Skip to main content

Posts

Rediscovering My Roots: Literacy and History on Mother Language Day

 You may know that today is International Mother Language Day , but why is it important?      On this day in 1952, in what was then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Bengali university students were shot and killed by armed police, while protesting for the recognition of Bangla, rather than Urdu, as the official language of East Pakistan. It would be some years before Bangla was officially recognised as the state language of East Pakistan, but this day marked the beginning of the independence movement for a sovereign Bangladesh. People in Bangladesh mark today with a national holiday, songs and poetry recitals, repeating the words “amra tomader bhulbo na.” We will not forget you. monument to the martyrs of the language movement      My parents have always tried to instill in us a sense of the importance of learning Bangla, but for many Bangladeshis in Britain, their mother tongue is not actually the ‘standard’ Bangla but one of the regional dialects from Sylhet, Noakhali, Chittagong o
Recent posts

Love Poems by Hafiz & the Problem of Representation in Translation

This Valentine's Day I was excited to read these translations of some of the poems of the famous Persian poet Shamsuddin Muhammad Hafiz. The title -  The Subject Tonight Is Love: 60 Wild and Sweet Poems of Hafiz -  is so fitting for Valentine's Day, although of course Hafiz was not just a romantic poet; his poems can also be read as spiritual, being addressed to the Divine. The poems in this volume certainly give a taste of the spiritual and emotional intensity that Hafiz is known for. By Abolhassan Sadighi - Society for the National Heritage of Iran, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=86911865 However, I was disappointed to find that these translations by Daniel Ladinsky, published in 1996, were based not on the original Persian, but on the 1891 English translations of H. Wilberforce Clarke. It might be more accurate to say that they are translations of a translation. Since every act of translation involves a measure of interpretation, this in it

Reflections on Romance & Race: Open Water - Review

 A lyrical, reflective journey through the course of one London summer, the relationships and encounters that shape a life, and coming to terms with emotional trauma. So often, while reading this book, I felt I was drifting out onto open water on the currents and eddies of Nelson’s beautiful prose. The central current that carries the narrative forward, is the romance at its heart. But swirling and coursing around and beneath it, are stories about pain, about loss, about living an authentic life and seeing yourself as others see you. A couple of stumbling blocks: one was the choice to narrate in the second person. Because the main protagonist shares a lot of characteristics with Nelson himself, I read it as an attempt to put some – but not too much - distance between the narrating persona and the protagonist. However I was never really sure whether the narrator is Nelson speaking to himself, or whether he is addressing a collective young black male entity. The other was that sometime

Heathcliff's Tale: A Gothic Romance Gone Wrong?

On a stormy New Year’s Eve, a solicitor’s clerk, Henry Newby, arrives on the doorstep of the Bront ë parsonage in Haworth. He has been sent, by his uncle’s publishing firm, to retrieve an unpublished manuscript of the late Ellis Bell. While there, Newby finds some pages burning in the fireplace that he picks out and reads. He seems to think they relate a true account of real people, however it’s clear to the reader that they are the very pages that the publisher has sent him to collect, and appear to be a continuation, or elaboration, of the story told in Wuthering Heights.       The novel is told through the writings of Henry Newby and the fragments of manuscript that he gathers, and is interspersed throughout with ‘Editor’s Notes’ from a fictional, unknown editor publishing these papers after Newby’s death. But we are never really sure who wrote them, or whether they are biography or fiction.       This is a gothic imagining of the untold parts of Wuthering Heights, drawn partly fro

Ghosts, Horse Thieves and Teenage Sleuths: The Abbey Mystery - Review

     I read Julia Golding’s previous novel The Tigers In TheTower last year, and loved its period setting and strong-minded heroine. (Read my review here ). Golding's latest book has the same hallmarks but is set in the Regency rather than Victorian period. It is an enjoyable tale aimed at middle grade readers, but there’s nothing stopping mums and dads with a penchant for Austen and light mysteries from reading this. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies it ain’t, but if you like your adventures wholesome and your twists gentle, this is for you.      It follows a teenage Jane Austen and her trusty dog Grandison as they are sent to spend a few days at the Southmoor Abbey estate to help Lord and Lady Cromwell prepare for their son’s coming of age celebrations.  But something is not quite right, and Jane is determined to find out what is happening.      As someone who feasted on a diet of Enid Blyton and Nancy Drew mysteries while growing up, I was pleased to find that this book has all

Where Have We Come - Saz Vora: Review

     Where Have We Come is the second book in the Reena and Nikesh series by Saz Vora, and picks up the story after the marriage of the couple, as they expect the birth of their first child. It follows Reena and Nikesh in their first year of marriage, through the birth of their severely disabled son, and, ultimately, coming to terms with his death, with the support of family and friends. Can their relationship stand the pressures of grief, shock revelations, and cultural prejudices?      This is a touching novel that provides a strong contrast to the fairytale romance and Bollywood glamour of the first book, with its more serious tone and consideration of some weighty themes. If the first book had its head in the clouds, this one has its feet firmly planted on the ground. Author Saz Vora’s depiction of what it’s like to be the mother of a severely disabled baby is moving and honest, and it was this that kept me reading to the end.      What Vora does best is to take us through a moth

Black History Month 2020: Round-Up

Greetings, readers, on this lovely October day. As you may know, October is Black History Month. It’s been just over a year since my last Black History Month post and it feels like so much has changed in the world since then: the pandemic and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement have highlighted structural racism and inequalities that still affect black communities in Britain and the US today. As a result there are more open conversations being had about privilege and prejudice, and there are initiatives to decolonise education at all levels. Black representation in publishing is an area where a lot of work remains to be done, although it’s heartening to see that this is also changing for the better. And so, today I am rounding up some of the titles I have read in the last 12 months by black authors, as well as some I still want to read.  Let's start with what I read: Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams: I had heard a lot about this book so I was very interested to try it. The