Tag Archives: Book Review

Book Review: The Sharp Knife of Memory By Kondapalli Koteswaramma (Translated by Sowmya V.B.)

Anamika Das reviews Kondapalli Koteswaramma’s memoir, The Sharp Knife ( Published by Zubaan books, 2015) telling us how the author’s tone throughout the book unsettles the readers deeply with its sheer honesty.

(Zubaan Books, 2015)

Originally written and published in 2012 in the Telugu language, Nirjana Vaaradhi, is a memoir by Kondapalli Koteswaramma. Sowmya V.B. translated this book in English, and ‘The Sharp Knife of Memory’ was published and released in 2015 by Zubaan books, to reach a much wider circle of readers, beyond the boundaries of the two Telugu speaking states of India.   

Koteswaramma left her school education at a very young age on her own terms, despite her mother’s protests, to work as a nationalist freedom fighter. Over the years, she also became a part of the Telangana movement and the Communist movement, which shaped her life in many ways, all of which has been beautifully laid down in this memoir. Social activist and author, Gita Ramaswamy, in a detailed introduction of the book tells us how the book shook the very foundation of the Telugu literary circles. People ordered for several copies, many wanted to speak to Koteswaramma desperately after reading this book, and many even had episodes of break down while reading it. Gita also gives brief accounts of the challenges faced by political activists, especially women, in various stages of their lives. The introduction promises readers, a journey filled with memories they will cherish in the pages ahead.

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Book Review: The Four Colors By Ankur

Rakhi Dalal reviews The Four Colors – a poetry collection by Ankur and tells us how through these poems the poet ruminates over the images nestled in memories – streaked with hues embodying the essence of life. 

The four colours

Hawakal Publishers, July 2020

Our thoughts and emotions, like things around us, seem to be carrying colours of different hues. Even words that we use for their portrayal are tinged with shades of colours. Though, they are not as stark as colours in Guthrie’s Four Color theorem since they don’t map the territories of the world. Instead, they sketch the contours of mind – places where confined realms don’t exist, where porous spheres make the occurrence of feelings and ideas more circinate due to their tendency to turn up when recalled or encountered again. In any art form, the illustration of these notions corroborates the contemplations occupying a mind in a particular instant. And since their appearance may perhaps be not linear, they might get imbued with various tints.

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Book Review: India Dissents Edited by Ashok VajpEyi

Bhaskar Parichha reviews ‘India Dissents: 3,000 Years of Difference, Doubt and Argument’ calling it an invaluable guide in the long fight for an open society and the full realization of the fight for the freedom of Indians in a free India.

  • Edited and with an introduction by: Ashok Vajpeyi
  • Publishing House: Speaking Tiger
  • Year of Publishing: 2020

Dissent – expressing opinions at variance with those commonly or officially held – is very much in the air these days. Sure, it has always been there in the Indian context. Dissent is not evil after all.  Seeing through the Gandhian prism, for example, dissent might actually bring out the best in the Government against whom the right to dissent is being exercised.

When you have a whole book on dissention, it is bound to be of more than ordinary interest. Edited and with an introduction by poet, essayist and literary critic, cultural and arts administrator, and a former civil servant Ashok Vajpeyi,‘India Dissents: 3,000 Years of Difference, Doubt and Argument is a politic   book on the question of dissension except for a load of recent voices of opposition.

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Book Review: Modernism By Other Means- The Films of Amit Dutta by Srikanth Srinivasan

Arun A.K. reviews Srikanth Srinivasan’s Modernism by Other Means – the first book-length study of the films of Amit Dutta, renowned as one of the foremost filmmakers working in experimental cinema today. 

Publisher and Date of Publication – Lightcube, 2020

Amit Dutta is regarded as one of the foremost filmmakers working in contemporary experimental cinema with his films shown in major festivals and museum programs across the world. In the last decade, he has had over half a dozen retrospectives in India and elsewhere. Even so, there has not been a single book-length study of Dutta’s work—a lacuna Srikanth Srinivasan’s book—Modernism by Other Means: The Films of Amit Dutta, seeks to remedy. Part of the reason for this gap is the difficulty in accessing Dutta’s works. Not one of his films has had a commercial release in India. It is only recently that a retrospective of his works has been made available for online streaming in India on the OTT platform —MUBI. Even abroad, they have had very limited circulation outside of festival screenings and retrospectives. It is lamentable that contemporary experimental audiovisual practice in India has been sidelined by disproportional critical and scholarly focus on mainstream and ‘parallel’ cinema. 

