The Hindu on Books | India at 75, Kamal Haasan on Literature, Western Ghats Fiction and More
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The Hindu On Books newsletter aims to take you deeper into the world of literature every week.
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Welcome to this edition of The Hindu on the Books newsletter.
As India celebrates 75 years of independence, a slew of books explore its political, economic and cultural journey, charting how far it has come since the dark era of colonialism and trying to understand what lies ahead in the face of the headwinds of a declining economy. , illiberalism to fear of global health. Prolific and beloved writer Ruskin Bond kicked off the celebrations with his book earlier this year, A Little Book of India: Celebrating 75 Years of Independence. Emphasizing that he had spent 85 of his 88 years in India, Bond records some of his memories and impressions of “this unique land – of its rivers and forests, of its literature and culture, of its sights, sounds and of its colors – an amalgamation of the physical and spiritual.”
Sanjaya Baru, journalist, writer and media adviser to Dr Manmohan Singh, provides an update on India’s economy in his new book, Re-emerge, re-invest, re-engage. It presents the ideas and events that shaped economic policy in the years following independence, and how India transformed it from a largely agrarian feudal economy to a modern, industrial, and resource-based economy. services.
In his latest book, Violent Brotherhood: Indian Political Thought in the Age of Globalization, Shruti Kapila reflects on the formation of the Indian Republic and why violence played such an important role in the founding of the nation. She argues that Hindutva uses the strong state to advance, to be the sole guardian of sovereignty.
With hindsight, historian Ramachandra Guha paints a portrait of a group of people who chose to fight for the freedom of a country that is not theirs. In Rebels Against the Raj: Western Fighters for India’s Freedomit tells the story of British Indian freedom fighters, seven rebels so to speak, like Annie Besant, BG Horniman and Madeline Slade, later Mira Behn.
Judge Gautam Patel writes a searing manifesto for dark times, Undermining the idea of Indiain which he argues that the Internet and the judicial system must serve as beacons in this era of precariousness.
Critics included Shruti Kapila’s explosive book on the ideas that shaped the birth of the Indian republic, a translated Malayalam debut novel exploring repression and resistance in the Western Ghats, a tale of the Sikh riots in 1984, Anthony Sattin’s walk with nomads and Suite. We also interview Kapila; and actor and politician Kamal Haasan and writer Jeyamohan, whose new book, stories of the truecame out, exchange ideas on the intersection of literature and film.
Books of the week
In Violent Brotherhood: Indian Political Thought in the Age of Globalization (Penguin), Shruti Kapila argues that the violence was not merely incidental, but integral to the founding of the nation. The violence that shattered the heart of the country left the foreign master untouched, but drew the blood of the parents for no reason. In fact, violence and fraternity coexist and perhaps they can only exist side by side, as the title suggests. What appears as a passing mention in the classic version of Indian history, “partition violence,” was indeed a civil war, the author tells us. In his review, Varghese K. George writes that a preeminent thinker of the time, BG Tilak, anticipating the German conservative theorist Carl Schmitt, viewed the ability to raise the sword against those close to him as the ultimate political act. “BR Ambedkar viewed the Hindu-Muslim conflict as an ongoing civil war, and he, like Vallabhai Patel, believed separation would bring peace and tranquility. The partition was supposed to be the end of the conflicts, but it turns out that 75 years later, India continues under Hindutva the “unfinished agenda” of the partition. Delving into the lives and thoughts of Tilak, Gandhi, Har Dayal and his band of Ghadaris, VD Savarkar, Mohammad Iqbal and Vallabhai Patel, Kapila constructs his argument on how violence and brotherhood, unity and separation interact in the search for and assertion of sovereignty.”
The Violent Brotherhood of Shruti Kapila: A Review of Indian Political Thought in the Global Age: The Violent Making of a People
Violence and Brotherhood in Indian Political Thought | The Hindu On Books Podcast
Valley (HarperCollins) by Sheela Tomy, translated by Jayashree Kalathil, is set in the agrarian idyll of Kalluvayal, a village buried deep within the Western Ghats. Tomy’s debut novel tackles the verdant vistas and the chirping of birds and builds a story around the migrants who call it home and the real inhabitants of the land, the adivasis. In his review, Navamy Sudhish says that the novel, inextricably linked to the land, turns into a “brilliant discourse on social and environmental justice”. The writer, she says, presents a fascinating array of characters, but the main protagonist is the forest, a storehouse of mysteries and myths. “An excellent eco-fiction, Valleywhich means vine, a system of wages and land in Malayalam, is full of fervent depictions of nature. Valley also means a young girl and in the novel there are many women who “carry the wild rhythm of the forest in their souls”.
