Leave a comment

Book Review: This Wide Night by Sarvat Hasin

By Lakshmi Menon

this-wide-nightSarvat Hasin’s This Wide Night has been described as Little Women meets The Virgin Suicides. While this is not entirely wrong and there are some clear parallels between the works, the description belies the levels of meaning the author has packed into this work, and the comparisons fall short.

The majority of the story is told through the eyes of Jimmy, who, like Laurie in Little Women, is fascinated by the women who live in the house across the street from him. As he learns more about them, to live among them and love them, so do the readers. We grow to share his fascination with the Malik sisters – the beautiful Maria, firebrand tomboy Ayesha, shy Bina and the petulant Leila, and their mother Mehrunnisa who is as lovely as she is mysterious. In the absence of the patriarch of the household, Captain Malik, these women form parts of a whole that does not leave any room for outsiders. Even as Jimmy feels welcomed into their world he is aware that he will never be completely privy to it. They share “an invisible net of sisterhood” that he cannot penetrate, try as he may.

Through the course of the novel, we watch Jimmy try to find a balance for the failings of his own life. A loner in many respects, it is in this intimate shared space that he is invited into that he finds solace, even as he is aware that their world isn’t exactly considered “ordinary”.

No one lived as these girls did, no other mother would have allowed these freedoms. But even this freedom was not boundless. There were things you could live in the world without and things you could not. This was not a city for hiding sins or secrets.”

The isolation of the Malik girls from society in general becomes a real, physical thing in the latter part of the book, when circumstances force them to move to an island off Karachi, and Jimmy is aware of what it entails to share a roof with the women.

Continue reading


Leave a comment

Why Jhumpa Lahiri writing on book jackets is bad news for the writer and the reader

By Utpal Kumar

clothingJhumpa Lahiri’s latest book, The Clothing of Books, is all about book covers. Advocating what she calls “the naked book”, the Pulitzer winner emphasises that “the dressed book no longer belongs to me”.

She writes, “Today the relationship between the reader and book is far more mediated, with a dozen people buzzing around. We are never alone together, the text and I. I miss the silence, the mystery of the naked book: solitary, without support.”

A closer look shows the preference for a naked book also marks the transition of the author.

Lahiri thinks she isn’t just another writer now. She seems to have graduated to the league of extraordinary authors who doesn’t need any introduction. The very things that would fascinate a budding writer now, annoy her boundless. Read more

Source: DailyO


Leave a comment

Excerpts: This Wide Night by Sarvat Hasin

this-wide-nightXII.

They were married there in Paris, just the two of them with Khalajaan and witnesses gathered from the local mosque. It was not the wedding he remembered her having talked about as a girl; she’d wanted a grand reception at the Metropole and large golden-yellow tents. She’d wanted white silk tablecloths and rose petals down the middle of the aisle. I want a palanquin, she’d insisted, even when Maria had pointed out they had no male relatives to lift it.

There’s Papa and Jimmy, Leila said. That’s only two.

I’m sure you’ll all be married by then, she’d sniffed.

Your husbands can help.

And there she was in the small clerk’s office, dropping her head with the anachronistic coyness of brides. At dinner, Khalajaan told them to be good to each other and asked no  questions  about  anything: not  the  rush, not  the  secrecy, not  the  dumb fact of it here in a city that did not belong to them. Her hands folded on the tabletop, the glow of her rings in the candlelight. She looked at them with an indulgence he hadn’t expected, a flash of warmth in her smile like butter in a pan. She was fond of Leila, he knew. She was the only one of the girls who had followed, in some way, in her image.

Marriage is hard, she said, and she pointed at the space between them with her fork. You will have to work hard. You will have to compromise.

She had never been in his room before. He realized then, as she stood by the windowsill with her hips angled against it, that they had never really been alone together. Only in parks and restaurants, never in the deafening silence of a hotel room. She shifted in the window till she was the whole room, all he could see. He sat down, held on to his bed.

Did you mean what you said about loving me? she asked.

Her question small, and nearly swallowed up in the space between them.

They came together as lonely travellers will do. The ugliness of his proposal was buried under the language of their bodies. This time when he reached out to hold her there was a sureness to it that seemed separate from the wreckage of his nerves. He felt disconnected from his body, as if he is watching them from a great distance: the two of them in the empty room. Her body shivered, his hands shook.

