Books

Literary reviews , interviews and other features.

Dystopic Living

Author Samit Basu lays out Delhi’s best-case scenario in his sci-fi novel, and it is horrific. ♦ Originally published in India Today. Dystopia is pornographic,” says one character to another in Chosen Spirits. “You see it and shiver but it’s also kind of fun because it’s happening somewhere else, to someone else, you know? It …

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Invisible Man

Aravind Adiga imagines Australia refracted through an immigrant’s eyes ♦ Originally published in India Today. We use the word apocalypse, and these days frequently, to describe the end of the world. But its literal meaning, from ancient Greek, is “uncovering”. No one can say for sure whether Covid-19 is our omega, but there’s no doubt …

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Volatile Reactions

The Alchemy of Secrets, by Priya Balasubramanian ♦ Originally published in Biblio India. I read The Alchemy of Secrets on the first really scorching day of India’s nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, feeling dehydrated, irritable and headachy. At a time when everything else passing before of my eyes—the news, the Twitter news, the creative ferment on Instagram—seemed …

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Poet Verses Delhi

Akhil Katyal chronicles Delhi’s many moods in his new poetry collection ♦ Originally published in India Today. The last line of Agha Shahid Ali’s poem “Chandni Chowk, Delhi” gives Akhil Katyal’s new book its title, but the entire collection seems impelled by the poem’s opening command—“Swallow this summer street…” In these Delhi poems, Katyal imbibes …

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A City in a Fog

In Deepa Anappara’s Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, dangers lurk in the long shadows of Nithari and Nirbhaya ♦ Originally published in India Today. Smog meanders through the pages of Deepa Anappara’s moving debut novel; an oppressive presence, like one of the malevolent djinns that nine-year-old Jai worries might be behind a series of …

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The Philosopher’s Tome

Accidental Magic, Keshava Guha’s debut novel, ponders Harry Potter fandom but is light on geeky delights. ♦ Originally published in India Today. Since Harry Potter debuted in 1997, books, films and fan material related to J.K. Rowling’s novels have proliferated faster than cursed objects in a vault at Gringotts. There are academic treatises, pop literary …

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Mother of Invention

Perumal Murugan remembers Amma in his latest book. ♦ Originally published in India Today. I’d been waiting a couple of days to hear back from the writer Perumal Murugan, via an editor who promised to translate my questions into Tamil and his replies to English. That this kind of exchange is possible at all is …

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The Great Trotter Resurrection

Irwin Allan Sealy’s Trotter-Nama comes alive for the third time. ♦ Originally published in India Today. It’s hard to imagine that the author of a book as gargantuan, complex and exuberant as The Trotter-Nama ever suffered such a crisis of faith in his creation — which had been out of print for an extended period — that …

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East is Beast

Book Review ♦ New Kings of the World: The Rise and Rise of Eastern Pop Culture, By Fatima Bhutto Originally published in Open. As 2014’s feeble monsoon faltered to a close, India burnt for Fawad Khan. The Pakistani actor had just crossed over into Bollywood with Khubsoorat, reducing women across the country ‘to wobbling blobs of …

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The Book of Waswo

The new miniatures from the studio of Waswo X. Waswo are as captivating as his latest photobook. ♦ Originally published in India Today. Nearly two decades ago, when Waswo X. Waswo was travelling in Pushkar, a group of camel herders started referring to him as “Chacha”. “The name just stuck,” the artist tells me in …

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