Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Book event: The Sum of Our Follies

Yes, we are not calling it a book launch (it is such a cliche), but a book event. Shih-Li will talk about the process of writing her book, which she says took longer than she expected. We can imagine the process and thoroughly enjoyed editing her work (which turned out to be minimal). No sledgehammer work here, nor slash and burn.


Speaker: Shih-Li Kow (Author)
Venue: Silverfish Books, 28-1 Jalan Telawi, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-228 448 37
Date and time: Saturday, 12 April 2014, 5.30pm.
Admission is free.

About the author:

Shih-Li Kow is a home-grown Malaysian writing sensation who came to light with her first book of short stories, Ripples and other stories, in 2009, which was immediately shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award that year, beating Ali Smith and Kazuo Ishiguro to the list.

Shih-Li Kow's short stories have appeared in several anthologies since her first publication in 2007. She currently works in real estate management and lives in Kuala Lumpur with her extended family, cat and a beehive.

About the book:

Stylish, subtle and funny, Shih-Li is an amazing storyteller. The Sum of Our Follies is the story of characters living in a backwater town, Lubok Sayong, in Malaysia with no claim to fame apart from its annual floods, a dubious legend and entrenched mediocrity, struggling with modernity; one that could be compared to the little towns and characters of Amado and Narayan, with just a touch of Calvino. It is not surprising that it attracted much interest in Frankfurt in October last year, and Italian rights have been sold. (All this before the manuscript was finalised and published!)

An extract:

“Call us Tim and Peggy,” they said. Mami kept getting their names wrong and she called them Tom and Jerry. I thought that she did it on purpose. I wondered if Tim and Peggy shared my suspicion. They wanted to know about the house. Everyone who came wanted to know about the house.
“My father built this house. He was an unnatural man,” said Mami.
“An unnatural man?” Mr Miller raised his eyebrows at his wife. They didn’t know that Mami used the word ‘unnatural’ a lot. They must have thought she meant her father was a perv.
“Yes, unnatural. Funny funny, you know. Not normal, not your usual father. He built this house for the loves of his life,” explained Mami. “He had many loves in his life, but the greatest were these four. The rest, he did not marry. More interestingly … eh … Jerry, was that these four agreed to marry him, considering he was not half as good-looking as your Mr Tom here. My father was as ugly as a monkey crossed with goat, but he was very charming. He could talk birds down from trees.”

Rabindranath Tagore book event by Prof Dr MA Quayum

(This event is in early May, but I may not have enough time to send out the mailers before that because I will be back from the US just then.)

Speaker: Prof Dr MA Quayum (of the International Islamic University Malaysia)
Venue: Silverfish Books, 28-1, Jalan Telawi, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur
Date and Time: Saturday, 3 May, 2014 at 5.30 pm
Admission is free.

The book, The Ruined Nest and other stories was planned to be released in 2013, 100 years after Rabindranath Tagore's Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. But Prof Quayum, the perfectionist that he is, decided it would be better to publish a good book late than rush one out that we're not fully satisfied. This is in full agreement with the ethos of Silverfish Books. The date for the book event was not picked accidentally, as the 153rd anniversary of Tagore's birthday would fall on 7 May, 2014.

After reading just one of the 20 short stories (the title story is actually a novella), we were convinced that this was not the work of a journeyman translator but by a master and a lifelong scholar of the works of Rabindranath Tagore. Add this to the fact that Prof Quayum is a native Bengali speaker and a professor of English, and we have a work that can only be described as beautiful. Although universally acknowledged for his poems, and dubbed gurudev (master teacher), kabiguru (master poet) and bishwaskabi (world poet), Tagore was a master of the short story form in Bengali, having written 95 and compared favourably to Anton Chekhov and Guy de Maupassant.

Praise for Prof Quayum from The Daily Star, Bangladesh. (There are literally dozens of them, but this is one we like).

In any translation it is very difficult to keep intact the sense of each context. Quayum’s translation is as close as one can get: clear, contemporary and accessible to a modern English-reading global audience. It is not handicapped by the ignorance of the translator of certain delicate nuances of the Bengali language, especially in the context of intimate household expressions. There is commendable fidelity and honesty in Quayum’s translation. It once again opens up the possibility of discovering a relevance of Tagore's creations more than a century after they were composed…. Without hesitation I recommend Professor Quayum’s volume as an authoritative and eminently readable translation, an essential Tagore for collectors. It should find a place on every discerning reader’s shelf.   

About the author

Mohammad A. Quayum is professor of English at International Islamic University Malaysia, and Adjunct of Professor in the School of Humanities, at Flinders University, Australia. He has previously taught at universities in Bangladesh, Singapore and the United States. Quayum is the author, editor or translator of 27 books far too numerous to be listed here. His essays on American and Postcolonial Literatures have appeared in prominent literary journals in Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, the UK and the USA. Quayum is a leading literary scholar in South and Southeast Asia. He is the Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief of Asiatic: IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature, and is on the Advisory Board of several distinguished literary journal around the world.