Leila curved into him, fit a hand along his waist. The boldness of her touch pushed him back into the room. Here it was cold and she was near enough for his mouth to catch her breath if he opened it.

Continue reading


Leave a comment

Judging a cover by its text

By Mini Kapoor

Jhumpa Lahiri explains why the first time she sees a cover for her books is always upsetting

It never fails to shock or thrill me when I see a new, re-jacketed edition of a favourite book. And in this age of rapid re-jacketing, with publishers more keenly aware of the power of cover design to attract the reader to a book and perhaps away from its e-book variant, it’s a trick that keeps giving. Chancing upon a new cover for a much-read book in a bookshop or a library will stop me in my tracks to at least browse for a few minutes, making fresh acquaintance with a familiar text. Sometimes it’ll invite a deeper, even different reading of the book; at other times it’ll disorient me enough to go right back to the original edition; and, of course, most times it will be just a few minutes meditatively spent but without changing my longer engagement with the book. All told, it’s yet another nudge to consider a little appreciated aspect of the reading experience, the book cover. Read more

Source: The Hindu


Leave a comment

New Release: The House That Spoke by Zuni Chopra

house-that-spokePenguin announce the release of The House That Spoke by Zuni Chopra. The novel, set in the controversial terrain of Kashmir, beautifully blends magical and historical elements. The book will be released all across India in February 2017.

Fourteen-year-old Zoon Razdan has always known that there is something extraordinary about her house, which is as inextricably a part of her life as what’s left of her torn, frayed family. Now just before her fifteenth birthday, she find that she has inherited not just her beloved house’s grim secrets but also a battle with an ancient, deadly force of darkness.

Lush and evocative, The House That Spoke is a kaleidoscopic tale that reimagines Kashmir with the colours of magic and is sure to leave you spellbound.

About the Author

Zuni is a fifteen-year-old author and has published two books of poetry. This is her first novel.She is the daughter of noted film critic Anupama Chopra and filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra. The acclaimed writer Vikram Chandra is her maternal uncle.

 

 


Leave a comment

New Release: Suspected Poems by Gulzar

gulzar“He had the blue cow tattooed on his right shoulder

He would have been killed in the riots yesterday

But they were good people—

Seeing a cow, they let him go!”

Written in Gulzar’s inimitable style, the poems in his newest volume of poetry reflect and comment, sometimes elliptically through a visual image, sometimes with breathtaking immediacy and directness, on the political reality in the country today. Powerful, poignant and impossible to ignore or gloss over, the fifty-two threads that make up Suspected Poems unfold across the entire political spectrumfrom the disturbed climate in the country and the culture of intolerance to the plight of the aam aadmi, from the continued oppression of Dalits and minority communities to fluctuating Indo–Pak relations.

Published by Penguin, Suspected Poems has been translated into English by Pavan K. Varma. Suspected Poems will be available in a special keepsake bilingual edition.

About the Author:

Gulzar is one of India’s leading poets; he has published several volumes of poetry and short stories (many of which are available in translation) and is also regarded as one of the country’s finest writers for children. A greatly respected scriptwriter and film director, he is one of the most popular lyricists in mainstream Hindi cinema. He gained international fame when he won an Oscar and a Grammy for the song ‘Jai ho’. Gulzar received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2002 and the Padma Bhushan in 2004. In 2014 he was awarded the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award. He lives and works in Mumbai.

About the Translator:

Pavan K. Varma is the author of The Great Indian Middle Class, Being Indian, Becoming Indian and several other books. After a long and distinguished diplomatic career, he served as cultural adviser to the chief minister of Bihar, and was a member of the Rajya Sabha from 2014 to 2016

 


Leave a comment

Publishers say 2017 World Book Fair a profitable affair

As the New Delhi World Book Fair comes to a close today, the nine-day long event was an “excellent” experience with leading publishing houses making significant profit on sales compared to previous years. Vimal Kumar, General Manager at Speaking Tiger said they had “unexpected sales”, despite facing several technical glitches in the aftermath of demonetisation.

