Posts Tagged ‘So Good in Black’

Sunetra Gupta: the portrait

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

03gupta_182358Lovely to hear that a portrait of Sunetra Gupta was included in the “Women in Science Portrait Exhibition” at the Royal Society in London, alongside portraits of such luminaries as Marie Curie. Gupta is an award-winning theoretical epidemiologist, professor at Oxford University, as well as the acclaimed author of five novels, including our own So Good in Black.

See write-ups in the Calcutta Telegraph and the Business Standard.

You can also check out Gupta’s most recent science writing, her Kindle Single Pandemics: Our Fears and the Facts.

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!

Sunetra Gupta at the World Prose Portfolio

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

A lovely feature on Sunetra Gupta, including a new work of fiction, “Fernando,” is up at the World Prose Portfolio—I’ll offer a taste:

To find herself in a space like this, who would have thought it? Walls newly plastered and the wind sweeping through, when a rare wind there was, and otherwise the stillness, the sullen heat of the afternoon, and the tap-tapping of the builders, two floors below, putting in the kitchen – ripping out what had been installed there in the 1970′s and replacing it with gleaming steel and marble that harmonised strangely with the yellow arches – in a way that she would never have been able herself to conceive of, and yet was so easy for her daughter to see.

Her daughter’s house this, a narrow mountain village house recently purchased in this remote corner of Italy, where she had agreed – nay begged – to be installed to oversee the building work that had to be done to make it habitable.

Are you sure you want to do this? Anamika had asked her.

Well, why not?

You do not have to do this, her daughter had said.

But it is what I want, she had assured her.

Anything but to have to return to the flat in Calcutta where there was nothing more to do now but to tell the servants what to cook for lunch and dinner, and then to sit and read, perhaps make a few telephone calls, and receive those that came, and then the stillness of the afternoon with nothing else to do but read again, and finally the world coming life again and a semblance of duties emerging from such necessary events as the re-opening of shutters, children’s voices in the communal garden, footsteps outside of people once again starting to come and go, nothing to do with her at all, but dragging her in nonetheless into a sort of ceremony of living, nothing more than that. And how was it different when he was alive? Her husband, the renowned brain surgeon, with whom she had so little in common, and yet whose habits had girdled and protected her to an extent that she had never supposed until his sudden death had pressed it upon her that she had nothing to do, no-one to be, otherwise.

Read the rest here.

Interviews with Sunetra Gupta

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Over the Kenyon Review blog I’ve just posted an interview with Sunetra Gupta, discussing her craft, the distinctive formatting choices in So Good in Black, and many other matters. An excerpt:

HP: Your work moves not only geographically through India, the United Kingdom, and the US, but also linguistically. You’ve written in and translate from Bengali, and of course write both creative and scientific work in English, and, I imagine, in an English that encompasses something of the breadth of these locations and dialects. Can you talk about the different languages, including the different “Englishes,” that you have access to as a reader and writer, and how they interact or are given voice in your work?

SG: I had no acquaintance with the English language until I was four and a half years old which, of course, is still very early in life so I had no trouble picking it up. We had just moved to Zambia after living for three years in Ethiopia, where I spoke Bengali with my parents and Amharic with my nanny (the one friend I had then was also a little Bengali boy) and I had no idea that it was possible for people to converse in a language I might not understand. As a result, I was absolutely infuriated that the little English girls to came to welcome me to our new home spoke in such a way that I could make no sense of what they were saying. I learnt to read and write in English at school, but was also instructed in Bengali at home as it was always my parents’ intention to return to Calcutta. When we finally did go back in 1976 (I was then eleven), I was at first enrolled in a missionary school by the name of La Martiniere with a long and distinguished tradition of offering young ladies an excellent and exclusive private education in English, which meant that while I still had a lot of catching up to do, I was still studying Bengali as a second language. But after two years there, encouraged by my father, I made a very conscious decision to switch to an experimental school by the name of Patha Bhavan which had been founded in the ’60s by a group of intellectuals, many of whom he knew very well. I put myself through a course of rigorous immersion in Bengali, devouring the  literature—and also starting to write in Bengali—I did in fact manage to publish a few science fiction short stories in little magazines, but I was always attracted to the novel as a form and there are several unfinished Bengali manuscripts gathering dust somewhere in my mother’s flat in Calcutta. These were my formative years, and so I owe as much to the writings of Bengali moderns like Premen Mitra and Jibananda Das as I do to TS Eliot and Virginia Woolf in the construction of my literary sensibilities. Bengali humour—not just humorist tradition, but the use of irony in everyday life—was an important ingredient of my life in Calcutta—whatever ludic qualities there are in my prose derive from this as much as my later exposure to writers like Nabokov, Borges, Calvino. Rather by chance, I ended up in 1984 as an undergraduate at Princeton University, but was still writing in Bengali in my summer vacations back home. In my senior year, however, I decided to attend a Creative Writing workshop with Joyce Carol Oates, and that was when I began write in English.

