By Elen Turner

Necropolis by Avtar Singh, New Delhi: Harper Collins, 2014. 268 pages.

necropolisAvtar Singh’s Necropolis is very different from a lot of English-language fiction currently emerging from India, a major strength of the novel. Part detective fiction, part literary, and incorporating much history and vampire imagery, Necropolis straddles various literary worlds.

Taking it as a mystery/crime thriller, it would be best not to give away too much of the plot in this review, as it is this that pulls the reader along. It opens with a murder—one in a string of murders—suspected to have been carried out by Delhi’s youth gangs. DCP Dayal and officers Kapoor and Smita Dhingra are on the case, and the novel follows their search for the killers. Further crimes occur, parallel or connected to the opening murder, including the killing of an African immigrant, the rape of a woman from the north-east of India and the kidnapping of a young boy from a wealthy family.

‘Dear Thief’ was one of the best novels published last year. So why haven’t you heard of it? Gaby Wood meets its author, Samantha Harvey: The Telegraph

Dear TheiefLast year, when literary fiction seemed to fall either into the category of formal experiment (Ali Smith’s How to Be Both; Will Self’s Shark) or into an essentially 19th-century tradition (Neel Mukherjee’s The Lives of Others; Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North), one book cut through all that by simply being intimate, direct yet oddly mysterious. Last Tuesday, it was longlisted for the Baileys Prize for Women’s Fiction, a belated flicker of attention for a novel that deserves far more.

“It’s true we need all kinds of books, not only because the publisher needs to make money but because of the vast number of readers with a vast number of tastes out there,” says famous Indian novelist and short story writer Shashi Deshpande in this interview with Kitaab fiction editor Monideepa Sahu. “All readers cannot appreciate the same kind of books. The problem, as I see it, especially in India, is that  we seem to confuse fast-selling fiction with significant writing and  then giving it undue importance.”

Shashi

 

Shashi Deshpande’s dignified presence, her innate warmth and grace, can win the hearts and minds of anyone from aspiring writers to intellectual opponents. Her twinkling eyes belie a razor-sharp mind; one which sees through human subterfuges and smiles at the quirks and ironies of life.

This prolific author began her career with short stories and has gone on to pen nine short story collections, twelve novels and four books for children.  She has also written essays on topics such as feminism, literature and language. Translations are another part of her rich repertoire, and her own work has been translated into several languages. Among her many honours, is India’s prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award for her novel That Long Silence. Her latest novel, Shadow Play, has been shortlisted for The Hindu Prize, 2014. She was honoured by the Indian Government with the Padma Shri in 2008.

In the third of our series on literary definitions, Elizabeth Edmondson argues that Jane Austen never imagined she was writing Literature. Posterity made that decision for her: The Guardian

“Genre fiction” is a nasty phrase – when did genre turn into an adjective? But I object to the term for a different reason. It’s weasel wording, in that it conflates lit fic with literature. It was clever marketing by publishers to set certain contemporary fiction apart and declare it Literature – and therefore Important, Art and somehow better than other writing.