“Due to demonetisation we faced several problems since many a times card machines didn’t work due to lack of signals. But, it has been an excellent experience, rather unexpected sales for Speaking Tiger. Our sales have almost doubled this year,” he said.

Some of the top sellers at the stall included ‘Himalaya: Adventures, Meditations, Life’ edited by Ruskin Bond and Namita Gokhale, and ‘Murderer in Mahim’ by Jerry Pinto among others.

For Penguin India, which saw a hike of nearly 20 per cent in business from last year’s fair, the event being moved ahead by a month from the usual February, has worked favourably. Read more

Source: The Financial Express


Leave a comment

Penguin celebrates its 30th year of publishing in India

Leading publisher Penguin completes 30 years in India and to commemorate its journey, Penguin said it will unveil ‘Penguin30’, a selection of India’s most brilliant and visionary writing in the English language published over the years.

penguin

Some of the thirty books include timeless classics like Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhavam and Nehru’s An Autobiography as well as much-loved fiction like Vikram Seth’s The Golden Gate, Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies and Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth among others. “The beauty of these titles lie not just in the text but the distinctive cover design done up in a sumptuous colour palette to brighten up any bookshelf, and which will be a delight to possess and recommend,” the press note said.

Started in 1985, Penguin is currently the largest English language trade publisher in the subcontinent. It ban publishing in 1987 with the first six books. The company publishes over 250 new titles every year and has an active backlist of 3000 titles.

The anniversary festivities will kick-start at the Jaipur Literature Festival with the Keep Reading campaign – an idea to promote reading anywhere, anytime, and provide a variety of reading content across genres to reading enthusiasts. Being introduced in India as part of Penguin’s Keep Reading initiative, the Pop-up Cart will be a hub of 30th anniversary activities throughout the year, starting with the Jaipur Literature Festival. The 30th anniversary logo will be unveiled at the festival.

The publisher will launch a whole new range of Penguin collectibles and quirky merchandise – bookends, tea coasters, magnets, passport holders, mugs, and bags among others.

To keep updated on the year-long events visit: www.penguin30.com

 


1 Comment

Book Review: The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable by Amitav Ghosh

By Rajat Chaudhuri

great-amitav

What did the Celt tell Alexander when Alexander asked him what it was that his people feared the most? The Celt had replied that they feared nothing, so long as the sky did not fall or the sea burst its limits. I remembered this anecdote from a book on druidry while reading The Great Derangement, a path-breaking work on climate change that sweeps across a vast landscape of scholarship, finally reaching out to chart new maps for understanding the greatest crisis that humanity faces today.

But we will return to our druid later. To structure this review, we will attempt to discuss the book in the same way that the author has organised his material in three sections: Stories, History and Politics.

The thrust of the first section is on the interface between culture (with a focus on literature) and climate change and how the former is ill-prepared to imaginatively engage with the improbabilities inherent in the latter. The scaffolding of the section on history is erected around the paradoxical relationship between colonialism and climate. Finally, the section on politics is essentially about presumptions in the philosophical concept of freedom and the rise of the “deep state”, which between them have impoverished the political and imaginative spheres, leading to their failure to grapple with the climate crisis.

Each section surveys existing scholarship and employs material and tools from various disciplines in advancing its theses, sharpening its insights, or lighting up facets of the problem, presenting us with a book which, because of this interdisciplinary approach, the clean, jargon-free language and the unwavering gaze of a master of the art of non-fiction (as much as he is of the novel), stands out in an ever-growing library of works on climate change.

“Stories”, the longest, and arguably the most fecund among the three sections, narrates the author’s experience of being caught in a freak storm in Delhi which sets him thinking about the improbability of the encounter and then about the difficulties that the imagination faces in engaging with unusual weather events and unthinkable occurrences that would become increasingly common with growing carbon emissions, global warming and climate change. From there he directs his attention to this failure of the artistic and literary imagination, this evasion which characterises the Great Derangement that he is talking about throughout this book. In his words:

What is it about climate change that the mention of it should lead to banishment from the preserves of serious fiction? And what does this tell us about culture writ large and its patterns of evasion?