I think English is a wonderful language, and it is possible that it has a unique degree of malleability—it’s hard for me to say, as I do not know any other language as well other than Bengali. Would Bengali, if it had been disseminated as widely as English, mutated into different forms in the same way? I really do not know. The Bengali language itself has a very recent history of evolution connected to the 19th-century phenomenon of the Bengali Renaissance, so it is certainly capable of adapting itself to new circumstances. My general feeling about all languages is that they are all unique and unpredictable, and it is possible to find your own voice within any of them. Naturally, the language itself will condition the voice that you find within it, and the way you think in general. But I do not think that it is useful to have any particular political allegiances with language. Many of us who write in English, even though it is not our mother tongue, have been called upon repeatedly to justify this action, as if it were an obvious disloyalty. I have never been much exercised by this—as far as I am concerned, the only option available to me when it comes to languages is serial monogamy, and I know within myself that the only reason I “abandoned” Bengali was because it was difficult for me to remain immersed in it while living away from Calcutta. Recently, though, I’ve revised my position somewhat upon reading Arvind Krishna Mehrotra’s thoughts on this subject. To quote from one of his poems, rather than essays: “Insomnia brings lucidity,  And a borrowed voice sets the true one, Free.” We are permanently in search of our true voice, and this has to be mediated through a borrowed voice—to imagine that our mother tongue is less of a borrowed voice than any other is perhaps a mistake.

Read in full here.

And also check out this interview with Sunetra on narrative in literature and science at London’s the Royal Society blog, as part of the One Culture Festival in which she just participated.

“A lucid and mesmerizing masterpiece”: Sunetra Gupta’s So Good in Black

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

At ForeWord Magazine, Monica Carter has written a wonderful review of Sunetra Gupta’s So Good in Black:

Although a decade has passed since Sunetra Gupta’s last novel, this lucid and mesmerizing masterpiece shows she has used every minute of that time wisely. Told in memories and fragments, it chronicles the history of a group of friends and lovers who are brought together when a member of their group, a journalist who has just opened a women’s shelter, is killed.

… Gupta uses a disjointed narrative to mimic the random recall of memory, something she accomplishes with superb skill and manifests through highly stylized, minimalist prose and distilled pieces of dialogue. As pointed as those fragments are, she also manages to employ rich and evocative details to summon the lush sensory atmosphere of Bengal.

Read the rest here!

And also have a look at Jenn Mar’s lengthy review in The Common, “The Devil and His Glass of Milk,” describing So Good in Black as “a novel that is spacious enough to host a lifetime’s worth of impressions.”

In the Washington Times, Claire Hopley says, “Sunetra Gupta writes of ambiguities brilliantly.”

For those of you in the UK, Sunetra will be speaking on October 2 at the Royal Society in London, on “how narratives emerge in science and literature”—learn more here. For those in the US, we expect an appearance next March: stay tuned!

If not here, then where? and other news

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

We’ve been a bit quiet on this blog. As an excuse, let me offer that I’ve been blogging over at the Kenyon Review Online: the KR blog here, and me blogging on it here.

But in the meantime there’s been lots of news! A quick recap: Sunetra Gupta’s So Good in Black has been reviewed in Publishers Weekly, the Washington Times (“Sunetra Gupta writes of ambiguities brilliantly”), and most recently and at length in the Common (Amherst College’s new literary magazine, and so an exciting new addition to our local scene).

Alex Epstein’s newest, Lunar Savings Time, translated by Becka Mara McKay, has also been lauded by Publishers Weekly (“Consistently provocative”… “Best read first in gulps, and then in savory sips”), and by Bill Marx over at Arts Fuse, as well as here at the Complete Review.

Also have a look at this interview I had a lot of fun doing with Alex at the Kenyon Review.

Since we’ve been a little slow here, I’d suggest you might like to “like” us on Facebook, which will keep you updated with all things Clockroot when we’re slow on the blog.