Thursday, December 31, 2009

Review of "The End of the World" by Studies in Nepali History and Society (SINHAS)

I found that Studies in Nepali History and Society had published a review by James Sharrock of "The End of the World." The journal is published by Martin Chautari, a think-tank and discussion group based in Kathmandu.

Martin Chautari and SINHAS

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Most Significant Event of 2009


France 24 interviewed me about the most significant event of 2009. I said the climate change talks in Copenhagen was the most significant event of the year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

VENT Workshop: Fiction and Non-Fiction Writing


V.E.N.T! Magazine teamed up with author, journalist and filmmaker Sushma Joshi to present a 2-day writing workshop. The Fiction Writing workshop provided participants with an opportunity to sharpen their writing skills through sessions that focus on different aspects of story writing. The Non-Fiction Writing workshop offered participants with the opportunity to take a deeper look at the genre of non-fiction writing. In this interactive workshop, participants discussed and analyzed articles, and emerged with knowledge on the basic principles of this genre and experimented with a bit of on the spot writing.


December 12, 2009 and December 13, 2009
Time: 12:30-4:30pm
Venue: Today’s Youth Asia office at Babarmahal Revisited
Facilitator: Sushma Joshi

Republica: When The Young Write

Meet the new alphabets of writing.

For Sushma Joshi though, the mass that we have now is enough to be the driving critical force. “Yes! We are already making a difference. A new wave of developments in writing and the publishing scene means we witness a diverse range of writings and young people actively involved in all kinds of projects these days,” argues the 36-year old author of The End of The World, a short story anthology and contributes to an English language daily as their columnist.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Reading at the Indian Cultural Center



See Quixote's Cove event listing here: "The program started around 5:45pm after Geeti Sen welcomed the guests and provided a brief introduction to Sushma Joshi and her book, The End of the World...

Unlike Indian writers who write in English, Sushma said that writers in Nepal are not ready to tackle the middle class yet. Later, the floor was open for audience to ask questions. Afterwards, there was tea/coffee and sandwich to enjoy."


A slight clarification: I said that unlike English literature from India, which has a long history of books and stories about rural India, and where writers have made some internal self-reflections about the need to write about the urban middle class (from which they mostly originate), Nepal still lacks a body of literature in English that deals with rural Nepal. Nepali writers have to do both--start to write stories about the globalized, jetsetting middle class, but also not forget that we have yet to tell our stories about the other Nepal.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

La Gazette De Bali



L’ubud writers festival frappe encore


Qui sont donc ces « Dangerous Women » ? Femmes écrivains passionnées, esprits aiguisés au parler vrai, la langue bien pendue et culottée, ainsi de la Népalaise Sushma Joshi, seule femme journaliste pendant le conflit civil où plus d’une fois elle avoue avoir eu chaud aux fesses. Lee Su Kim, auteure malaisienne de « Nyonya au Texas » dénonce de son côté, non sans humour, l’ignorance des Américains qui lui demandent si chez elle on vit « encore dans les arbres » et si elle « descend d’une tribu », à quoi elle répondra en riant sous cape que oui elle descend « de la tribu des Nonyot » (parties intimes). Shamini Flint originaire quant à elle de Singapour, la peau sombre et d’un humour hilarant, ancienne avocate d’affaires, quitte l’entreprise quand elle constate que « les plus grands malfaiteurs sont les avocats eux-mêmes. » Elle prend la tangente et utilise son savoir du milieu judiciaire pour écrire... des polars. Elle y dénonce les incohérences de la législation et son 2ème livre s’inspire de Bali : « Inspector Singh Investigates : A Bali Conspiracy ».

Les rêves d’un gosse du ghetto ont inspiré Vikas Swarup, un nom difficile à mémoriser qui est pourtant devenu synonyme de succès, dont l’équation se résume à 2 mois, 42 langues, 8 Oscars. En deux mois effectivement, ce diplomate d’origine indienne posté à Londres, va écrire « Q&A » (Questions & Answers), son premier livre. Un beau record, surtout quand on sait qu’il va être traduit en 42 langues, preuve que le thème du gosse des rues devenu millionnaire nourrit l’imaginaire de toutes les cultures. Le livre deviendra un film : “Slum Dog Millionnaire” qui ratisse 8 oscars... Vikas se considère comme un « raconteur d’histoires » dont le message essentiel est qu’il importe moins de savoir d’où l’on vient que vers quoi on va...

