Saturday, October 23, 2010

Kafka in Ayodhya (a short story)

Ever since the Ayodhya verdict of Sept 30 was announced, I wanted to respond to it in my own way. Then I thought: what would Kafka make of it? This case is 60 years old.

Over three nights, I wrote this first draft. The descriptions of Kafka, his life, his likes and dislikes are all authentic. But yes, he is long dead. Gregor in the story is Gregor Samsa, the dung-beetle protagonist of Kafka's most famous story, The Metamorphosis.

Read the first part here and tell me what you think of it: Kafka in Ayodhya
(Pls ignore the typos)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Love and Lust Live!

I should have written this post at least two weeks ago but due to my preparations for Germany, I could not find the time to write about an excellent event that took place on Sept 30 at the Substation.

First of all it was my first visit to the Substation, an impressive arts venue on the Armenian Road. The second special reason was that the event was about the anthology, Love and Lust in Singapore, to which I too had contributed a story. Fellow writer Marc Checkley organised the event and it was fabulous to see some of the stories performed live in a cosy, laidback atmosphere, with wine glasses in hand.

Marc came up with this idea for a "steamy literary event" when he read some of the other stories in the anthology. And instead of organising a run of the mill "book store reading" event, he wanted to strike a different note. High Commissions of New Zealand and Australia chipped in with their support and the event was ready to go.

A total of six stories were performed: Dawn Farnham's I Got You Babe by Sharul Channa and Filial Piety by the show business veteran Koh Chieng Mun; Linda Collin's Dad Jeans by Lora Wilkinson; Felix Cheong's It's A Wonderful Lie by Paul Falzon; and Damyanti Ghosh's Peeping Toe by Rishi Budhrani. Marc performed his own story, Nasri.

All the performances were fantastic and enjoyable, with excellent audio-visual backdrops. The event was so successful that all tickets were sold out in advance. After the event, I don't think anyone went home without feeling a bit in love and a bit lusty. Full marks to Marc and his team for organising such a beautiful event.

Mario Vargas Llosa and the future of books

I was in Germany when Mario Vargas Llosa was announced as this year's winner of Nobel Prize for Literature. Among the Latin American writers, after Marquez and Borges, he is my third favourite writer. I had loved his "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter", inspired by his own experience of marrying his aunt. I bought his The Feast of the Goat and The War of the End of the World long ago but am yet to read them.

I came across this piece on Mario Vargas Llosa where he talks about the future of books. Those who worry about the future of books should read Jonathan Franzen's How to be Alone (the book). He shares his doubts on this theme but his reading is optimistic. Here, in this interview, Mario Vargas Llosa makes some very important points that go into the heart of literature and why we should value it:

"I think there is a danger that the technology will impoverish the contents of the book," he said.

"But this also depends on us: if we want literature to keep being what it has been, it is in our hands."

Vargas Llosa, who is teaching his philosophy of literature at Princeton University in New Jersey this semester, gave a vibrant defense of its continuing relevance.

"Reading has to be encouraged in the new generations, and young people especially have to be convinced that literature is not just knowledge, that literature is not just a way to acquire certain concepts or ideas, but is an extraordinary pleasure."

Good literature is "fundamental if we want to live in freedom in the future" because it creates citizens who are less easily manipulated by those in power.

"Nothing awakens the critical spirit in a society as much as good literature. That is why the first thing all dictatorial regimes do, not matter what their stripe, is impose censorship.

"They try to control what is the literary life because they see in the literary life the seeds of danger to power.

"And it's true: good literature, by awakening the critical spirit, creates citizens who are more difficult to manipulate than in a society without literature and without good books."