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Danilo Kiš: Mittel Man

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Over 20 years ago, on October 15, 1989, Yugoslav writer Danilo Kiš succumbed to lung cancer in Paris, France. He was only 54 when he died.

Among the works Kiš left behind included a form-bending prose triptych — Garden, Ashes (1965), Early Sorrows (1970) and Hourglass (1972) — two masterworks of short fiction — A Tomb for Boris Davidovich (1976) and Encyclopedia of the Dead (1983) — and a string of dazzling polemical essays and interviews about his own work (some of which were translated into English and published in 1995 as Homo Poeticus).

Danilo KišThe early death of one of Europe’s humane and powerful literary voices was a tragedy for literature. But history suggests that the timing of the Kiš’ passing was – at least in one aspect – merciful. Kiš did not witness the engulfment of Yugoslavia in the blood-soaked tide of competing nationalisms that he so thoroughly despised and belittled.

After all, witness was at the center of Kiš’ literary works, which grappled with the worst of Europe’s mid-20th Century horrors: Nazism and Stalinism.

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A Sleuth’s Tour of Europe

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Things have come a long way since Agatha Christie took crime fiction fans on the Orient Express and to the banks of the River Nile and the genre is now one of the most popular around. There’s a wealth of excellent crime fiction available in translation and in English, and the best authors manage to convey a sense of place as well as telling exciting, well crafted stories. If you’re looking for some ideas on what to pack this summer, look no further. I have some suggestions to take you around Europe.

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Farahad Zama talks to Curious Book Fans

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When I read The Marriage Bureau for Rich People I was hooked immediately. I have an extensive collection of books set in India and whilst it’s a country I love to visit and to read about, I have to admit that happy light-hearted fiction set there is hard to find. I asked Vladimir to approach the author – Farahad Zama – and ask if we could interview him. Below you’ll find the results of that interview.

I’d certainly advice any of the Curious Book Fans reviewers to consider approaching writers as getting direct contact must surely be one of the most interesting ways to fulfil some of those ‘curious’ yearnings to learn more about a book or writer you’ve really enjoyed.

Farahad Zama, author of The Marriage Bureau for Rich People CBF: You grew up in Vizag and married a local girl. Was your marriage arranged and if so how did your experience compare with that of the marriage candidates in your book?

Farahad Zama: Yes, my wife’s uncle was our neighbour and that’s how the marriage was arranged. I met my wife for the first time in October and we were married on New Year’s eve, six weeks later.

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Great Read-aloud Books

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Reading aloud is an ideal activity to follow a free play session when the children are ready to sit still and be calm for a while. It fosters listening skills that are the basis of the learning process, encourages a love of books and instils a desire in the children to be able to read the stories themselves. Whilst the children I read to love traditional tales such as The Gingerbread Man or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, we usually read contemporary stories. I’m listing some of our favourite books here.

Shark in the Park By (author) Nick SharrattShark in the Park by Nick Sharratt (Corgi Childrens, ISBN 0552549770) is the story of a young boy, Timothy Pope, who goes to the park with his telescope (which obviously rhymes with his name). Each time he looks through the telescope, he sees something that looks like the black fin of a shark, so he shouts out ‘There’s a shark in the park!’. This is repeated several times throughout the book, and the children know when it’s coming and love to shout the phrase out themselves each time.

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Anjum Hasan talks to Curious Book Fans

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Anjum Hasan’s latest novel, Neti, Neti (Roli Books, 2009) was long-listed for the Man Asia Literary Prize. Her first novel, Lunatic in my Head (2007) was shortlisted for the Crossword Fiction Award. She is also the author of the book of poems Street on the Hill (2006). Anjum has published poems, short fiction and essays in various national and international magazines and anthologies.

Anjum Hasan

CBF: This is your second book about Sophie – what is it about her that makes you want to continue writing about her?

Anjum Hasan: I like the fact that she’s a bit of waif-like character – unmoored from everything, rootless, lacking any kind of cultural safety net.

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Lady Kishwar Desai talks to Curious Book Fans

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After publishing the review of Lady Kishwar Desai’s latest novel “Witness the Night” we were curious to learn more about the author and the background of this powerful story about prejudice and violence against women. Kishwar has had a long career working in media as a journalist, TV anchor and producer, as well as becoming head of an Indian TV channel. She is now a full-time writer with a weekly Saturday column in The Asian Age newspaper.  She lives between London, Delhi and Goa, currently working on a biography of Devika Rani and Himansu Rai.

Kishwar DesaiCBF: Why did you think of gendercide as the theme for your first novel?

