Monday, March 08, 2010

uproar over plans to close bbc asian network

above: Asian Network DJs Bobby Friction (L) and Nihal
Plans to close BBC Asian Network radio cause dismay
by Susannah Tarbush
Saudi Gazette, 8 March 2010

BBC Director General Mark Thompson’s [pictured] confirmation last week that the BBC proposes to axe its Asian Network digital radio station as part of the strategy review he has submitted to the BBC Trust Chairman Sir Michael Lyons, has triggered dismay and anger among Britain’s South Asian community of around 2.5 million people.

The Asian Network was launched as a national digital radio station in 2002. Under the proposal it would be replaced by local Asian services in five areas – London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leicester and West Yorkshire – and for only a few hours a day.

More than 150 Asians prominent in British arts, music, film, theater, politics and business have signed a letter of protest addressed to the BBC Trust Chairman Sir Michael Lyons, which was published in the Guardian last Saturday.

The signatories included Lord Navnit Dholakia, Lord Kamlesh Patel, Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty, actress Meera Syal [pictured], film director Gurinder Chadha, Olympic medal winning boxer Amir Khan, Labor MP Khalid Mahmood, musician Jay Sean, England cricketer Vikram Solanki, comedienne Shazia Mirza, and the president of the National Association of British Pakistanis and chairman of the Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony Dr. Imam Abdul Jalil Sajid. The letter expressed “profound shock” at the proposal to close the Asian Network as a national station. “The BBC we have grown up with has always prided itself on celebrating diversity. In that respect, the Asian Network is a national platform for musicians, Asian culture in general, news, debate and documentaries.”

The station provides a key platform for the national Asian community, “and offers an outlet to British Asian talent, which is demonstrably underrepresented in the more mainstream BBC.” This would all be “tragically lost” if the proposals are agreed.

The letter added that reducing broadcasts to just a few hours a day would be a retrograde step, leaving only the commercial Asian stations. “These stations will not and cannot deliver as comprehensive a service as the BBC Asian Network. This is a vital part of what the BBC offers in the name of public service broadcasting. As loyal licence-fee players we trust we will not be let down.”

The letter to the Guardian is one of several campaigns to try to rescue the Asian Network. There are several support groups on Facebook, the largest of which, ‘Save the BBC Asian Network!!!’ had by Saturday attracted 18,063 fans. Messages of support are also circulating on Twitter.
The station broadcasts primarily in English, but also broadcasts in Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati and Mirpuri. It has lost around 20 per cent of its listeners over the past three years, and had an average of 360,000 listeners a week at the end of 2009. At its peak it had some half a million listeners. The strategy review aims to free up some £600 million Sterling to be channeled into higher quality BBC productions such as journalism, drama and comedy.

In addition to axing Asian Network, the proposals in the strategy review include closing another digital station, Radio 6 Music and reducing the budget of BBC online by a quarter. A large-scale campaign, with some 100,000 supporters, has sprung up in support of Radio 6 Music, which specializes in “alternative” music genres of today and of the past 40 years. Sir Michael Lyons has admitted that if there is massive concern over the closure of Radio 6 Music, he might ask BBC management to rethink its strategy.

The most popular Asian radio station in Britain is Sunrise, which in addition to its national station also owns a number of local radio stations. Sunrise’s founder and chairman Dr. Avtar Lit has been unsparing in his criticism of Asian Network, describing it last week as “mediocre.” He said: “They had a wonderful opportunity to connect with the Asian community and it has been rejected.”

The founder and editor of Asians in Media online magazine Sunny Hundal [pictured] has criticized Asian Network in the past, but now insists that it is vital that it survives. To axe the station would reduce competition, especially with the Sunrise’s buyout of Club Asia radio late last year. “Closing Asian Network would leave no real alternative to Sunrise.”

Hundal argues that Asian Network has been “a stepping stone for scores of presenters, producers, journalists and actors across the media industry”. And to close the station would be to abandon Asian payers of the BBC license fee, which now stands at 142.50 pounds a year.” To get rid of Asian Network would remove a vital platform for British Asian culture.

Critics of the proposal also ask why the station should be done away with when the BBC is guilty in the eyes of many in massive overspending on bureaucracy and on bloated salaries for senior staff. At one time, its star TV talk show host Jonathan Ross was earning a reputed 6 million pounds a year.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

saudi novelist abdo khal wins the $60,000 'international prize for arabic fiction' aka 'the arabic booker'

This is the press release from the publicist of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, Colman Getty Consultancy, announcing that the prize has gone to Saudi writer Abdo Khal.
The prize is worth a total of $60,000 to the winner: $50,000, plus the $10,000 that goes to each of the six shortlisted writers.




