Monthly Archives: May 2012

Litstuff: Links for May 2012

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Will Self at Kafka’s Wound

Or is it only that every generation manufactures the Kafka they want, and while in the middle of the last century, the Kafka whose minatory tales foreshadowed the Holocaust and Soviet totalitarianism was, in contemporary governmental-business jargon, fit for purpose, now we require another kind of Kafka altogether? The constant here, surely, is irony.

25 Handy Words That Simply Don’t Exist In English

 Litost (Czech): a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery

Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan): A look between two people that suggests an unspoken, shared desire

Waldeinsamkeit (German): The feeling of being alone in the woods

Yoko meshi (Japanese): literally ‘a meal eaten sideways,’ referring to the peculiar stress induced by speaking a foreign language

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Perineum: Nether Parts of an Empire by Ambarish Satwik

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On one of those nights when you usually look for something on TV to watch along with your dinner, I came across  a news channel’s panel discussion – a rare well-moderated session on pornography. Certain members of a state  government had been caught watching porn mid-assembly, and there were heated discussions across channels. There were only 2-3 people on this particular panel whose opinions were intelligent and nuanced, and one of them was Delhi-based vascular surgeon Dr. Ambarish Satwik. But I was more than intrigued when I heard he was also an author of pornographic fiction. Naturally, I had to check him out, and Google scrolled up the tantalisingly titled Perineum: Nether Parts of an Empire. I knew I had to get it.

Also, the guy is hot. Yeah, I’m shallow like that.

Apart from this Tehelka review, and an interview in The Hindu, nothing much of either Ambarish or the book is on the internet. Several online booksellers offer customer reviews at most, but nothing really detailed enough to give you an idea of where this book could  sit on your bookshelf.  Is it literary? Is it historical fiction? Is it light reading / popular fiction? None of those questions were answered for me when I decided to purchase it.

Also, book blurbs – overburdened and vague at best – label Satwik’s writing as “feverish fictions lit by Kafka, stage-managed by Manto” (by Mukul Kesavan). Another description inside says he concocts a “Borgesian fictional labyrinth” that just made me scoff in disbelief.

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On voyeurs and exhibitionists, love and the Gaze in India

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 “I can feel myself under the gaze of someone whose eyes I do not see, not even discern. All that is necessary is for something to signify to me that there may be others there. This window, if it gets a bit dark, and if I have reasons for thinking that there is someone behind it, is straight-away a gaze”

– Jacques Lacan

Sometimes, songs seem to find me when I’m looking for them the hardest. Superstitious crap, perhaps? I’m not sure. There are times when I hear a random song playing in a mall and need to find out who it is, suddenly something will lead me to the artist. For instance at a restaurant called Marche in Singapore once, I heard a clip of what seemed like soulful jazz, sung in something that sounded like French. I immediately asked one of the servers who it was singing, and she had no clue. Five minutes later she popped up, with an iPhone, no less, and told me, “It must be this woman – her name is Cesaria Evora, and the song is apparently ‘Petit Pays. It’s in the Cape Verdean language that has French roots!”

She had an iPhone app to detect songs from recording just a clip.

Things like this have happened time and time again. Just this week, I was humming a folksy tune that I remembered from a few years ago. But I couldn’t remember the words or the artist. I remembered that the music video was shot in an Indian village with lots of TV-like illusions popping up in frames, and that the singer was an Indian female. I googled and tried to YouTube this video for days with every combination of keywords I could imagine, but to no avail, and I just gave up. Then this week, I was being made to watch Satyamev Jayate – an Indian talk show with a bit of a do-gooder host (who I quite dislike) by my mother – and in suffering through it, I sat up when a singer began performing as the end credits began to roll. Her name was Sona Mohapatra and I knew instantly the song I’d been searching for was hers and sure enough, this popped up on YouTube:

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The futility of formally studying literature today (Rant Rant Rant)

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Some disclaimers:

– My focus is only on cultural theory in literary studies and mainly, postcolonialism. I don’t know enough to have a problem with cultural studies  itself, though indications are that I may just rant about that too someday.

– I am not trying to debunk the work of any theorists. Instead, I will be focusing on the consequences of embedding cultural studies in literature courses and the damage I think has been done, as a result.

– My point of interest is Indian literature, and in some cases more specifically, Indian Writing in English. This is obviously because I’m Indian, but also because I’m familiar with the context of cultural studies in India. I have some knowledge of how it works in Australia/New Zealand, but I’m limiting my rant to just India. For now. 

– I use a capitalised ‘West’  to refer to the Western hemisphere and Australia/NZ (though no specific reference is made to Aus/NZ, the school of theory they use is the same as their western hemisphere counterparts).  

– Of course, it shouldn’t need to be said that everything on this blog is my opinion and is expressed as such, so people are welcome to respectfully disagree. 

WARNING: Loooooong post. I hope you have the time.

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