"Part of the Asian Creative Community Worldwide." A Chat With Zafar Anjum, Editor of Kitaab
In the crowded space of literary venues Kitaab has created its corner and is a popular destination for those seeking literary pleasure from Asian aesthetics or gaze. Spearheading this is Zafar Anjum, an affable young man full of ideas.
To get to know more of him we exchanged emails. One thing I noticed and it is worthy of documenting, Zafar always kept to his word. He was prompt with his answers, quick with his emails and followed his schedule
like a true professional.
Interview by Sanjeev Sethi
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a technology journalist, writer, publisher and filmmaker. I was born in India but I now call Singapore my home. I have been living and working in Singapore for over a decade.
I am the founder-editor of Kitaab, an online journal as well as a publishing company dedicated to promoting Asian writing in English.
I started writing and publishing in 2000. Over the last fifteen years, I have done more than half a dozen books. I am the author of Kafka in Ayodhya and Other Short Stories (Kitaab, 2015), Startup Capitals : Discovering the Global Hotspots of Innovation (Random House India, December 2014), Iqbal: The Life of a Poet, Philosopher and Politician (Random House India, 2014), the bestselling business book, The Resurgence of Satyam (Random House India, 2012), a collection of short stories, The Singapore Decalogue: Episodes in the Life of a Foreign Talent (Red Wheelbarrow Books, Singapore, 2012), and a collection of essays, Kafka and Orwell on China (Samshwords, 2011). In 2013, I translated and published a book on Urdu poetry, Urdu Poetry–An Introduction, that marked the launch of Kitaab as a publishing company.
As a journalist and commentator, I have been published worldwide. I was the online editor of Computerworld Singapore, Computerworld Malaysia and CIO Asia for about 8 years.
How did you get the idea of starting Kitaab?
I founded Kitaab in 2005 in Singapore to empower and connect Asian writers with readers globally. When it was launched 10 years ago, Kitaab filled a major void in the online literary scene in Asia by creating a link-based information storehouse where the most important stories on Asian writers and writing were carefully curated. For a time, Kitaab was merged with another literary website which became defunct after a while. I decided to revive Kitaab and relaunched it in 2013 as a global writing and publishing platform for emerging and seasoned writers in Asia and abroad.
Over the years, Kitaab has been evolving into a much larger project that encompasses publishing and e-commerce to serve the same community of writers, readers, publishers and agents worldwide. Now, it is run by 15 voluntary editors who sit in different parts of the world. It is supported and guided by some of the finest writers in the region including Amitava Kumar, Kunal Basu, Anees Salim and Suchen Christine Lim who sit on Kitaab’s editorial advisory board. Kitaab is also getting recognized in the region. Recently, it was invited to be the media partner of the Hyderabad Literary Festival in India.
Kitaab means book in many Asian languages— Urdu, Hindi, and Arabic.
What is the reason for calling it Kitaab?
Kitaab means book in many Asian languages— Urdu, Hindi, and Arabic. Many people in Malaysia and Indonesia are also aware of this word. I thought this word would resonate well with Asian readers and writers. If we can have websites calling themselves Amazon and Yahoo! and literary journals named Agni, a Sanskrit word, why not Kitaab, which is an Asian word?
What is the average profile of the reader?
Most of our readers are from India, USA, Singapore, and UK. They are mostly Asian writers and readers, publishers and agents—part of the Asian creative community worldwide.
What do you publish? How do you source the submissions?
On the website Kitaab.org, we publish fiction, poetry, essays, interviews and book reviews.
As a publishing company, we started with collections of short stories. Now we are also publishing novels, memoirs and non-fiction. We will soon be starting out a curated publishing programme and an imprint of children’s books.
Do you see yourself predominantly as an Asian venue or does Kitaab belong to the world?
Kitaab definitely belongs to the world, to anyone who wants to read and write about Asia or on Asian themes.
Kitaab has published some of the region’s best writers and poets such as Yeow Kai Chai, Desmond Kon, Yong Shu Hoong, and Jee Leong Koh, amongst others. Kitaab has published interviews with over 100 Asian writers from around the world including Tan Twan Eng, Anees Salim, Amitava Kumar, Salil Tripathi, Suchen Christine Lim, Prajwal Parajuly, Romesh Gunesekera, Ken Spillman, Mahesh Rao, Meira Chand, Ovidia Yu, Shashi Deshpande, David Davidar, William Dalrymple, Shashi Tharoor, and Isa Kamari, among others.
Is there anything else for our readers?
In 2013 we marked our foray into publishing. Now we want to launch an e-marketplace to sell our books and books by other publishers on Asian themed content. We have some more exciting plans for Kitaab that we will share with the world over time as we grow.
The recently released, This Summer and That Summer, (Bloomsbury) is Sanjeev Sethi’s third book of poems. His work also includes well-received volumes, Nine Summers Later and Suddenly For Someone. He has, at various phases of his career, written for newspapers, magazines, and journals. He has produced radio and television programs.
His poems have found a home in The London Magazine, The Fortnightly Review, Allegro Poetry Magazine, Solstice Literary Magazine, Off the Coast Literary Journal, Hamilton Stone Review, Literary Orphans, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, The Peregrine Muse, Otoliths, Café Dissensus Everyday, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Section 8 Magazine, Futures Trading, and elsewhere. Poems are forthcoming in Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Ink Sweat & Tears, First LiteraryReview-East, Pyrokinection, Meniscus, The Jawline Review, The Open Mouse, Drunk Monkeys, Amaryllis Poetry, and Harbinger Asylum. He lives in Mumbai, India.