Supported by the Booker Prize Foundation

Funded by the Emirates Foundation

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday 2 March 2010 – The winner of the 2010 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) is SPEWING SPARKS AS BIG AS CASTLES by ABDO KHAL, published by Al-Jamal Publications, Baghdad/Beirut, 2009. The winner of the prestigious literary prize was announced tonight at a gala awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi before an audience of international publishers, critics, writers and journalists.

A painfully satirical novel, Spewing Sparks ­as Big as Castles depicts the destructive impact that power and limitless wealth has on life and the environment. It captures the seductive powers of the palace and tells the agonising story of those who have become enslaved by it, drawn by its promise of glamour. Spewing Sparks ­as Big as Castles exposes the inner world of the palace and of those who have chosen to become its puppets, from whom it has stolen everything.

The winner announcement was made by the Chair of Judges, the renowned Kuwaiti writer Taleb Alrefai. With him were the three other members of the judging panel: Raja’ Ben Salamah, Tunisian lecturer from the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Humanities at Manouba University, Tunisia; Frédéric LaGrange, French academic, translator and Head of the Arabic and Hebraic Department at the Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) and Saif al-Rahbi, Omani writer and poet.

The Chair of Judges, Taleb Alrefai, commented: “The winning novel is a brilliant exploration of the relationship between the individual and the state. Through the eyes of its two dimensional protagonist, the book gives the reader a taste of the horrifying reality of the excessive world of the palace.

“Although only one novel can win the Prize, many exciting and inspiring novels were submitted. The judging panel worked hard in order to consider all this year’s submitted novels, maintaining the established tradition of independence and transparency.”

The Prize, which is awarded annually, is run with the support of the UK’s Booker Prize Foundation and is funded by the Emirates Foundation, one of the leading philanthropic organisations in the UAE. Its aim is to recognise and reward excellence in contemporary Arabic creative writing and to encourage wider readership internationally through translation. In addition to the annual prize, IPAF supports literary initiatives and in 2009 launched its inaugural nadwa (writers’ workshop) for a group of aspiring Arabic writers.

The names of the six shortlisted titles for this independent and prestigious Arabic fiction prize – and those of the previously anonymous judging panel – were announced at a press conference in Beirut on 15 December 2009. For the 2010 Prize, the judges have read and discussed in detail a total of 113 Arabic novels, entered from 17 countries.

The shortlisted finalists for the prize each receive $10,000, with the winner receiving an additional $50,000. They can look forward to reaching wider audiences and potentially securing publishing deals – both within the Arab World and internationally. The previous two winners for the prize – Bahaa Taher (Sunset Oasis) and Youssef Ziedan (Azazel) – have not only secured English publications of their novels, through Sceptre (Hodder & Stoughton) and Atlantic Books respectively, but also a number other international translations as a result of the prize.

Jonathan Taylor CBE, Chairman of the IPAF Board of Trustees, and of the Booker Prize Foundation, said: “In its third year, the Prize has recognised and rewarded another outstanding novel. The Prize continues to generate great excitement and discussion, both in the Arabic world and beyond.”

Salwa Mikdadi, Head of the Arts and Culture Programme at the Emirates Foundation, added: “The Emirates Foundation is pleased and gratified at the exceptional response the Prize ha received regionally and internationally which has resulted in an increase in readership and opportunities for emerging Arab writers."

The Administrator of the Prize, Joumana Haddad, commented: “The importance of the IPAF lies not only in its financial value, but in the social and cultural influence it has, the most important aspect of which is supporting high quality Arabic fiction and encouraging both writers and readers to consider writing and reading as vital acts.”

This year’s winner announcement took place on the evening of the first day of Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2010. A number of IPAF events will take place during the course of the book fair, details of which are given overleaf.

IPAF events taking place during the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2010:

Wednesday 3 March

11am Al Multaqa Ladies’ Book Club event with the 5 shortlisted writers of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Location: Hall 8, E46

11.30-12.30am “Meet the Winner of the 2010 IPAF”, Discussion Forum at the

Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, hosted by Yassin Adnan. Location: Hall 9, D40

Thursday 4 March

11am Al Multaqa Ladies’ Book Club event, with the Winner of the

International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Location: Hall 8, E46

5–7pm “Meet the 2010 IPAF Shortlisted Authors” at the KITAB Sofa, hosted by Sayed Mahmoud. Location: Hall 8, K46

For more information visit:

· This is the third year of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. For a full history of the prize visit the website: The site features the rules of entry, background information and breaking news and is the quickest way for the prize’s worldwide audience to access information

