We kick off this new cycle of publishing with Dr. Chaandreyi Mukherjee’s book review of Alejandro Zambra’s “Chilean Poet” (Granta Books, 2022, translated by Megan McDowell). In this review, Mukherjee travels through Zambra’s text while contextualizing its importance within Chile’s history—with the necessary cultural and literary considerations that lend to the great value Zambra holds within Spanish American writing. The review succeeds in locating Zambra’s work within a larger heritage of Chilean poets and writers while also—and perhaps inadvertently—explaining the great allure of Zambra’s work for readers worldwide, including Dr. Mukherjee, whose enthusiasm is endearing to the need of such works being read far beyond their usual cultural and linguistic spaces—all the way from South Asian academic and literary circles.
Hospital — An Excerpt from Freny Manecksha’s “Flaming Forest, Wounded Valley” (Speaking Tiger, 2022)
Freny Manecksha presents an excerpt from the sixth chapter of her latest book, Flaming Forest, Wounded Valley, published earlier this year by Speaking Tiger Books. As a major portion of the chapter aptly titled “Hospital”, this excerpt Manecksha provides a thorough insight into what transpired in Kashmir’s hospitals from the 90s all the way up to 2016. Traversing a harrowing timeline full of violence, killing, injury and loss, Freny is able to recount multiple stories from the perspective of the medical professionals, victims of war, volunteers, patients and the family members who she cites and whose version of the accounts she retrieves from a wide array of published (and verified) sources and archives.
Note: This excerpt is published with the exclusive permission of the book’s author, Freny Manecksha, and its publisher, Speaking Tiger Books.
In this commentary on two translations of Alejandro Zambra’s novel “Bonsai”, Mubashir Karim performs an exercise in “literary appreciation” that functions equally well as a concise comparative study of the two translations—one by Megan McDowell and the other by Carolina de Robertis. As the commentary progresses, the linguistic expression of the original novel (in Spanish) permeates into the style of writing employed by professor Karim in his deep engagement with the two translations into English by McDowell and de Robertis.
Writing all the way from Kashmir about the two translations of a celebrated novel by a Chilean writer and poet, Mubashir Karim’s commentary directly or indirectly prompts a comparison with Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali’s poem “I See Chile in My Rearview Mirror” as a second instance where Kashmir salutes Chile and Latin America by extension—perhaps because there is a similitude to be found in the experience of multiple histories by multiple subjects whose contemporaneity converges in the study and appreciation of the literary craft, linguistic barriers notwithstanding (“no obstante”).
Given the references to explicit uses of language in the novella, reader discretion is advised.
When the Light Dawned by Somnath Zutshi — A Book Excerpt from The Greatest Kashmiri Short Stories Ever Told (trans. Neerja Mattoo, Aleph, 2022)
We are proud to present Somnath Zutshi’s short story “When the Light Dawned” excerpted from The Greatest Kashmiri Short Stories Ever Told (Aleph, 2022) selected and translated by Neerja Mattoo. Inverse Journal has independently curated a visual bibliography of links relevant to the book and its author. Special thanks to Majid Maqbool for sourcing this excerpt.
Faizan Akbar presents a paper that also operates as an extensive book review of Immanuel Kant’s “Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals” (1785). After providing an apt introduction of the German philosopher, along with a summary of his other works, Akbar proceeds to effectively synthesize the main ideas and focal points found in Kant’s 60-page work. Secondly, Faizan also completes the task of reviewing such a seminal work of philosophical importance and contextualizes its greater relevance within the broader Western philosophical tradition.
Dr. Sapna Dogra reviews Sanjeev Sethi’s concise book of poems “Bleb” (Hybriddreich, 2021). In her short review, the academic excavates important aspects of the poet’s recent work, while discussing the significance of this “Wee Book of Wee Poems” through a critical engagement that is both concise and precise.
As we come to the end of this difficult year and enter the new one, Inverse Journal has asked its contributors to participate in a collective piece where they share—with our readers and their fellow contributors—the one book and/or the one song that stayed with them throughout the year or during a considerable part of it. Below are entries from some of our contributors who responded to the online survey and shared their picks for this 2021 as it passes by. In a human world where catastrophe and devastation also wreak their havoc on meaning-making and signification, one imagines that books and songs are imbued with a restorative and restructuring power—with both operating within and outside of human time. It with this thought in mind that Inverse Journal presents a limited selection of such books and songs curated and picked by some of the same contributors who make this space possible.