Savoir où il va est le cas du florentin Marco Calvani, 28 ans, venu présenter sa pièce « The City Beneath » (La ville en dessous) et qui utilise le théâtre comme élément fondamental des besoins humains. Calvani est convaincu que « les gens cherchent d’abord nourriture et abri, et sitôt fait, ils veulent raconter leur histoire. » C’est là que commence le théâtre.

Raconter sa propre histoire ou celle des autres, les biographes Jamie James et Jennifer McKenzie se sont penchés sur ce Je(u) est un Autre. L’an dernier, Jamie James nous transportait dans l a j u n g l e ave c s a b i o g r a p h i e d u « S n a k e Charmer », cette fois il se lance sur les traces de « l ’ h o m m e a u x semelles de vent », a l i a s Ar t h u r Rimbaud, une enquête qui le conduit en France. « Il faut être absolument moderne », s’écriait le poète dans les dernières lignes de « Une Saison En Enfer » et « Absolument Moderne » sera le titre de cette bio encore inachevée et très attendue. Quant à Jennifer McKenzie, elle n’a pas hésité à remonter au IXème siècle à la recherche de l’architecte de... Borobudur ! Son enquête, commencée en 1975, s’est poursuivie par des voyages, de l’écriture et des recherches et fait songer aux « Mémoires d’Hadrien » de Marguerite Yourcenar qui recréa à la première personne la voix d’un empereur du 3ème siècle, pas un mince exploit... Ce qui permet de juger de la belle qualité du présent festival malgré les critiques, mmmmh...

La cerise sur le gâteau pour finir, avec le toujours très attendu concours « Poetry Slam » qui rassemblait près de 30 poètes de 11 à 78 ans, tous frappeurs de (bons) mots en deux minutes chrono (gong !) face à 5 juges (ndlr : dont votre petite rapporteuse) impitoyables et incorruptibles, ahah... La palme revint à l’artiste australienne Kerry Pendergrast-Pranoto qui dans une envolée comique à la vision futuristique d’un Festival « Global-Yoga-Writers- Earth Day-Meditation » . Ici on sait rire de soi !

Marie Bee

Thursday, November 05, 2009

VOW: 49 Women we love



I've been VOWed! Check out the rest of the 48 women...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Words Amidst Beauty: The Star (Malaysia)


Once again on beautiful Bali, writers and readers from around the world gathered to share their thoughts and experiences. Read Lee Su Kim's article here.

Eric Forbes’s book addict’s guide to good books

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2009

LEE Su Kim ... Words Amidst Beauty

Once again, writers and readers from around the world gathered in beautiful Bali to share their thoughts and experiences.
Story and photo by LEE SU KIM

FOR FIVE DAYS last week, a gathering of writers from 25 countries discussed the great themes of our time. Censorship, colonialism, ethnicity and identity, exile, gender issues, human rights, identity, literary expression and the state, race, religion, the postcolonial voice, they were all debated at the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival in Bali, Indonesia, from October 7-11, 2009.

This literary festival was conceived in 2004 by Janet De Neefe to counteract the disastrous effects of the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people and led to dwindling tourists and a sinking economy. Since then, the festival has become “one of the six best literary festivals in the world,” according to the British magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, and it continues to attract world-class writers from around the globe, as well as an international audience.

The theme for this year’s festival, Suka Duka, loosely translated as “Compassion and Solidarity,” comes from Bali’s ancient communal wisdom that focuses on the balance between good and bad, sadness and joy, suffering and compassion. This principle, one of the main pillars of Bali’s traditional institutions and communities, has guided its people to act as one single entity in dealing with life’s hardships and blessings.