All works submitted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction must be prose fiction in Arabic

The IPAF 2010 shortlist (with names in English) and authors (with country of origin), is as follows:

Al-Madhoun, Rabai
The Lady from Tel Aviv
Arab Institute for Publishing and Studies

Ez Eldin, Mansoura
Beyond Paradise
Dar Al-Ain

Jaber, Rabee
Al-Markaz al-Thaqafi al-Arabi (Arab Cultural Centre)
Khal, Abdo
Spewing Sparks ­as Big as Castles
Al-Jamal Publications
Saudi Arabian


Mansi Qandil, Mohamed
A Cloudy Day on the West Side
Dar Al-Shorouk

Naji, Jamal
When the Wolves Grow Old
Ministry of Culture Publications

The IPAF 2010 judging panel consists of:
Taleb Alrefai (Chair), Kuwaiti novelist and short story writer; Raja’ Ben Salamah, Tunisian lecturer from the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Humanities at Manouba University, Tunisia; Frédéric LaGrange, French academic, translator and Head of the Arabic and Hebraic Department at the Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV); Saif al-Rahbi, Omani writer and poet.

· The winner of the 2008 prize - Sunset Oasis by Egyptian novelist Bahaa Taher – has recently been published in the UK by Sceptre (an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton). It also has translation and publication deals in France, Germany, Norway, Greece Romania, Bosnia and Canada

· The winner of the 2009 prize – Azazel by Egyptian writer Youssef Ziedan – will be published in the UK by Atlantic Books in August 2011. It will also be published in Italian, German, Greek, Romanian, Bosnian and Croatian

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction was launched in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE, in April 2007 and it is funded by the Emirates Foundation, one of the leading philanthropic organisations in the UAE

Other supporters of the Prize include Etihad Airways, as the official airline of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, and the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair
· An independent Board of Trustees, drawn from across the Arab world and beyond, is responsible for the overall management of the prize. The trustees are, in alphabetical order: Marie-Thérèse Abdul-Messih, Professor of English & Comparative Literature, University of Cairo, Egypt; Bachar Chebaro, Publisher, Scientific Arab Publishers, Lebanon; Dr. Peter Clark OBE, Independent Consultant and Writer, Middle East Cultural Advisory Services, UK; Sasha Havlicek, Executive Director, Trialogue Educational Trust; Khaled Hroub, Arab academic and director of Cambridge Arab Media Project, UK; Farouk Mardam-Bey, Cultural Advisor, Institut du Monde Arabe, France; Zaki Nusseibeh, Advisor, Ministry of Presidential Affairs – Vice-Chairman, Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage; Margaret Obank, Publisher and Editor, Banipal magazine of Modern Arab Literature, UK; William Sieghart Chairman & Founder, Forward Publishing, National Poetry Day, UK; Yasir Suleiman, Professor of Arabic, University of Cambridge, UK; Evelyn Smith, Company Secretary, Booker Prize Foundation, UK; Jonathan Taylor CBE, Chairman, Booker Prize Foundation, UK

· In addition to the annual prize, the IPAF supports literary initiatives and in 2009 launched its inaugural nadwa (writers’ workshop) for a group of aspiring writers from across the Arab world. The workshop – the first of its kind for Arab writers - took place in Abu Dhabi under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. It resulted in eight new pieces of fiction by some of the Arab world’s most promising authors, five of whom have recently been selected for the Beirut39. This collection of stories is due to be published in 2010.

Monday, March 01, 2010

'kipling abroad' edited by andrew lycett

Rudyard Kipling, the travel scribe
by Susannah Tarbush
Saudi Gazette 1 March 2010

Seventy-four years after the death of the Indian-born British author and poet Rudyard Kipling, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907, his reputation is still hotly debated. This is partly because of his support for British imperialism, and his chronicling of the British Raj.

The controversy over Kipling led recently to the abandonment of plans to transform the house in Mumbai in which he was born in 1965 into a Kipling museum. Instead, the house is to become home to a collection of paintings by local artists.

The house is on the campus of Sir J J Institute of Applied Art, of which Rudyard’s father Lockwood Kipling was the first dean. There were worries that to establish a Kipling Museum there might lead to political uproar.

Mukund Gorashkar, head of the project to renovate the house for the JSW Foundation, was quoted in the London-based Daily Telegraph as saying: “If we tried to convert it into a Kipling museum simply because Kipling was born there, that would ruffle quite a few feathers. In the political storm, you may find that the conservation effort would be set aside.”