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Book Review: The Poet as A Persevering Witness by Dion D’Souza

Dion D’souza talks about E.V. Ramakrishnan’s Tips for Living in an Expanding Universe (Poetrywala, 2018) and shows how it has acquired even more relevance today.

In Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977), the protagonist Alvy Singer, having found out as a child that our universe is expanding, decides to give up mundane activities like his homework. What’s the point, he demands petulantly, if it’s just going to blow up one fine day? (The universe, that is, not his homework.) And suppose one could travel into and back in cinema time (as the older and heartbroken Alvy does in the film) and slip the boy a copy of EV Ramakrishnan’s Tips for Living in an Expanding Universe, would that in any way serve to ease his anxiety? I doubt it. But what I can vouch for is the fact that Alvy’s excuses for not turning in his assignments would have been more innovative than the standard go-to of an unruly pet’s voracious appetite.

But, man of wavering faith as I may be, why, in this particular case, do I doubt? To put it simply, the vision of a capricious universe that Ramakrishnan offers us is not very reassuring: one where “nothing is permanent, only sorrows and stories” (‘Local Gods’) and “the end [is] always imminent/but the narrative, like a coroner’s/report on a mass suicide, drags on” (‘To a Writer in Exile’). Reality and identity are in a state of flux; and violence, disease or a natural calamity can at any moment rip through our fragile and illusory sense of order and stability. However, this is a vision we must face up to of necessity. (And have now been forced to…thanks, 2020!)

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Making Marriage Work: A History of Marriage and Divorce in the Twentieth-Century United States

Simpi Srivastava reviews Kristin Celello’s Making Marriage Work (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009) observing how it investigates the transformation of marriage as a social, urban, or religious obligation.

Author- Kristin Celello

Publisher and Date of Publication- Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009

Dr. Kristin Celello in her book Making Marriage Work examines the mainstream culture with the help of sociological research on marriage from each decade of the twentieth century. Historian Kristin Celello has composed a convincing history of how the metaphor ‘marriage-as-work’ rose through the span of the twentieth century.

Dr. Celello is Associate Professor of History at Queens College, City University of New York. She earned her doctorate in History from the University of Virginia in 2004 and was a 2006 post-doctoral fellow at Emory University Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life. Other than being an author of Making Marriage Work, she also has co-edited a volume titled Domestic Tensions, National Anxieties: Global Perspectives on Marriage, Crisis, and Nation, Oxford University Press, 2016. Her current book project is After Divorce: Parents, Children, and the Making of the Modern American Family

In the book, Kristin Celello tracks how academics, popular media and marriage advisers helped develop a national discourse about marriage, putting the weight for ‘making marriage work’ extensively on the shoulders of women.

Scrutinize any magazine stand and one will undoubtedly notice a large number of articles prompting readers on the best way to solidify a marital relationship. Reality TV and talk shows additionally fortify the heteronormative models of a healthy marriage. In Making Marriage Work, historian Kristin Celello whose expertise includes history of marriage, divorce and counseling, offers a profound record of marriage and divorce in the United States in the twentieth century, concentrating on the idea of marriage as ‘work’, and uncovers how the notion that ‘work ethic should be applied to marriage’ turned out to be a major component of American’s collective consciousness.

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Mohini – The Enchantress : a beautiful ode to the Goddess of Beauty and Fertility

Namrata talks about Anuja Chandramouli’s latest book, Mohini: The Enchantress ( August, 2020) calling it an attempt to paint a fresh image of Mohini in the reader’s mind.

“Elusive as a fragment of a forgotten dream, fragile as a figment from fantasy, Mohini is perfection made possible.
Distilled from the essence of Vishnu, Mohini the Enchantress is a part of him and yet she revels in the autonomy and extraordinary powers of beauty, magic and enchantment that are hers to wield. She is loved and desired by all in existence and yet, she is elusive tantalizing temptress, traipsing her way across the topsy-turvy terrain of fable and myth.”