Writers who attended this year’s festival include Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka (Nigeria); Vikas Swarup, author of Q&A, the book that was made into the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire (India); Hari Kunzru and Jamal Mahjoub (Britain), Fatima Bhutto and Mohammad Hanif (Pakistan); Lloyd Jones (New Zealand); Julia Leigh, Sonya Hartnett and Anthony Loewenstein (Australia); Bejan Matur (Turkey); Thant Myint-U (Burma); Seno Gumira Ajidarma and Cok Sawitri (Indonesia); Woon Thai Ho, Wena Poon and Shamini Flint (Singapore); Stephen McCarty (Hong Kong); and Sushma Joshi (Nepal). All together there were more than 100 writers—a truly diverse gathering. Two writers had been invited from Malaysia: short-story writer, essayist and award-winning indie filmmaker Amir Muhammad, and myself, author of three best-sellers,Malaysian Flavours: Insights into Things MalaysianA Nyonya in Texas and Manglish: Malaysian English at its Wackiest.

Among the many interesting and diverse panel sessions the festival offered was one that delved into the festival’s theme directly with a discussion of The Future of Compassion. Wole Soyinka, the first African to receive a Nobel Prize for literature (in 1986), made a telling point of having compassion for his jailors but being less forgiving of those who made the decision to imprison him for his expressions of dissent (in 1967-68, he was placed in solitary confinement for 20 months in Nigeria). Soyinka also talked about the need to be true to one’s own values rather than choosing political opportunism over the freedom of expression. His sentiments were echoed by Indonesian writer Seno Gumira.

Among the many In Conversation sessions I enjoyed were those with Lloyd Jones, who read from his highly acclaimed novel, Mister Pip, a heart-wrenching military fable set in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea; with Soyinka and his protegee Tara June Winch, a young winner of numerous literary awards; and with British novelist Hari Kunzru, author of The Impressionist and My Revolutions.

Genres such as the novel, short story, non-fiction, essays, political discourse, poetry, humour, translation works, travel writing, biographies, narratives, creative nonfiction, blogging and even food writing were covered during this very complete festival. Panel sessions had interesting themes such as A New Frontier: Blogging Dissent and SolidarityBali: A Paradise Questioned;First Person: Finding the VoiceGlobal NomadsInterplay: Words, Music and PicturesLit Chefs: Passion, Food and WordsLiterature and Activism; and Writing the Subcontinent.

I took part in two panel sessions. One was entitled Wanderlust: Travelling Stories and featured Aussie outback traveller and writer Andrew McMillan and Brian Thacker, who specialises in travel off the beaten track. In the other panel session entitled Across Genres: Identity, Family and Place, I talked about multiple identities and shared stories and identity experiences from my Peranakan and Malaysian heritage.

I was invited to do readings from my books with other selected authors at a Literary Lunch in a beautiful setting amidst emerald-green rice fields at John Hardy’s unique estate and at a panel session entitled Dangerous Women held at the magnificent Alila Ubud Hotel, which is dramatically set on a cliff overlooking forests with two narrow gorges running through the lush valley below. I must say that, apart from the attraction of meeting writers from all over the world, another pulling power of this festival has to be its ambience. The settings were superb, rich with the natural beauty of Bali.

Apart from the three main venues, the Neka Museum, the Indus Bar and the Left Bank Lounge, other settings ranged from candlelit dinners at Ubud’s elegant hotels and gracious homes; poetry recitations and readings under the stars in grass-roofed venues amidst rice fields, in the woods in Ubud’s sacred sanctuary, the Monkey Forest, or in Ubud’s grand palaces and temples set in frangipani and lotus gardens amidst waterfalls and fountains ... it was easy to be inspired by words when they were uttered in such wonderful venues!

Workshops were held on how to write for the screen and on subjects like food, sport and travel; there were also sessions on poetry, memoirs, and editing in between book launches, performances, art exhibitions, parties and celebrations. The festival was open to the general public as well with children’s workshops and a street festival at Ubud’s well-known Jalan Kajeng featuring poetry,gamelan and performances.