The Chairman of the Kipling Society Sharad Keskar reportedly said: “You have a fairly ignorant officialdom in India who don’t know much about Kipling apart from that he was an imperialist or part of the Raj. Officially he’s still persona non grata. I think that is changing, but it’s rather a slow change.”

The shelving of the plan for a Kipling Museum happens to coincide with the publication by London publisher I. B. Tauris of “Kipling Abroad: Traffics and Discoveries from Burma to Brazil”, introduced and edited by the prominent British biographer Andrew Lycett. The book was launched last week at the Nehru Center in central London with a talk by Lycett followed by a reception and book signing. Lycett has already done invaluable work in providing a more nuanced and rounded view of Kipling through his biography of the author published to critical acclaim in 1999.

For “Kipling Abroad”, he has selected excerpts from Kipling’s work – including stories, poems, letters and journalism – to highlight his gifts as a travel writer who roamed the globe to an extraordinary extent.

Kipling was a great recorder of places. “Not just the physical places, but their peoples, their quirks, their smells – indeed the total experience of being at a particular place... He was such a brilliant observer of the world around him,” Lycett writes.
In addition, Kipling was fascinated by social and historical change and was aware of living at a time when the nature of travel was changing. “No longer were heroic individual expeditions being mounted. Rather, he found himself at the cusp of an age of mass travel when tourism was becoming a commodity and with his journalistic instincts he was determined to exploit this.”
Kipling’s writings are peppered with observations about the business and practice of travel, whether poking fun at Western globetrotters in India or railing against mass tourism in the United States. He was also interested in the mechanics of travel, and how it was affected by forms of transportation such as cars, trains and ships. Kipling is associated above all with India, his country of birth. Although he never returned to India after the age of 26, his birthplace of Mumbai was “to remain a positive influence and memory throughout his life.”

In his autobiography “Something of Myself” Kipling wrote: “My first impression is of daybreak, light and colour and golden and purple fruits at the level of my shoulder. This would be the memory of early morning walks to the Bombay fruit market with my ayah and later with my sister in her perambulator, and of our returns with our purchase piled high on the bows of it.”

He went to school in England, in Westward Ho! In Devon, and on returning to India he worked as a journalist in Lahore on the Civil and Military Gazette (CMG) for which he reported from various places. The short stories in “Plain Tales from the Hills”, which first made his name when it was published in book form in India in 1888, were first published in the paper.

In late 1887 Kipling resigned from CMG, and went to work on its sister paper, the Pioneer, in Allahabad. His travel reports for that newspaper were collected in the volume “Letters of Marque” published in Allahabad in 1891. In one article for CMG he describes how, unable to sleep in the humidity of a Lahore night, he ventures to the walled City of Dreadful Night. In “Taj Mahal and the Globe-Trotter” he makes fun of a young male traveler from Manchester who is “doing India.”
Apart from India, Egypt was the first foreign country Kipling recalled visiting, having passed through it as a child on the way to Europe. In 1913 he spent several weeks travelling in Egypt, and his articles on this trip were published as “Egypt of the Magicians” (1913).

He returned to Egypt in 1929 and also went to Palestine where he visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. “In his regular search for winter sun, he also travelled to Algiers, which reminded him of Bombay”, writes Lycett.
In 1889 Kipling had left India and travelled on an eastward voyage to America and England. He was favorably struck by Burma, which inspired his poem “Mandalay.” China gave him the creeps and he much preferred Japan; so much so that he returned there on honeymoon with his wife Caroline Balestier in 1892.

Kipling’s bride was American, and he built a house ‘Naulakha’ in her hometown of Battleboro’ in Vermont. Kipling had robust opinions on the places he visited. San Francisco was “a mad city inhabited for the most part by perfectly insane people whose women are of a remarkable beauty”. Put off by the crowds of tourists in one major attraction he wrote: “To-day I am in the Yellowstone Park, and I wish I were dead.” He was appalled by Chicago and its stock yards where livestock were slaughtered en masse.

In 1896 Kipling returned from America to England and settled in the county of Sussex for which he developed a great fondness and which inspired his books “Puck of Pook’s Hill” and “Rewards and Fairies.” He enjoyed owning cars, and did a great deal of driving in Britain. When he became rich he indulged his passion for Europe and liked to be driven around France in his Rolls Royce. For some years he spent part of every winter in South Africa, and he also visited South America and the Caribbean.

Interviewed on BBC radio the day after the launch, Lycett was asked whether it is time for Indians to reappraise Kipling. Lycett said: “I can well understand why Indians look askance at him in this day and age, because he was an imperialist, he was not a supporter of Indian nationalism. On the other hand he was the first great Indian writer in the English language. And he was very highly regarded amongst a lot of Indian writers.”