May 31, 2020
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It might still be hard to find books on the Northeast, but things are changing fast


An Open House

It might still be hard to find books on the Northeast, but things are changing fast. Literary stars from the Northeast like Temsula Ao and Mamang Dai have begun to make their mark in Delhi. Right now Aruni Kashyap is more famous for his literary agent—David Godwin—than his debut The House With a Thousand Novels that Penguin has just bought. But the book, about the ruthless methods employed by the Centre to suppress the Assamese separatist movement, is likely to transform the prejudices against literature from here. Which might explain the first Asia International Literary Festival held by the North East Writers’ Forum in Guwahati from December 3-5 attracted so many writers from the ‘mainland’. Writers from Delhi and Mumbai, including Mahesh Dattani and Mark Tully, came away convinced they’d never be able to ignore the Northeast again.

Well Cooked

The flavour of the year seems to be non-fiction written with the panache of fiction. This year’s Shakti Bhatt First Book prize of Rs 1 lakh has been awarded to journalist Samanth Subramanian’s entertaining travelogue, Following Fish. With three novels—Home Boy by H.M. Naqvi, House on Mall Road by Mohyna Srinivasan and The Wishmaker by Ali Sethi; Songs of Blood and Sword by Fatima Bhutto; and a graphic novel, Delhi Calm by Vishwajyoti Ghosh on the shortlist, the judges had no trouble picking Fish as the winner.

Of Shorter Length

If you were sick of encountering Man Asian prize longlisters wherever you turned, here’s some good news: in the prize’s new format, entries are only for published books and the longlist will be limited to 10-15 books.

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