SPECIAL SECTION: Writing from Modern India

  • Guest edited by Sudeep Sen Sudeep Sen To celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of India’s Republic, the current issue of World Literature Today showcases some of the best cutting-edge modern Indian and Indian diasporic writers who write in English and some of India’s other major languages—Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Oriya, and Malayalam. The list of authors on display is by no means comprehens...
  • The following post-independence books have served as important literary markers: Fiction, Poetry & DramaAgha Shahid Ali, The Veiled Suite: Collected Poems (Penguin, 2009)Sarnath Banerjee, Corridor (Penguin, 2004)Samit Basu, The GameWorld Trilogy: The Simoqin Prophecies, The Manticore's Secret, The Unwaba Revelations (Penguin, 2004–7) Upa...
  • Two friends in New York City find themselves unexpectedly at a roundabout where life, love, desire, and death all want right of way. In the struggle that ensues, there is a winner, but it isn’t one of them. A brief excerpt from “Palisades” appeared on page 49 of the November 2010 issue of World Literature Today; herewith the complete text. Dalia Stern was a young sixty-three. S...
  • Was it a Sunday eveningWhen you left a window carelessly openYou rang first that gong of betrayal? Was it one high noonWhen you thoughtlessly fed her bones of the lambYou sang first that litany of duplicity? Was it under a moonlit skyWhen your face flowered in surreptitious joyYou knew first that triumph of transgression? Was it under a kitchen lightAs you lay bare fish bones of guiltYou exorcis...
  •            How sweet the past is, no matter how wrong, or how sad.                                                            – Charles Wright I watch the icicles              unravel from the rooftops of this winter town,everything       everyone         turned lazy toward the sun’syellow-gold tease. Clutch of mud at my feet and I’m reduced. ——— Once on that field near the flat blue ho...
  • Here, every child is scared to playHere, every squirrel has a bullet-proof home Here, every old man wants to commit suicideThere is no difference between a soldier and a manNo difference between the killer and the killedBoth are poor, both are hungry, both are tortured. Poets of India, can you walk between two fires?   Translation from the Bengali By the poet
  •   I spread out earth’s green bedI pull in sky’s blue veilI place sun and moon on two pillowsI remove grass’s attireI indulge in play with you. Translation from the Hindi By Sudeep Sen
  • My small worldlies suspended betweenthe four walls of your house.There is no entry sign,yet my life, leashed to it,keeps moving endless round and round. From wherever I startI reach your house, sure as death,as though all roads leadto this single destination. It’s easy to find it –on the front lawnwinter sleeps at noonas the spotless daydries in the sunlike your cast-off sari.Your pet clouds lou...
  • Ah the Raj! Our mother-incarnate Victoria Imperatrix rules the sceptred sphere overseeing legions of maidens’ “fishing fleets” that break the waves to net the love of a heaven Etonian!Fetes on lawns with mansion whacking banks or dances by moonlightat the Viceroy – the Viceroy’s ball!  The burra pegs of brandy pawneeand pink gin in barrack roomsthat require the doolally scram on Jal...
  • you became real to me fatherwhen I saw you fly over me from beneath the waves a bone-white door against the cloud-white ceilinglooking for me, flapping and furious I watched you in the dark as you sleptknowing the edge of you only by the deeper darkness below you now in the blue-black, a starwinking out, I am thinking I may wake up in the labyrinth and not ever do thisnot seek for the sun oh fat...
  • Salt is earth’s sorrow and its taste.Earth’s three-fourths is brackish water,and men’s heart a salt mountain.Weak is salt’s heart,very quickly it melts,it sinks in shamewhen plates are flungdue to salt’s varied strength.There stands – a government building – like a salt shaker – shakes with much sophistication, sprinklessalt in my wound.Women are the salt of the earth,they have all the salt in t...
  • Still from The Coward (1965), based on Mitra’s story, directed by Satyajit Ray and starring Soumitra Chatterjee and Madhabi Mukherjee Karuna brought me my morning cup of tea herself.            I couldn’t help laughing at the accompaniments to the tea. “The climate here in your part of the world may be excellent,” I told her, “but my digestive system is still a hundred percent Indian—a couple of...
  • Sudeep Sen I n a WLT exclusive, Ziaul Karim—executive editor of Jamini, an international arts magazine, and former literary editor of the Daily Star—sat down with Sudeep Sen to discuss the many influences that inform Sen’s work: Eastern and Western poetry, architecture, art, music, photography, and dance, most notably. What follows is the full text of their conversation, an...
  • Rabindranath Tagore   In Paris this past May, in honor of next year’s Rabindranath Tagore sesquicentennial, UNESCO launched the beginning of a year-long commemoration—including worldwide cultural events and exhibitions—that will culminate on May 7, 2011, the 150th anniversary of Tagore’s birth. The first Asian writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (1913), Tagore (1861–...