Book review

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 Writer’s Endurance Test

Book Review ♦ The Assassination of Indira Gandhi: The Collected Stories of Upamanyu Chatterjee, Volume I Originally published in India Today. From the ‘hazaar fucked’ slang of English, August through six subsequent novels and a novella, linguistic playfulness has always been a central feature of Upamanyu Chatterjee’s style, enamouring as many readers as it puts …

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A Deadly Cocktail in Delhi

Book Review: Killing Time in Delhi ♦By Ravi Shankar Etteth A certain kind of book predictably gets described as a “heady cocktail” of sex, drugs, crime and money. Killing Time In Delhi is such a book. As with other quaffable novels that suggest endless parties and rapid repartee, high-polish beauties and dark underbellies, Killing Time is about society’s upper …

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Fathers, Sons and Motherlands

Book Review: South Haven ♦By Hirsh SawhneyHarperCollins Publishers India, 2016 When the Babri Masjid was demolished, I was about the same age as Siddharth Arora, the preteen protagonist of Hirsh Sawhney’s debut novel. Like him, I was a first generation Indian American, growing up in an east coast suburb; like him, the news reached me …

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The Angst of Being a Modern Indian

The Cosmopolitans ♦Anjum HasanPenguin India, 309 pages, Rs 499. “Being a modern Indian is hard work,” a former king tells Qayanaat, the protagonist of Anjum Hasan’s The Cosmopolitans. If this is true for the King, the dispossessed monarch of fictional, small-town Simhal, it’s certainly so for Qayanaat, a 53-year-old single woman who lives in Bengaluru, subsisting …

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Crash of Civilisations

City of Spies ♦ By Sorayya Khan Aleph Book Company, New Delhi, 2015, 239 pp., Rs 295 (PB) ISBN 978-93-83064-78-6 Pakistan was scorchingly hot during the summer of 1977, the narrator of City of Spies recalls: “the newspapers were filled with worry that rain might never come”. And the persistent Cold War chill in relations between the United States of America and the Soviet Union only …

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Capital Rambles

Delhi: Unknown Tales of a City By RV Smith (Roli, ₹295) Among the contemporary crop of Delhi’s flâneurs and society chroniclers, Ronald Vivian Smith is a tall figure. The septuagenarian arrived from Agra in the late 1950s, and his regular columns in The Statesman and The Hindu span the decades of wandering he has done in …

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A Strange, Familiar Place

This Place ♦ By Amitabha Bagchi Fourth Estate / HarperCollins, New Delhi, 2013, 253 pp., Rs 499 (HB) ISBN 978-93-5116-018-2 After being suspended from his government job, Naresh Kumar, the title character in Amitabha Bagchi’s previous book, The Householder (Fourth Estate, 2012), finds himself a stranger in his own house. He waits desperately for the evening, …

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The Hired Man

Aminatta Forna travels to Croatia for her fourth novel ♦ In her fourth book, Aminatta Forna ventures out of Sierra Leone and Africa, the setting for her previous titles (including the Commonwealth Writer’s Prizewinning The Memory of Love). Set in a small town at the foot of the mountains in Croatia, The Hired Man, like Forna’s …

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Hats and Doctors

Daisy Rockwell’s translation of the late Upendranath Ashk ♦ Daisy Rockwell’s translation of Hindi-Urdu writer Upendranath Ashk’s short stories is more of a teaser than a complete introduction to the Jalandhar-born author. Rockwell, who also edited the collection, had the fortune to meet Ashk a year before he died in Allahabad in 1996. She admiringly characterises …

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