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Review: 'Wasafiri'
At the forefront of mapping new landscapes in contemporary international literature today, Wasafiri in over two decades of publishing has continued to provide consistent coverage to a range of diasporic and migrant writing worldwide.
WASAFIRI IS a literary journal of international contemporary writing with interviews, articles, art, poetry, fiction and reviews. Since its inception in 1984, it has focused on writing as a form of cultural traveling (wasafiri is Kiswahili for ’traveler’) and extended the boundaries of literary culture.

At the forefront of mapping new landscapes in contemporary international literature today, Wasafiri in over two decades of publishing has continued to provide consistent coverage to a range of diasporic and migrant writing worldwide. According to the Independent, "Wasafiri…has opened doors to a new landscape of boundary – bursting global literature in English".

The Indian edition of Wasafiri was introduced recently. It is published four times a year by the journals division of Routledge, Taylor and Francis Books India Pvt Ltd The division also publishes academic journals in disciplines ranging from science to social sciences and anything that falls in between. Michael Ondaatje is believed to have said that, "Wasafiri is a wonderful and crucial magazine".

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Wasafiri’s Summer 2008 Indian edition features captivating interviews of well-known names in the world of literature like Mohsin Hamid and Ben Okri, focusing primarily on their respective books, ’The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ and ’The Book of Laughter and Forgetting’. The Spring issue carries a remarkable review of Vikram Seth’s ’Sacred Games’. Also included is an interesting interview of Vikram Chandra. The issue also features an absorbing piece of fiction by Mridula Koshy called ’Romancing the Koodawallah’.

The magazine critiques the work of various authors in a very in-depth manner, complete with detailed notes and useful references. It contains certainly not light-hearted writing; on the contrary, intense – almost equivalent to writing a research paper or academic essay. Wasafiri can safely serve as constructive material for any literature enthusiast or even as a ready reckoner for the budding writer. A collection that can be savoured by every book lover, Wasafiri is vital for all literature students, teachers, writers, critics, authors and poets and simply anyone who enjoys fiction.

Below is an extract from the magazine, penned by Florian Stadtler:

"Bombay/Mumbai has been a focal point of Indian writing in English over many years. Salman Rushdie has been described by Jerry Pinto and Naresh Fernandes as ’the storyteller of Bombay’, writing about the city’s ’golden age’ during the 1950s and its subsequent decline in Midnight’s Children, The Moor’s Last Sigh and The Ground Beneath Her Feet (Bombay, meri jaan, 2003). Rohinton Mistry has written about Bombay’s Parsee community and Anita Desai’s Baumgartner’s Bombay, too, uses the city as its backdrop. 2004 saw the publication of Suketu Mehta’s non-fiction book Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, an account of Mehta’s return to the city of his birth engaging with its various realities, such as the underworld of rival Hindu and Muslim gangs, the city’s creaking political system, the difficulty of policing its labyrinthine streets and the glamour world of the Bombay film industry. These elements feature prominently in the fictional world of Vikram Chandra who interweaves them into an amazingly intricate tapestry from which an image of a metropolis emerges that is on the one hand brittle, full of anxiety for the future, and on the other full of longing for the ideals and glamour of the past – an infectious love-letter to this city. Sartaj Singh, Chandra’s policeman hero, recognises the yearning for this city, remembering his partner’s words: ’Once the air of this place touches you’, […] ’You are useless for anywhere else’. Indeed, the title of Chandra’s earlier short story collection Love and Longing in Bombay echoes throughout Sacred Games which further develops Chandra’s engagement with the city by narrating a plot full of intrigue, melodrama, sex and violence that can rival any late Victorian novel or a Bollywood film. The main focal point is the individual’s negotiation of his role, space and place in this often hostile urban environment, which Chandra explores on all levels of society, form slum dweller to the Bombay movie starlet, the rich businessman to the airline stewardess, the corrupt politician to the high court judge, the gang lord to the spiritual guru, the hairdresser to the policeman. In this respect, Sacred Games seems to echo Allelulia Cone’s father’s grand pronouncement in The Satanic Verses that the modern city is ’the locus classicus of incompatible realities’."

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