In Green Darkness: Review of Sheela Tomy’s ‘Valli’
It will soon be 40 years from 1984, but the pivotal events that unfolded after the attack on the Golden Temple, the assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, culminating in the Sikh riots, still haunt the nation’s mind. The Anatomy of Loss (Bloomsbury) by Arjun Raj Gaind is the dramatic story of a grandfather and grandson during the 1984 pogrom and also deals with survivor’s guilt. Ritika Kochhar writes in the review that everyone who survived 1984 “still has to make peace with it”. Gaind studied at SOAS in London and was almost recruited by young people trying to revive the idea of Khalistan (“the book is strongly anti-Khalistan,” Kochhar says), and the trauma hangs over everyone “like a miasma that must never be let Go.”
1984, the year that changed everything: review of Arjun Raj Gaind’s ‘The Anatomy of Loss’
by Anthony Satin Nomads: the wanderers who shaped our world (Hachette) begins on a lyrical note as he travels through the Zagros Mountains of Iran with the Bakhtiari tribe. In his conversations with the tribesmen, he not only hears about the varied knowledge their travels have brought them, but also about the “difficulties of being a shepherd in the 21st century”. This is a problem that most nomadic communities around the world face. Since land is scarce and sought after for so many other needs, they are pushed to the edges and often forced to settle. In his review, R. Krithika writes that Sattin goes on a world tour, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Turkey, Persia, India, China, trying to convince his readers that nomads were at the heart of most achievements. At times her arguments are a bit stretched, but Krithika finds the writing evocative. “Sattin ends his story where he began: in the Zagros Mountains with the Bakhtiari. “Perhaps,” said his friend Feredyun, “thoughts and ideas should always roam like sheep and goats, here and there, now together, now apart.” It’s a fitting ending to the book.
Anthony Sattin’s Nomads: The Wanderers Who Shaped Our World review: “Thoughts and ideas shall wander forever, now together, now apart”
In a free conversation, Kamal Haasan and Jeyamohan exchange notes on literary influences, democracy, cinema and the aesthetics of language, the context being the launch of Jeyamohan’s new translated collection, Stories of the True (Juggernaut) from the Tamil Aram. Asked by Kamal Haasan why he chose to fictionalize it, Jeyamohan said: “Around the age of 50, I felt like I had lost faith in idealism. In an attempt to regain my faith, I began to write about the idealists I had met so far. I first wrote the story “One Hundred Armchairs” as an essay, but it didn’t work. For me, the fiction was more faithful to the original spirit. An essay can only express an idea. He cannot express the spirit. So I chose fiction. Kamal Haasan replied that he made the movie Hey Ram as a tribute to his hero Gandhi [after he too seemed to be trying to regain his faith in ethics and high morality]. “He [Gandhi] is a hero to both of us, isn’t he? He is a lasting witness for righteous living.
Actor Kamal Haasan and Writer Jeyamohan Discuss World Literature, Film and the Power of Storytelling
Tuhin A. Sinha and Ambalica The great tribal warriors of Bharat (Rupa) honors unsung heroes, members of tribal communities who fought the British. The book begins with Tilka Manjhi, who unleashed the guerrillas to fight the British, and features Jaipal Singh Munda, one of the Constituent Assembly’s most nuanced speakers. These freedom fighters came from all parts of India, including the northeast and south, and from all tribes.
- Bombay Imagined: An Illustrated History of the Unbuilt City by architect Robert Stephens compiles all the unrealized projects that could have shaped the city, from an underground railway, rehabilitation plans to monsoon control canals. He also highlighted some figures from his past who deserve a better place in the canons of historical figures who shaped Bombay/Mumbai.
After being out of print for over a decade, Jeet Thayil’s collection of poems, These errors are correct (Penguin), is back in a new avatar. Meditation on mourning, the illustrated book takes readers through verses of tenderness and rage where time merges into a continuous present.
Ghosts are everywhere in a collection of nine Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhay stories. Translated by Devalina Mookerjee, Taranath Tantrik and other talessupernatural (Speaking Tiger), the nine short stories blur the line between reality and the supernatural world.