My review of a recent debut novel, The Storm by Arif Anwar, is up at PopMatters. It is a historical novel about Bangladesh. The narrative stretches from the 1940s to the 2000s and from the South Asian subcontinent to the US. The characters are of British, Japanese, Burmese, Indian, Bangladeshi, and American descent. The main historical events included are the 1942 Japanese occupation of the British colony, Burma (as Myanmar was known then), the 1946 pre-Independence Hindu-Muslim communal violence in Calcutta (as Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, was known till 2001), and the 1970 Bhola cyclone that killed 500,000 in East Bengal (as Bangladesh was first known after the 1947 India-Pakistan partition). This is a vast physical and figurative landscape with much conflict and destruction due to race, religion, and nationality. The aftermath of these seismic events is causing reverberations in the regions even today. I also have a couple of personal theories about historical fiction in general there.
This month's short stories column is now up at PopMatters. Inspired by Vera Tobin's recent book, Elements of Surprise, about the "well-made" surprise in fiction (books and movies), these five literary selections give us unexpected surprises or twists done skillfully. As always, the stories are free to read online and by these terrific writers: Alice Munro, Jorge Luis Borges, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Lee Martin, Jennifer Lynne Christie.
Last month, 108 contributors — journalists, academics, writers, literary critics, etc — from 35 countries were invited by BBC Culture to share their list of five stories that they believe have shaped our world. Not favorites, mind you, but stories that "have had the most impact on shaping ideas and changing minds throughout history." I was honored to be among those invited. Below, I am sharing my five picks and the reasons why. Also, at the end, you can check out the final published lists at BBC Culture's website. Please do share your five stories that you think have shaped the world in the comments if you are so inclined.