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Kiran Desai:

Youngest woman to win Booker Prize

Kiran Desai has been named winner of the US $ 50,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for The Inheritance of Loss, published by Hamish Hamilton.

At 35, Desai is the youngest ever woman to win the Man Booker Prize, although she is the fifth author of Indian origin to win the coveted prize.

The India-born writer has a strong family tie with the prize as her mother Anita Desai has been short listed three times since 1980 but has never won.

This year, however, her daughter, Kiran, has won the acclaimed literary prize.

Author of the 1998 universally praised Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, Desai is the first woman to win the Man Booker since 2000 when Margaret Atwood scooped the prize with The Blind Assassin. Her winning book, The Inheritance of Loss, is a radiant, funny and moving family saga and has been described by reviewers as 'the best, sweetest, most delightful novel'. This is the first time that Hamish Hamilton has published a Man Booker Prize winner although they had two short listed authors in 2005.

Among the Indian authors who have previously won the United Kingdom's most prestigious literary award are Arundhati Roy for The God of Small Things (1997); Salman Rushdie for Midnight's Children (1981); Ruth Praver Jhabvala's Heat and Dust (1975); and V.S. Naipaul for his In a Free State (1971).

In 1994, Rushdie's Midnight's Children won a second Booker, "the Booker of Bookers," for the best novel in the first 25 years of the contest.

Chair of the judges, Hermione Lee comments, "We are delighted to announce that the winner of the Man Booker Prize for 2006 is Desai's The Inheritance of Loss, a magnificent novel of humane breadth and wisdom, comic tenderness and powerful political acuteness. The winner was chosen, after a long, passionate and generous debate, from a shortlist of five other strong and original voices."

Over and above her prize of D50,000, Desai is guaranteed a huge increase in sales and recognition worldwide. Each of the six short listed authors, including the winner, receives D2,500 and a designer-bound edition of their book.

Desai was born in India in 1971, and was educated in India, in England, and the United States. She studied creative writing at Columbia University.

The Inheritance of Loss was chosen from 112 entries. 95 books were submitted and 17 books were called-in. The shortlist was made up of six books including Kate Grenville's The Secret River (Published by Canongate); M.J.

Hyland's Carry Me Down (Canongate); Hisham Matar's In The Country of Men (Viking); Edward St. Aubyn's Mother's Milk (Picador); and Sarah Waters' The Night Watch (Virago).

Celebrated author Rushdie thinks, "Kiran Desai is a terrific writer. This book richly fulfils the promise of her first.'

The Inheritance of Loss is based in the north-eastern Himalayas, at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga, in an isolated and crumbling house, where lives an embittered old judge, who wants nothing more than to retire in peace. But with the arrival of his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, and the son of his chatty cook trying to stay a step ahead of US immigration services, this is far from easy.

When a Nepalese insurgency threatens the blossoming romance between Sai and her handsome tutor, they, too, are forced to consider their colliding interests. The judge must revisit his past, his own journey and his role in this grasping world of conflicting desires - every moment holding out the possibility for hope or betrayal.

(India Post)


Muhammad Yunus:

'World banker to the poor'

Muhammad Yunus who is often referred to as "the world's banker to the poor" has proved that the poor are credit-worthy.


Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, left, hugs his younger brother Mohammad Jahangir in Dhaka, Bangladesh just after the announcement of the winner. (AP)

His revolutionary Grameen (Village) banking system is estimated to have extended credit to more than seven million of the world's poor, most of them in Bangladesh, one of the poorest nations in the world.The vast majority of the beneficiaries are women. Mr. Yunus came up with the idea in 1976 while professor of economics at Chittagong University in southern Bangladesh.

The first loans he issued had a value of $27 . Their recipients were 42 women from the village of Jobra, near the university. The women had relied until then on local money-lenders who charged high interest rates. The conventional banking system had been reluctant to give credit to those who were too poor to provide any form of guarantee.

The success of Mr Yunus' scheme exceeded all expectations and has been copied in developing countries around the world. His "micro-finance" initiative reaches out to people shunned by conventional banking systems - people so poor they have no collateral to guarantee a loan, should they be unable to repay it.

Mr. Yunus' has tried to transform the vicious circle of "low-income, low saving and low investment" into a virtuous circle of "low income, injection of credit, investment, more income, more savings, more investment, more income".

As a result, even beggars have been able to borrow money under his scheme. The BBC's Roland Buerk in Dhaka says that Mr Yunus lives a simple life. The Grameen Bank is now majority owned by the rural poor it serves, with a 10% stake held by the Bangladesh government.

Our correspondent says that Mr Yunus has already created a legacy of real social change in Bangladesh.

