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Review of The Dog of Tithwal in The Wall Street Journal

We are delighted to share that Boyd Tonkin’s wonderful review of Saadat Hasan Manto’s The Dog of Tithwal, translated from the Urdu by Khalid Hasan and Muhammad Umar Memon, was published today in The Wall Street Journal. Tonkin takes care to situate Manto within his cultural moment and examines many inimitable threads of Manto’s profound contribution to literature. You can find the review here, and read an excerpt below:

Despite his renown, it has proved hard for English-language readers to measure Manto’s achievement. Translations have been patchy, although Vintage issued the excellent selection “Bombay Stories” in 2014. This scarcity makes Archipelago’s new collection of 32 stories all the more welcome. Mostly translated by Khalid Hasan and Muhammad Umar Memon, but with four contributions from Aatish Taseer, the volume comes with a preface by Vijay Seshadri that sketches the qualities of Manto’s “firm, precise, and limpid Urdu prose.” His empathy, obliquity and narrative economy invite comparisons with Chekhov. These readable, idiomatic translations have all the agile swiftness and understated poignancy that parallel suggests. But the world they bring to life can be brutal indeed.

Manto’s style encompasses droll fable, mordant satire and grainy realism. “Mummy” itself shows him at his bittersweet best. Set in the Indian city of Pune during World War II, it depicts Manto himself—or, at least, a fictional avatar of the author—as he spends a debauched holiday with movie-business pals: bit-part actors, wannabe directors, screen- struck parasites and fantasists. Through their alcoholic haze drifts the legendary “Mummy”: an Anglo-Indian (mixed-race) woman called Stella Jackson who runs a genteel bordello. Like the movies themselves, Mummy conjures a “simple and beautiful and reassuring” world of pain-free pleasure where her rum- and Scotch-guzzling clients “felt no emotional unease.” Instead, Manto shifts that unease onto the reader. We glimpse the despairing inertia of the men and the peril and confusion of Mummy’s teenage charges. During this story about self-deluding sentimentalism and the harm it spreads, his friend Chadda tipsily toasts “this man called Manto,” who “claims that he can fathom the depths of the human soul.” For Chadda, that’s “a lot of rubbish.” Readers may disagree.

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Paulina Chiziane wins the 2021 Camões Prize

 

We’re delighted to share that groundbreaking Mozambican writer, Paulina Chiziane, has won this year’s Camões Prize. The Portuguese Culture Minister, Graça Fonseca, announced that “the jury unanimously decided to award the prize to Mozambican writer Paulina Chiziane, highlighting her vast production and critical reception, as well as the academic and institutional recognition of her work.”

The Camões Prize for literature in Portuguese was established by Portugal and Brazil with the purpose of distinguishing an author “whose work contributes to the projection and recognition of the literary and cultural heritage of the common language.” Chiziane is the first African woman to win the Camões prize.

Paulina Chiziane was born in 1955 in an area of Mozambique in which communication with the white colonizers was forbidden. In her mid-twenties she devoted herself to writing and became the first Mozambican woman with a published novel. When handed this title, however, she says she is not a novelist; “I am a storyteller . . . take my inspiration from tales around the campfire, my first art school.” Her works explore themes of race, polygamy, colonization, and cultural change in her country.

In 2016, Archipelago published Chiziane’s The First Wife, translated into English by . For the London Review of Books, Sheila Heti wrote, ” . . . the people who will change Chiziane’s country (or any country) need love stories like The First Wife, which admit that no new freedoms are gained without seemingly pointless suffering . . . Chiziane’s prose alternates between a dramatic, high-octave style . . . and a terse and humorous frankness. She cites the Portuguese poet Florbela Espanca as her most important influence, and there is something similar in the way both writers are able to express the peaks of emotion, while never forgetting the part of the self which evaluates oneself.”

Read more about Paulina Chiziane and the Camões Prize here.

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In Memoriam: The Life and Works of Kjell Askildsen

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Norwegian writer, Kjell Askildsen (born 1929).

Askildsen is one of the most acclaimed modern Norwegian writers, particularly for his short stories. In recent years, Askildsen’s books began garnering a well-deserved international audience, with publication of his collected works in the US, UK, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden, among other countries.

In April of this year, Archipelago published Askildsen’s Everything Like Before, translated into English by Seán Kinsella. The collection received glowing reviews from its English-speaking readers, with Publisher’s Weekly writing:

“The lengthier works shine brightest, among them: ‘A Sudden Liberating Thought’ in which a Beckett-like series of encounters between two old men becomes a discourse on euthanasia; and ‘Mardon’s Night,’ where three people’s thoughts and actions blur in enigmatic blocks of text…. this definitive volume brims with stellar material.”

We are grateful that we had the opportunity to publish Kjell Askildsen’s work. His stories will continue to excite and inspire for years to come.