to be publishing Uzma’s fourth novel, the first since her stunning The Geometry of God—one of Clockroot’s first books and according to Kirkus Reviews one of the best books of 2009.

A little advance praise for Thinner than Skin:

“In gorgeous prose, Khan writes about Pakistan, a land of breathtaking beauty, and the complex relationships between people who are weighted with grief and estrangement. As her characters’ lives play out against the backdrop of the external world whose violence gradually closes in on them, Khan brilliantly probes the fatal limitations of human understanding. A novel of great lucidity and tenderness, filled with splendid descriptions of the land, the people who have always inhabited it, and those who are irresistibly drawn to it.”
—Therese Soukar Chehade

“Smart, fierce, and poignant: perhaps the most exciting novel yet by this very talented writer.”
—Mohsin Hamid

You can read an excerpt of Thinner than Skin here in the Daily Star, as well as in the soon-to-be-released fall issue of the Massachusetts Review (print only! but why not get a copy of such a great magazine?). An excerpt also appeared in Granta‘s widely celebrated recent issue on Pakistan. As always, please contact us if you’d like a review or desk copy. I’ll close with a little more about the novel itself:

In the wilds of Northern Pakistan, where glaciers are born of mating ice, two young lovers shatter the tenuous peace of a nomadic community

Thinner than Skin is a riveting novel about identity and belonging. It’s also a love story: between Nadir, a Pakistani man trying to make his way as a photographer in America, and Farhana, a Pakistani-American woman who wants to return to a country she’s never seen. Together Nadir and Farhana journey to Pakistan, accompanied by one of her colleagues—who will join her in studying Pakistan’s extraordinary glaciers—and by Nadir’s oldest friend. But they are not the only interlopers here: a suspect in a recent bombing has arrived just before them, and the authorities’ hunt for him casts a dangerous shadow over their journey. It is here, in this magnificent landscape—where glaciers are born of mating ice—that a chance meeting with a young nomad will change their lives, and the lives of those around them, forever.

Thinner than Skin is a haunting tribute to these lands, and to the nomadic life of the indigenous people there, where China encroaches and Pakistanis, Uzbeks, Russians, Chinese, and Afghans all come together to trade. It is a work of piercing beauty and intelligence, and an urgent novel for our times.

Adania Shibli, “a formally brilliant literary artist”

May 1st, 2012

That’s Words Without Borders on Adania Shibli’s We Are All Equally Far from Love, in “faultless translation” (their words!) by Paul Starkey. A fantastic review by Emma Garman—example:

Seamlessly balancing juxtapositions is Shibli’s great gift. We Are All Equally Far From Love is hypnotically visceral in its accrual of mundane details—the color of the sky, the fluttering of flags in the breeze, the endless routines of cooking, eating, breathing, sleeping, sweating—and grippingly cerebral in its meditations on despair, the emotional dimensions of which are shifted, echoed and mirrored through each section. In the hands of a lesser writer, the discontinuous structure, where we spend only a short time immersed in an individual’s internal world before another voice takes over, might lead to a disjointed, unengaging reading experience. But the discipline of Shibli’s aesthetic vision and her tight thematic focus produces, against the odds, a work of stunning coherence that feels cinematic, as though colored by Jim Jarmusch or Wong Kar-wai.

Do read the rest here.

Adania Shibli in NYC next week

April 18th, 2012

Adania Shibli, author of Touch and the newly released We Are All Equally Far from Love, will be at two events in New York next week, hosted by ArteEast.

On April 24, at the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University, at 7 pm, Shibli will participate in the “Gazan Writers’ Salon—Fractured Web: Gazan Writing Online”:

ArteEast presents Fractured Web: Gazan Writing Online, a public program at Columbia University’s Center for Palestine Studies, in which Palestinian writers will discuss how their work has been shaped and affected by the internet. In this discussion Somaya al Sousi and Fatena al Ghorra contextualize their work within the broader landscape of Palestinian literature online, while Adania Shibli (co-editor, Narrating Gaza) explores the way in which such platforms foster literary community and discourse.

The discussion will be moderated by Khalid Hadeed (Cornell University) and featuring academic discussant Helga Tawil Souri (NYU).

