Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Tabish Khair

Born and educated in a small town of India, Tabish Khair now lives in a village of Denmark. Winner of the All India Poetry Prize and shortlisted for a number of international fiction prizes, including the prestigious Man Asian Booker and Encore Prize in UK, Khair is a poet and a novelist who claims to have “never written the same novel twice” and to “hold the world record for short-listings in fiction without a single win.”

His latest novel, to be released in the US on 26 October 2016, is Just Another Jihadi Jane. It tells the story of two British girls who run off to Syria to join the so-called ‘jihad’ and has already been nominated for the Kirkus Prize in the US.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Khair’s reply:
As I teach for a living, I often have to re-read books that are a bit like friends one has known since childhood: one is fond of them, but sometimes dreads listening to the same jokes and anecdotes yet once again. So I won’t list those.

However, one old novel I had never read in the past, but have almost finished reading now is John Fante’s Ask The Dust. I came to it through Charles Bukowski, whose novels are old friends one does not mind listening to once again. Bukowski ranked Fante (little known then, and only a bit better known today), and this novel by Fante, as a seminal influence. I finally got down to reading it this week, and I can see why Bukowski thought so highly of it: it has the same grittiness as Bukowski’s work, and a spare but finely honed writing style, which appeals to me as well. Depressing at times – Fante sees human nature as even more vile than Bukowski did – but a must-read.

I also just read Amitav Ghosh’s new study, The Great Derangement, which is about climate change and the surprising inability of fiction to narrate it. Highly readable, erudite and thought-provoking at the same time.

I am also starting on the Caribbean-British poet, Vahni Capildeo’s Measures of Expatriation, which has just won the Forward Poetry Prize in UK and Hirsh Sawhney’s South Haven: A Novel, which is a poetic and irreverent coming-to-age story set in the US.
Visit Tabish Khair's website and learn more about Just Another Jihadi Jane.

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