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Book News: Khushwant Singh, Who Wrote Of India's Bloody Partition, Dies

Khushwant Singh, pictured in 2010, sits in his house in New Delhi, India.
Manish Swarup
Khushwant Singh, pictured in 2010, sits in his house in New Delhi, India.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Indian writer and diplomat Khushwant Singh, who described the violence of the partition of the Indian subcontinent, died Thursday. He was in his late 90s, though as The New York Times points out, his exact date of birth is unknown. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote in a statement, "Throughout his life, Khushwant Singh worked hard to make it easier for the rest of us to understand and come to terms with the major social, economic and political changes that our country and the world witnessed. His writings, whether as a journalist, editor, historian, author or provocative raconteur, never failed to shed light on the human condition." Khushwant Singh is best known for his novel Train to Pakistan, which recounts the bloody split between India and Pakistan in 1947. On the book's first page, he writes, "Muslims said the Hindus had planned and started the killing. According to the Hindus, the Muslims were to blame. The fact is, both sides killed. Both shot and stabbed and speared and clubbed. Both tortured. Both raped." A prolific obituarist, Singh wrote his own epitaph before he died:
  • "Here lies one who spared neither man nor God

    Waste not your tears on him, he was a sod

    Writing nasty things he regarded as great fun

    Thank the Lord he is dead, this son of a gun."

  • Miss Manners answers a query about what to do if you are accused of a literary conspiracy. In a recent column, she writes to an English department secretary who is "besieged" by academics who are "adamant that we are part of a conspiracy to cover up the fact that Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, was Shakespeare."
  • How to Poo on a Date, by Mats & Enzo, has won the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year, beating out Pie-ography: Where Pie Meets Biography and Class Cats: The Bodega Cats of New York City. No prize "other than the honour of the win" is given to the winner.
  • The shortlist for the Stella Prize, an award open to female Australian writers, was announced Thursday and includes works such as Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and The Swan Book by Alexis Wright. The prize, which is in its second year, is worth 50,000 Australian dollars (about $45,000 in U.S currency) to the winner. Inspired by 2013 winner Carrie Tiffany, who shared her prize money with the other finalists, the organizers will give each finalist $2,000 ($1800). The other finalists are Night Games by Anna Krien, The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane, Boy, Lost by Kristina Olsson, and The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Clare Wright.
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    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.