The Woman in the Cape has clamped down hard on the freedom of the press. Jayalalitha, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, objects to phrases like “”stinging abuse”, “unrestrained attacks on the opposition”, “fumed”, “incensed”, “chastisement” or “diatribe”, when used to describe her speeches. In fact, she objects so strongly, she’s trying to arrest journalists from The Hindu. Full coverage from The Hindustan Times; Outlook; The Hindu.

Give Cape Fear, as the lady is often fondly called, enough time and she’ll do a Mao. From Jung Chang’s Wild Swans, an instructive passage on just how lunatic the cult of personality can get about censorship: “As an indication of the terror of the day, no one dared to burn or throw away any newspapers. Every front page carried Mao’s portrait, and every few lines featured Mao’s quotations. These papers would have to be treasured and it would bring disaster if anyone saw you disposing of them… A schoolfriend of my mother’s was hounded to suicide because she wrote ‘Heartily love Chairman Mao’ on a wall poster with one brush stroke inadvertently shorter, making the character ‘heartily’ look like the one meaning ‘sadly’.”

Speaking of overt and covert kinds of censorship, this excerpt from the testimony of Stanley Kurtz before a US committee on education makes for frightening reading. (Link courtesy Pratibha Ghogale.)

The NYT’s featured author of the month is Martin Amis.

And calloo, callay, oh frabjous day, the New Yorker has a new short story by T C Boyle.

The Outlook-Picador Non Fiction Competition has been announced–the theme this year is Food, the deadline is December 15, 2003. Open to all Indian nationals. Interested?

Umberto Eco on translation: “In the course of my experiences as a translated author I have always been torn between the need to have a translation that respected my intentions, and the exciting discovery that my text could elicit unexpected interpretations and be in some way improved when it was re-embodied in another language.” (Via

All together now: McJobs are McGood McThings, dictionary people. Not “low paying and dead end work”. Next up, we’re expecting Ronald McDonald to invite the crew over at Merriam-Webster’s to flip a few hamburgers and discover just how intellectually challenging and career-enhancing those days behind the counter can be. Sounds like a load of McBull to the Babu, but then he avoided being a Hamburger Helper. Oops, sorry, that’s trademarked too…

“With Dutt originated the literary ambition of going outward, toward England and Europe; occasionally substituted, as in Vijayan, by a journey to a remote place. The journey seems to be followed by a crisis, a break, an epiphany, a spiritual homecoming to the mother-tongue. Chaudhuri muddied and complicated this sequence in all kinds of ways; and it’s worth studying his career and his mental life for their remarkable continuities, and disjunctions, with Dutt’s.” In Part III of this five-part series, Amit Chaudhuri continues his exploration of mother and other tongues. (Read Part IPart II.)

“A recent poll named Don Quixote the greatest novel in the world. Spanish speakers naturally revere the book, in part as the fictive embodiment of the romantic and noble side of their character. William Faulkner claimed to reread Cervantes’s masterpiece every year (one can see his novels as working through similar tensions — the old idealized Dixie of the aristocratic Sartorises and the new venal South of the Snopes clan). Even Stendhal loved Don Quixote, while the most perfect 19th-century novel, Madame Bovary, established its heroine as a kind of female Quixote. The mournful knight and Sancho Panza are clearly the progenitors behind some of the other endearing “couples” of world literature — Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller, Holmes and Watson, Jeeves and Wooster. And every innovator in modern fiction looks to either this novel or Tristram Shandy as his ultimate inspiration.

So why don’t I like the book more?”

The Babu has been trying to resist linking to everything Michael Dirda writes, but the man breaks my resolve every single time.

The Babu knows this is bad for him: linking to rabid rants posing as serious argument. Ramesh Rao, with his prevarications, evasions and wild accusations, is part of the Hindutva’s new create-an-intellectual-of-our-very-own project. Allow me to explain that part of my disgust at Rao’s attempt to downplay what happened in Gujarat stems from meeting riot victims in Delhi a few months after their lives had been torn to shreds by mobs in Ahmedabad. Rao calls Nussbaum’s August 2003 article in Dissent a piece of “shoddy research and dangerous demagoguery”–a criticism that could be applied with far more truth to his own piece, in fact. Rao’s statistics, incidentally, are contradicted sharply by this fact-finding report.

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