In a substantially altered world, when sea-level rise has swallowed the Sundarbans and made cities such as Kolkata, New York and Bangkok uninhabitable, when readers and museum-goers turn to the art and literature of our time, will they not look, first and most urgently, for traces and portents of the altered world of their inheritance? And when they fail to find them, what can they do other than to conclude that ours was a time when most forms of art and literature were drawn into the modes of concealment that prevented people from recognising the realities of their plight? Quite possibly, then, this era, which so congratulates itself on its self-awareness, will come to be known as the time of the Great Derangement.”

Continue reading


Leave a comment

Excerpts: The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam

image002

The doorbell rang at last. When she answered it she found a boy of about eleven or twelve standing in the lane, with several bags of food and a thick bushel of reeds.

‘You should be at school,’ she said when she brought him in- to the kitchen.

He did not respond. His face was beautiful and doll-like and he was looking towards the bird wings hanging on the pink wall. He had placed the bags on the dining table and was using his grimy sleeve to absorb the perspiration from his forehead and upper lip, holding his gaze on the wings. He went towards them and reached out with a finger and touched the lime green feather of an Alexandrine parakeet.

‘Does the man with the straw hat live here?’ he asked. ‘The one with the elastic going over his shoulders.’

‘They are called braces. Or galluses.’ ‘Gal…lu…ses.’

She held up the bottle of Rooh Afza he had brought, crack- ing open the seal on the cap. ‘Would you like a drink of this?’

He seemed uncertain. ‘I overheard the lady mention some- one named Helen,’ he said. ‘Is that you?’

‘Yes.’

‘Are you an infidel?’

Helen had been looking into one of the bags. She raised her head but not her eyelids. At the beginning of high school, when she was fourteen years old, a teacher had asked her to stand up in class and ‘justify taking the place of a Muslim’.

‘Are you a servant here?’ the boy continued. ‘You don’t look like one.’

When she finally glanced at him he nodded towards the Rooh Afza bottle. ‘I am a Muslim, I can’t accept a drink from your hand.’ And he added, ‘You should know that. Shouldn’t you?’

At nineteen, Helen was old enough to remain unsurprised by occasions such as these. She had always known them and could not have separated them from the most basic facts of her existence. Still, sometimes she was caught off guard.

She watched him from the kitchen window as he crossed the garden at an unhurried pace and left the house, stopping twice on the semicircular path through the grass, to look up at the ripening fruit or some creature moving in the branches.

She put away the items of food, and divided and bound the river reeds into brooms. Afterwards she carried the alumini- um stepladder to the study and unfolded it below the model of the Hagia Sophia. She stood there for a few moments: even from the topmost step of the ladder, the book would be too high up. She needed something to nudge it with, and she went back to the kitchen and unhooked the giant wing of the trum- peter swan and returned with it, the feathers blindingly white when she walked through the rays of the sun on the veranda, almost a detonation.

As she climbed up with the four-foot wing she thought of her mother who would use this ladder to dust the upper reaches of walls and shelves in this house. She recalled the story of her parents’ first meeting. Grace had been fifteen years old at the time and was a servant in someone’s house, and she had approached a passing policeman one day in a distraught state and demanded that he arrest a certain seventeen-year-old gardener’s boy from a nearby house. ‘I cannot stop think- ing about him!’ she had declared. ‘Each night the thought of him keeps me awake, and all day I long for him. I demand justice!’ Looking for a few moments of amusement, the police- man had followed the spirited, indignant girl as she led him to her criminal. He was entirely unaware of her, of course, and was speechless now, to find himself accused of being her incre- mental killer.

Helen arrived at the top step of the ladder – ‘This is where the wolf lives,’ Grace would say – and she stretched the wing of the swan cautiously towards the book on the small windowsill. The tip of the last feather fell just short of making contact with the book’s spine, and she raised herself onto her toes to attain the extra inches. There was a dull, indistinct noise from some- where below her at that moment, and she glanced down to see that the boy from the shop had appeared at the door to the study.

Carefully she brought her heels back down to the metal sur- face of the step. She had neglected to lock the door after his departure.

‘Did you forget something?’

He was looking at her and the expression on his face was somewhere between a sneer and a swoon, his body partly con- cealed in the shadow being thrown by a shelf. As he advanced into the room Helen saw that he was in fact trembling, the sharp length of the knife in his right hand moving to and fro as he approached the ladder.

Continue reading