His work has been widely recognised. In 1999 he was awarded the Indira Gandhi prize for peace, disarmament and development in India. And it is not just in the developing world that he has had an impact.

Hillary Clinton, wife of former US President Bill Clinton, said in 2000 that Mr Yunus had helped the Clintons introduce micro-credit schemes to some of the poorest communities in Arkansas.

In 2002 a report in the Wall Street Journal said the bank was running into trouble because of increased competition and a fall in the bank's loan repayment rate. Mr Yunus responded by telling the BBC that the bank was in its "strongest position ever".

"Micro-credit is something which is not going to disappear... because this is a need of the people," he said. "Whatever name you give it, you have to have those financial facilities coming to them because it is totally unfair... to deny half the population of the world financial services."

(BBC NEWS)


Theatre Review:

The Cryptogram

On a first viewing, in 1994, I took David Mamet's cryptic 65-minute play to be about betrayal. Now, in Josie Rourke's fine revival, it seems to be more about the corruption of innocence: I even find, in its unresolved complexity, echoes of the Henry James novel, The Turn of the Screw, where, as the narrator says, "the story won't tell ... not in any literal vulgar way."


Hard to fault ... Kim Cattrall and Adam J Brown in The Cryptogram.

Mamet's setting is Chicago, 1959. On the eve of a camping trip with his father, 10-year-old John is nervously agitated. When he is finally packed off to bed, his mother Donny discovers a note revealing that her husband, Robert, has left her. Later it transpires that a family friend, Del, has also lied to her about a supposed trip he took with her husband: in reality, he has allowed his hotel room to be used by the absent Robert for an affair.

But in the most agonising scene of all, as Donny prepares to move house, we deduce that it is John who has been most severely damaged by these adult traumas.

Possibly because the story has painful autobiographical origins, Mamet leaves much of it elliptical. Why such insistence on Del's homosexuality? Does the sleepless John have premonitions of his father's desertion? But, even if much remains mysterious, Mamet paints a frightening picture of a nightmarish childhood world. John is haunted by voices, asks about death, speculates about the unreality of existence.

Not, you might think, normal matters for a 10-year-old. But Mamet's point is that we destroy children by thrusting them into a world of adult lies and evasions: only recently I heard of another American dramatist who, as a child, was forced to accompany his mother to the scene of his father's adulteries.

Given without interval, unlike its 1994 predecessor, Rourke's production has the right escalating tension. Kim Cattrall disintegrates excellently as Donny: she starts as an impeccably groomed, emotionally impervious narcissist, who terrifyingly transfers her rage against men on to her hapless son.

Douglas Henshall also subtly implies the emotional solitude of the treacherous Del, who clearly craves a surrogate family. But the chief burden falls on Oliver Coopersmith - who shares the role of John with Adam J Brown and Joe Ashman - and who invests it with an astonishing specific gravity.

It's hard to fault an immaculate production; but, at current ticket prices, I still feel it would be more customer-friendly to present it as half of a Mamet twosome.

(Guardian)


Arrest warrant for actor Snipes

An arrest warrant has been issued for Hollywood actor Wesley Snipes, who is charged with dodging millions of dollars in taxes. *

The 44-year-old star of Demolition Man and Blade is accused of failing to file tax returns and falsely claiming nearly $12m (o6.4m) in refunds. Prosecutors say he faces up to 16 years in jail if found guilty.

Mr. Snipes' former accountant has already surrendered to authorities, but the actor's whereabouts are unknown. His spokesman was not immediately available for comment. The charges allege Mr Snipes failed to file tax returns between 1999 and 2004, and conspired with two men to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which collects taxes in the US.

Prosecutors say Eddie Kahn and Douglas Rosile, both from Florida, attempted to make it look like the actor had no liability for income tax.Mr. Kahn's firm, American Rights Litigators, is said to have fraudulently argued that US citizens could only be taxed on income earned overseas.

Mr Rosile, who was an accountant for the firm, is accused of illegally preparing tax returns for Mr Snipes on this basis.

He has surrendered to authorities while Mr Kahn is believed to be in Panama.Mr. Snipes, who was born in Orlando, Florida, has been a Hollywood actor for 20 years.

His first role was in Goldie Hawn's 1986 American football comedy, Wildcats, and he later appeared in the video for Michael Jackson's Bad, which was directed by Martin Scorsese. The actor also appeared in hit films such as White Men Can't Jump, New Jack City and the Blade trilogy.

Later this year, he is due to start filming an historical epic based on the life of Haitian military leader Toussaint L'Ouverture.

(BBC NEWS)

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