As a non-profit event that receives no government funding, the festival relies on the generosity of corporations, international funding bodies, and especially individuals. The international festival is the major project of the Ubud-based Mudra Swari Saraswati Foundation.

The festival has today become one of the largest and most prestigious literary gatherings in Southeast Asia and, indeed, the world. I consider it a great honour to have participated in this festival, and plan to return again to the magical isle of Bali to renew my ties with this beautiful land and its kind and gentle people who have succeeded in keeping their culture alive amidst the challenges of globalisation.

LEE SU KIM is an Associate Professor at the School of Language Studies and Linguistics, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Reproduced from The Sunday Star of October 18, 2009
http://goodbooksguide.blogspot.com/2008/10/lee-su-kim-words-amidst-beauty.html

Sunday, October 11, 2009

KATIE JACOBS AT THE UBUD WRITERS & READERS FESTIVAL


Sunday, October 11, 2009
KATIE JACOBS AT THE UBUD WRITERS & READERS FESTIVAL
The sessions I attended on Saturday at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival left the overt political sessions behind and it was a much more literary day.

"A panel on "Writing the Sub-Continent" featured Vikas Swarup, (pic left), author of Q&A, Mohammed Hanif, who also attended the Auckland Readers &Writers Festival earlier this year and is the author of "A Case of Exploding Mangoes, and Sushma Joshi, a short story writer, essayist, and documentary maker from Nepal। The first questions asked about place and sub-continent as characters within their fiction, but somewhat surprisingly, especially given the importance of place in all their works, they professed that the settings were mostly incidental, and the plot itself the only consideration."

I responded to this blog:
Hi Beattie, I was surprised to find your blog post and to read that the writers commented that place was not important in their work. I would like to clarify that all three of us said different things and had different takes on our writing process... I do not subscribe to the ethos that place is not important to my writing, especially since all my writing is about Nepal, and it plays a very central part in whatever I write! Thanks again for giving me the chance to comment...
Warm regards, Sushma Joshi
Kathmandu, Nepal

Beattie's Book Blog


Jakarta Post on Ubud Writers Festival


Carnival Lights Up Ubud Fest

Friday, October 09, 2009

Dangerous women at Ubud Writers Festival


After a thought provoking start to the day lunch took on a lighter note. The literary luncheon entitled ‘Dangerous Women’ was held at the stunningly beautiful Alila Ubud Resort’. Entering the resort through an expansive emerald green rice field, I immediately exhaled. A panel of passionate female authors such as the hilariously funny Shamini Flint (launching her book ‘A Bali Conspiracy’ on Sunday) and Sushma Joshi made lunch side splittingly witty and a complete joy.

See the complete entry at
Jo's Blog
here on the Ubud Writers and Readers' Festival website.

Ubud Writers Festival 2009


Suka-Duka was the theme of the Ubud Writers Festival in 2009. I was on a panel about the subcontinent alongside two writers: Vikas Swarup, who wrote "Q and A", the book that was made into the Oscar winning film Slumdog Millionaire, and Pakistani writer Mohammad Hanif.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Frank O'Connor Short Story Award: The 2009 Longlist


Click here for the Munster Literature Centre and the 2009 Frank O'Connor Short Story Award longlist. "The End of the World" is in it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Five Books on Nepal: A Highly Subjective List


I compiled this list for ECS Magazine's tenth anniversary edition. Read on...
____________________________
Ranking books is, of course, a highly subjective enterprise. Some books withstand the test of time, but which ones? Trying to hone it down to the top five is a tough, but not entirely dissatisfying, exercise. Please feel free to disagree.

Fatalism and Development
By Dor Bahadur Bista (1991, Calcutta: Longman)


Agree or disagree with the now vanished Mr Bista, there is no doubt that this is one of the most cogently written, most interesting critiques of Nepali society. Why is Nepal a basket case? Read this book to find out. Intelligent men have disagreed with this classic. Western expatriate workers make this their Bible when they arrive and get jeered by those who want more complexity in their analysis. Yyoung students swoon over it. Liberal Brahmins have bemoaned how the book has been influential in justifying policies that discriminate against Brahmins in the development sector. Unfortunately, Mr Bista―anthropologist, adventurer, provocateur―was last seen over a decade ago getting on a bus in far west Nepal and cannot be reached for comments. Those who die young are immortal, as the saying goes. Those who vanish trekking in far western Nepal also may be immortalized, especially if they leave behind such divisive and provocative works.

