Dan Brown probably had no idea of the consequences that his books, Angels and Demons among them, would have apart from an author’s expectation that they would sell well, and earn him a fair amount of money. They did that in spades; but they did more than that. They spawned a cult, a new genre of novels that were, if anything, as successful as Brown’s own books in the regions where they were marketed.
Murder in Seven Acts: Lalli Mysteries by Kalpana Swaminathan is a collection of seven crime stories, where all the cases are solved by Swaminathan’s popular detective character, Lalli. The collection derives its name from the sixth story, ‘Murder in Seven Acts’, in which history combines with modern technology in the commitment of a crime and in solving it. The stories are narrated in the first person by Sita—Lalli’s niece and the Dr. Watson of the Lalli mysteries—and most of them feature Lalli’s usual collaborators: Savio, a police officer; Inspector Shukla, the local police officer; and Dr. Qureshi, the forensic expert.
Nabaneeta Dev Sen is a highly acclaimed writer in Bengali literary circles, with her prolific writing across various genres like poetry, short stories, novels, essays, memoirs, and travelogues. She is also a very popular children’s author. On A Truck Alone, to McMahon is the translation of Dev Sen’s travelogue of her journey from Jorhat in Assam to the McMahon Line at the Indo-Tibetan border. It is a trip that is taken on an impulse, a journey of a restless soul who feels the entire universe is accessible to those who dare to be reckless.
There is something about a spiritual thriller that keeps us glued to the pages of a fast-paced story. Hemis is a unique novel in this less explored genre of Indian Writing in English. One may remember Arun Joshi’s ‘strange case’, a narrative delving into tribal lore, but Madhu Tandan takes us to the picturesque, mystical landscape of Ladakh, to a small monastery in the Hemis sanctuary. Imagine being walked through dark corridors, up creaking stairs to be met by an abbot who says nonchalantly, ‘What took you so long?’ Ajay, the corporate honcho from Delhi gets goose pimples—so would any of us—when such familiarity with our secrets is expressed by a stranger in a remote spot. Who then writes the design of your life—you or some other force?
The book Love and Life in Lucknow: An Imaginary Biography of A City, is a work of fiction, narrated in the first person by the author. Every nook and corner of the city has a story to tell. It comprises twenty stories, each forming a different chapter. Some stories have been told and retold since times immemorial. The author was born and brought up in Lucknow and many generations of her family have lived in the city. Hence, she has grown up with her own experiences and those recounted by friends and family.
Playwright par excellence, literary critic, artist, activist, and teacher, CJ Thomas’s work is credited with breaking traditional thought patterns and exposing society’s hypocrisy and superficiality. He is considered to have ushered in modern Malayalam theatre. Revolutionary film director Adoor Gopalakrishnan said of CJ, ‘He excelled in his field of screenplay writing…’ Mr. Gopalakrishnan believed that CJ has been an inspiration for many.
There lies tucked in the pages of this novel a moving love story. Nah, not the kind that Hollywood or Bollywood or Tollywood comes up with. On the contrary, this love story is ever so gentle and moving that you simply flow along with words tucked in the emails exchanged between the two: Kevin, a vicar devoted to the political struggle for Scottish independence and Maya, a well-known Hindi author. The two had known and loved each other ever so passionately in the New Delhi of the late 70s, and then parted, re-establishing contact after a gap of almost forty years via emails.
Conceived as a short story like Ulysses and penned as one, unlike Ulysses, and having the same gestation period—8 years—as Ulysses, Clouds is Chandrahas Choudhury’s second novel. The parallel may even extend a little further. Writing in the second decade of the twenty-first century and writing in English in India, Choudhury may be said to have faced the same problem that James Joyce did, crafting his modernist fiction almost a hundred years ago. The problem is this: how to fashion a prosaic world into an aesthetic form that can nevertheless double as an alluring commodity—in a word, fiction.
The genre of the pastoral has a distinguished ancestry, emerging recognizably in ancient Greece in the form of Theocritus’s Idylls, and in Roman times with Virgil’s Eclogues. These poems about bucolic shepherds lamenting the refusal of their ladyloves (for the most part, city-based) to heed their protestations of love had a country setting, and formed a lasting tradition that continues to this day, with varied re-inflections. We could trace parallel traditions in literatures across the world, where the idealization of country folk and their environs is marked, though in some of the most interesting pastoral poetry, a darker tone may prevail, as the countryside is itself revealed to have a canker eating at its soul.
Fifteen stories, all about women and girls, mostly in ordinary, everyday situations. What are their experiences? How do they react? How do they cope? What effect do these events have on the characters? These, in main, form the thrust of most of the stories, though there are interesting variations throughout. The topic of the tales range from nostalgia, to illegitimacy, to anger and defiance, to sadomasochism, to name a few. Add a dash of magic and whimsy to some stories and you have an interesting read.
The second wave of feminism threw open a basic proposition—the personal is political. Structures of power have historically determined individual agency, so much so that ‘choice’ may not be as autonomous as we would like to believe. The Elephant in the Room is a phenomenological attempt at conceptualizing the ways in which gender is experienced by women. The diversity of the narratives of the book captures the nuances, and provides various pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that aims to answer that critical question: what does it mean to be a woman?
It stands to reason that Manoranjan Byapari, who was launched into his unusual literary career by no less than Mahasweta Devi, should express not just irreverence but a no-holds-barred anger against the feudal lord turned poet Rabindranath Tagore for his humanistic ideology and his ethical values that do not take into account the grim, stark realities in the lives of people living in the margins. Tagore advocates honesty as his creed, says Byapari, but how can those who do not know where their next meal is coming from get by with such idealism? In fact, they can hardly survive without lying, cheating, thieving, taking recourse to violence or even killing.