Anuja Chandramouli

Anuja Chandramouli’s Mohini is a beautiful ode to the Goddess of Beauty and Fertility. Considered to be the only female avatar of Vishnu, created by Vishnu and Shakti, this book traces her life through sands of time.

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Essay: Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children- Chutney and Pickles by Ramlal Agarwal

In this literary essay, Ramlal Agarwal takes us through Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children calling it a saga set in the backdrop of Partition traversing three generations of a liberal Kashmiri Muslim family which moves from Kashmir to Amritsar, to Agra, to Delhi, to Bombay and to Karachi.

Midway through Midnight’s Children, Rushdie, in an aside, wants to know from Padma, his muse, “Can any narrative stand so much so soon?” Padma was stunned by the query but Rushdie does not wait for her answer and plunges headlong into his narrative of so much so soon. He tells multiple stories in multiple styles and walks away triumphantly with the Booker Prize and the Booker of Bookers Prize. The novel received rave reviews. Malcolm Bradbury in The Modern British Novel observes,

“In several senses Midnight’s Children marked a new narrative start. The book turns on the moment of India’s post-imperial rebirth.”

Before Rushdie, the Indian novel in English was hamstrung by the hangover of colonial conscience. But, by the 1960s the colonial clouds cleared and a band of new writers emerged who had acquired extraordinary competence in the use of English language and the confidence to be independent. Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children set the trend. 

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Displacement And Citizenship – A Hand-Book on Migration

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Displacement and Citizenship – Histories and Memories of Exclusion (Tulika Books, 2020) calling it a timely reminder of the price that has been paid not only in India but globally, by the privations caused by the negation of citizenship based on religion, gender, ethnicity/caste and/or race.

Statelessness is a massive problem that affects millions of people worldwide. Those without a nationality often face difficulty participating in society and accessing a full range of privileges, together with education, health care, travel, and employment. Some are even detained because they are outlawed.

According to a 2013 UN global migration statistics, 232 million international migrants – or roughly 3 percent of the world’s population – are living out of the country, worldwide. This makes transnational migration a key feature of globalization and a central issue on the international agenda. 

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The Legend of Himal and Nagrai – Greatest Kashmiri Folk Tales Retold by Onaiza Drabu

Gracy Samjetsabam reviews The Legend of Himal and Nagrai reflecting how these stories offer a yarn of peace from Kashmir through the tales sorted from the memory lane of the Kashmiris (Speaking Tiger, 2019)

  • Title: The Legend of Himal and Nagrai
  • Author: Onaiza Drabu
  • Publisher and date of publication: Speaking Tiger Books (10 December 2019)

Onaiza Dabru makes her debut with the book The Legend of Himal and Nagrai. Dabru is an anthropologist from Kashmir. Her works focus on the issues of identity, nationalism and Islamophobia. She co-curates a newsletter on South Asian art and literature called Daak. The folktales in The Legend of Himal and Nagrai reflect Dabru’s pride for her identity and offer a yarn of peace from Kashmir through the tales sorted from the memory lane of the Kashmiris. On reading the stories, one can sense the amplitude in the rich age-old stories that are passed on from generation to generation and these stories allow the self an aesthetic indulgence of one’s culture. The stories come in the form of myths, legends, fables and anecdotes filled with the attributes of the complex yet peaceful co-existence of the cultural confluence nestled in the heavenly Jammu and Kashmir since ages. Dabru highlights the manner in which proverbs, idioms and rituals form a chain of a metaphor of the diversity that Kashmir is. The superstitions, the cruel twist of irony, the luck and misfortunes, the prince and the pauper, the beautiful evil women, the underworld and the world of the animals in the folklores speak in volume of the race, the Kashmiris and their love for the enchanted and boundless imagination. Moreover, the peris from the dastaans of Persian folklore and the nagas from the Panchatantra of Sanskrit stories harmoniously amalgamate and co-exist in the folktales from Kashmir. This influence of the confluence is evident in the nature of the multicultural, multilingual and multi-religious flavouring of the folktales.

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