A Movement in Kashmir’s Historiography: Reviewing Khalid Bashir’s Kashmir: Looking Back in Time — Dr. Javid Ahmad Ahanger
Dr. Javid Ahmad Ahanger reviews Khalid Bashir Ahmad’s “Kashmir: Looking Back in Time (Politics, Culture, History)” (Atlantic, 2021) situating the author’s work within a larger tradition of historiography. In the process, Dr. Ahanger evaluates Bashir’s book for the value it adds to Kashmiri scholarship during contemporary times while visiting some of the core topics and ideas that the text unveils or that had not been considered previously with the type of historical analysis it brings to fore.
BOOK EXCERPT: Resisting Disappearance: Military Occupation & Women’s Activism in Kashmir (Zubaan, 2020) — by Ather Zia
Inverse Journal presents an excerpt from the first chapter (“The Politics of Mourning”) of Resisting Disappearance: Military Occupation & Women’s Activism in Kashmir (Zubaan, 2020) by Ather Zia. These selections are part of a book produced from the combination of rigorous academic research and a decade of robust fieldwork coupled with the capacity to present ethnography through a poetic language that the text internally innovates upon.
Along with a poem at end of the book’s introduction, Inverse Journal has included an independently curated visual bibliography with links and media relevant to the book and its author.
WHO KILLED MY SON: The Wounded Spectators of the 1990s — An Excerpt from Freny Manecksha’s Behold, I Shine: Narratives of Kashmir’s Women and Children (Rupa Publications, 2017)
Inverse Journal presents Chapter 3 of Freny Manecksha’s seminal text on the women and children of Kashmir, that as much as a book is also a map of human stories bearing witness to suffering, struggle, perseverance, and hope. Inverse Journal has included a visual bibliography on articles, reviews and media relevant to the book and its author. This excerpt from Behold, I Shine: Narratives of Kashmir’s Women and Children (2017) is published in our Books section with permission from its author and by courtesy of the book’s publisher, Rupa Publications.
Originally published on his personal blog, Tabish Rafiq Mir shares with us a timely review (that is more of an inspired response) to Farah Bashir’s “Rumours of Spring” (Harper Collins, 2021). In not sticking to conventions, Tabish divides his response into eleven sections, each of which provide new insights to contextualize the importance of Bashir’s text situated within a broader history. Writing such as this reminds of the type of engagement dedicated readers will have with memoirs, reminding us that reading a memoir entails entering the space of voyage within time and place, in the contours of what is recollected and remembered. Such remembrance, as personal as it may be, is for many a collective one, making Farah Bashir’s memoir as relatable as the commentary in response that Tabish Rafiq Mir is inspired to put on paper. From a personal narration, the history of an entire peoples can be retrieved, such that personal and collective experience are revealed to be intertwined, as is customary with the genre. However, in this mode, Bashir’s text stands out as an abstraction that allows for a necessary distance required to reflect and revisit the everyday lived reality of Kashmir over the last decades, while simultaneously remaining immersed in that concrete world through its honest narration that requires no embellishments. The result is an elaborate reminder for readers to never allow for the continued normalization of an imposed state that not only shaped but confined Kashmir’s collective memory in very specific and strategic ways. Whether we carry our memories or whether our memories carry us is perhaps indistinguishable when it comes to Bashir’s book, especially when subjective experience is detailed with such authenticity that it verbalizes that which many others rendered speechless or exiled from expression have gone through. With each word measured, Tabish’s commentary sheds light on this and many other aspects of Farah’s memoir, establishing it as one of the most significant books within its genre to have arrived till date. Inverse Journal has included an independently curated list of links relevant to the book and its author.
Toiba Paul presents her review of “The Book Thief”, the best-selling novel by Markus Zusak that was also adapted into a popular film. Toiba’s review more specifically addresses the commonalities of the human experience shared between those who lived in wartime Germany with the Nazi regime in power and those who have live in Kashmir. While no direct analogy is perfect, the review focuses on individual experiences and suffering brought about by war and relates these back and forth between the world depicted in the novel and the world that surrounds people living in Kashmir. Since literature and fiction are particularly adept in communicating individual experiences of circumstances as vast as war, Paul is effective in conveying the similitude that exists between the Kashmiri experience under war with that of the characters in Zusak’s novel. In doing so, the young writer makes a compelling case for why “The Book Thief” should be read widely in Kashmir and how it can help contextualize the unaddressed experiences of those who live or have had to live under brutal violence and repression.