Kishwar Desai: It was a chance encounter while I was running a TV Channel in Punjab, and one of the guests on the channel starting telling me about her life. It turned out that she had survived an attempt to give her opium and then kill her when she was born. Her story haunted me –and I kept wondering how she would feel, as an adult , looking at her parents and seeing her would-be assassins.

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Mukul Deva talks to Curious Book Fans

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In addition to a review of his three books we publish this mini interview with India’s literary storm trooper and one of the pioneers of the Indian thriller novel, Mukul Deva.

Mukul DevaCBF: When did you realise there was a need for an Indian thriller?

Mukul Deva: It is surprising that for a country with a such a rich military tradition Indians have not attempted this genre before. More so since the sub-continent is positively teeming with a wealth of story ideas that are absolutely ideal for this genre.

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Travelling around India

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India in Slow Motion By Mark Tully, By Gillian WrightMark Tully wrote this book with his partner, Gillian, although his is the only name on the front cover of the version I have. Tully was born in India, but educated in the UK. He then returned to South Asia as a journalist with the BBC. He later left the BBC and became a journalist in New Delhi, working with Gillian, a translator. He has written two other books on India, also with Gillian.

The book is a description of one of Tully’s journeys around India, investigating a number of issues related to India’s governance. During their journey, they meet a number of men and occasionally women who are trying to contribute, in their individual ways, to the smoother running of the country. These issues include politics, economics, religion and culture, such as child labour in the Indian rug-making industry, corruption, Kashmir and the IT industry.

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Literary Trip to Delhi

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I first discovered the joys of reading books about a city whilst in situ when I sat in a hotel room in Mumbai with two books in front of me – a local guidebook and Leslie Forbes’ great thriller “Bombay Ice“. Without question I learned a lot more about the city from the novel than I ever could have done from the guidebook. Ever since that time I’ve tried to find books about the cities I love – and top of that list, the place I return to time and time again is Delhi.

Bahai Lotus Temple, DelhiThe must-read novel for anyone interested in this city is “Delhi: A Novel” by the great Indian writer Khushwant Singh. It’s definitely one for the less prudish reader as it gets a bit racy by Indian standards and you could be forgiven for thinking that his hero, another Mr Singh, appears to sleep with just about everyone he meets.

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What do you read when you travel?

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Curious Book Fans and people who like to read what Curious Book Fans write are preparing to travel during summer season. To help them have more fun and enjoy their escape from everyday lives we are starting a series of articles devoted to travel reading. We’ll try to create lists of books related to certain destinations or trips or simply write about books we read while travelling.

Clean BreaksFeel free to contribute your travel reading related thoughts through our Forum or simply by commenting on articles. You can easily start your own discussion thread or join existing ones. While on Forum you will be able to take part in our travel themed book giveaway competition and win fantastic guide book with 500 ideas for Clean Breaks (or one of 3 more book prizes).

We are starting the journey with koshkha’s out of the ordinary Literary Trip to Delhi and I am sure you will feel like you’ve been there by simply reading all the books she recommends. If you really plan to travel to Delhi and read all those books from her list you’d better buy an eBook reader to avoid overweight luggage charges. Bon voyage with Curious Book Fans!


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Hilary Spurling talks to Curious Book Fans

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Pearl Buck (1892-1973) was the first person to make China accessible to the West. She recreated the lives of ordinary Chinese people in “The Good Earth“, an overnight worldwide bestseller in 1932, later a blockbuster movie. “The Good Earth” still sells around 10,000 copies in the UK every year. Buck went on to become the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938.

Pearl Buck
Pearl Buck

The biography of Pearl Buck has been published by Profile Books on April 1st, 2010. Apart from reviewing the book “Burying the Bones – Pearl Buck in China” we were curious to hear a little bit more from Hilary Spurling, the author of this extraordinary biography.

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Sorayya Khan talks to Curious Book Fans

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In the first ever author’s interview on Curious Book Fans site we talk to Sorayya Khan, author of novels Noor (2003) and Five Queen’s Road (2009). She was born in Europe, grew up in Pakistan and now lives in the US. Sorayya KhanShe received a Fulbright award and Constance Saltonstall Foundation Artist Grant. Her story, “In the Shadows of the Margalla Hills,” won the 1995 Malahat Review First Novella prize. Her work has been anthologized in several collections, including Bapsi Sidhwa’s City Of Sin And Splendor: Writings On Lahore.

Intrigued by her splendid family saga Five Queen’s Road and her internationally diverse background we were very curious to hear more from Sorayya herself.

CBF: Whilst reading Five Queen’s Road I had you earmarked as the daughter of the Dutch mother and Pakistani father who feature in the story. Are these characters based on your parents and did Five Queen’s Road and the families that lived there really exist?

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