On April 25, at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Shibli will be part of a salon discussing “From Memoir to Reportage and Back Again”

ArteEast will present From Memoir to Reportage and Back Again: Gazan Writers Salon, to present contemporary writing from Gaza to New York’s literary audiences. Through readings of both poetry and prose, the writers will offer a rare glimpse into the diverse emerging and established voices that make up the dynamic literary scene in this city.

In his ode to Gaza, Mahmoud Darwish links Gazan literary production with its unique history within Palestine as a land that has been repeatedly occupied by external forces and subjected to over two decades of sanctions, blockade and strikes: “We are unfair to her when we search for her poems. Let us not disfigure the beauty of Gaza. The most beautiful thing in her is that she is free of poetry at a time when the rest of us tried to gain victory with poems…”

Like Darwish’s poem “Silence for Gaza,” we see Palestinian writers of subsequent generations grapple with the personal and communal experiences of Gaza’s history of occupation, blockade and war.

Participants include Fatena al Ghorra, author of five books of poetry including The Sea is Still Behind Us (Gaza, 2002) and A Very Disturbing Woman (Egypt, 2003), Ellay (multiple editions), Betrayals of god…Multi Scenarios (multiple editions); Adania Shibli, co-editor of the online forum Narrating Gaza, will read from multi-genre writings from Narrating Gaza of other writers that explore the repercussions of the Gaza War; Soumaya Al Sousi has produced four poetry collections, including The First Sip of the Sea’s Chest (1998), Doors (2003), Lonely Alone (2005), and Idea, Void, White in a joint collection with the poet Hala El Sharouf (published by Dar Al-Adab, Beirut, 2005).

These should be two outstanding events—if you’re in in NYC, please do come by.

Juniper Literary Festival this weekend

April 11th, 2012

The 12th annual Juniper Literary Festival is this Friday and Saturday at UMass Amherst, and Clockroot will be at the book fair. Don’t come to see us, though, come for what promises to be an outstanding weekend (well—do say hi to us, too, though!). This is the second year that the festival has focused on “New Writers/New Writing,” and its featured guests are the poets and writers (and publishers and translators…) Anna Moschavakis, Amelia Gray, Blake Butler, Macgregor Card, Robert Fernandez, Julia Cohen, Corwin Ericson, Christopher DeWeese, Julia Holmes, Anna Joy Springer, Vincent Standley, and Paul Legault. There will be a keynote address by James Tate, celebrating the publication of Eternal Ones of the Dream. Schedule below—hope to see you there!

12th ANNUAL JUNIPER LITERARY FESTIVAL
NEW WRITERS/NEW WRITING
April 13 & 14, 2012
Fine Arts Center, University of Massachusetts Amherst

On April 13 & 14, 2012 the University of Massachusetts Amherst MFA Program for Poets and Writers will host the 12th annual Juniper Literary Festival: New Writers/New Writing. Focusing on the ever-changing landscape of new American poetry and fiction, the festival showcases emerging poets and fiction writers alongside dozens of independent journals and presses in a unique national event. Featuring readings by diverse and talented poets and writers, roundtables on crucial creative and professional issues, and a press fair, the festival introduces audiences to vital contemporary writing and explores issues essential to the future of American literature.

Schedule of Events

Friday, April 13
6:30 pm JOURNAL & BOOK FAIR opening reception

7:30 pm READING with Robert Fernandez, Amelia Gray, Anna Moschovakis, & Vincent Standley

Saturday, April 14
11:30 am JOURNAL & BOOK FAIR continues

12:00 pm READING with Christopher DeWeese, Corwin Ericson, Julia Holmes, & Paul Legault

1:15 pm ROUNDTABLES
Nuts & Bolts: From Manuscript to Book
moderated by Zach Savich

Digital Hybrids: How New Media Shape New Writing
moderated by Blake Butler

2:30 pm ROUNDTABLES
Editors’ Reading featuring bateau, Conjunctions, jubilat, & Noö Journal

Book/Art: The Book As Collaborative Form
moderated by Guy Pettit

3:45 pm READING with Blake Butler, Macgregor Card, Julia Cohen, & Anna Joy Springer

7:00 pm JOURNAL & BOOK FAIR reopens

7:30 pm KEYNOTE READING with James Tate, celebrating the publication of Eternal Ones of the Dream: Later Selected Poems

All events take place at the UMASS FINE ARTS CENTER. Free and open to the public.