The Snow Leopard
By Peter Matthiessen (1978, New York: Viking)


This classic travel book, about the writer's search for a snow leopard in Dolpa, has withstood the test of time. As we feel the rush of a vanishing world of flora and fauna, this search for a rare species of snow leopard takes on a particularly acute poignancy. As the world warms and species vanish with alarming rapidity, never to return, this book will remind us how we are tied to nature. Man's search for the big cat is akin to man's search for his own soul, and existence.

Devkota’s Muna Madan
Translation and analysis by Michael Hutt (1996, Kathmandu: Sajha Prakashan)


Michael Hutt's Rs.50 translation almost doesn't do justice to the greatest poet of Nepal, Laxmi Prasad Devkota. But whether you chose to buy it or skim it in the bookstore, you can't really ignore the most popular epic poem ever written in contemporary Nepal. Madan is going to Lhasa to do business, Muna tells him not to go, but he goes anyway... Listen to this classic about a man's journey into the unknown and difficult reaches of his own self as he realizes he should have listened to his life partner before making an important decision.

Adventures of a Nepali Frog
By Kanak Mani Dixit (1996, Kathmandu: Rato Bangla Kitab)


I admit it. I'm a fan of the travel genre. And what Bhaktaman Bhyaguta, Kanakmani Dixit's excitable frog barely out of his tadpole teens, does is to sate this travel bug. This young frog manages to make his way all across the country and have a roaring good time. The book is a masterful blend of childish humor and effortless language. Available in a variety of languages, from French to Nepali, the book has proved itself over the years as a classic for children (and adults) alike.


The Brick and the Bull: An account of Handigaun, The Ancient Capital of Nepal
By Sudharshan Tiwari (2002, Kathmandu: Himal Books)


As I mulled for my last and most definitive book (Guiseppe Tucci’s Journey to Mustang? Frederick Gaige's Regionalism and National Unity in Nepal?), and soul-searched with important questions―Where are my ethnic writers? Where are my Dalit writers? Why am I privileging male writers? etc. ―I went on a walk to Ichangu Narayan with a friend. This friend kept on touching inscriptions on stones, and the lintels of temples, and talking about how she read it all in The Brick and the Bull. Amidst the glorious riot of marigolds and mustard flowers bursting into yellow glory under the hot blue November sun, there is really no way but to fall in love, all over again, with the Kathmandu Valley. And I admit it—I live in Handigaun, the oldest inhabited settlement of the valley. How can you not obsess, all over again, with all the art and the architecture and the careful detective work of all where it all may have started from? On the way back, touching the authentic stone lions and bemoaning the ugly statues that seem to have replaced the originals (whether the older statues were removed to wear and tear or to thievery we will never know), there is nothing to do but dust off my copy of this classic, and start reading it all over again.

As they say, there is nothing quite like a jatra from Handigaun. See you there at the Saraswoti temple, where the patron goddess of the arts is sure to bless those of you who take literature to heart!

This list of top books was assembled by Sushma Joshi, a Nepalese writer. End of the World, her book of short stories, was long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award in 2009. (Please wait and purchase the improved second edition, due out from Sansar Media in 2010.) She is also the author of Art Matters (Kathmandu, 2008), an anthology of art essays.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Blockade in East of the Web

Read my short story "The Blockade" in East of the Web. I wrote this story around 2005, and it is based on real political events in Nepal.

Also fun to read are the comments that the story seemed to have elicited--it started off with somebody who didn't want to bother with "with too many characters with unpronounceable names", and it spirals off into a lively discussion with readers responding to this initial observer. Click on "view comments" to read the entire back-and-forth!