Interviews, Reviews and Essays

A selection of book reviews, interviews with authors and literary essays. 

Moni Mohsin's new book marks the return of a wiser Butterfly

This may not be the best of times to hold forth on Pakistani humour, as the country reels from devastating floods and political mismanagement. But it also feels oddly fitting to do so, since it’s Moni Mohsin we are talking about here. It’s hard to think of many writers of South Asian origin who have used humour as potently as her to portray the miserable realities of society, especially the bubble in which the top 1% live.

Languorous Unfoldings

ONE OF THE key virtues of a successful short story, as David Davidar argues in his erudite introduction to A Case of Indian Marvels, is its effortless readability. “Line after superb line creating a narrative so compelling that the reader wants to keep reading,” he writes, citing the authority of icons like Bill Buford (former fiction editor of the New Yorker), writer Ruskin Bond, and George Saunders, a contemporary American master of the form.

Why ‘Behind The Beautiful Forevers’ still resonates

On a freezing January morning in 2012, as a handful of publishers, journalists, writers and bibliophiles headed for the annual Jaipur Literature Festival on the early morning Shatabdi Express from Delhi, the buzz around the compartment was about one book alone: the American journalist Katherine Boo’s Behind The Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, And Hope In A Mumbai Undercity, which was hot off the press and had created a major stir, especially in India.

Suniti Namjoshi: In the wonderland of history, fiction and myth

Few contemporary writers own the epithet of a “fabulist” with as much sass as 81-year-old Suniti Namjoshi. The word, deriving from the Latin fabula (“story”), refers to a storyteller. But it could equally mean a liar, a compulsive teller of tales. The best fabulists are masters of the art of fibbing. They inhabit a morally dubious, if exciting, universe, where conventional beliefs about life and art, gender and sexuality, right and wrong, turn topsy-turvy.

The God Of Small Things is still relevant after 25 years

In 1997, when The God Of Small Things was published, I was in high school. I had a passing familiarity with the Booker Prize but the dailies in Kolkata, where I lived then, made sure that all and sundry appreciated the enormity of Arundhati Roy’s win. After all, she was one of “us”, born to a Bengali father and Syrian Christian mother, even though she had grown up mostly in Kerala and lived in Delhi. Roy’s smiling face, framed by her then curly mane of hair, appeared in newspapers and magazines.

When fiction collides with fake news

Amitava Kumar’s new book, A Time Outside This Time (Aleph Book Company, 699), is a shape-shifting entity. Quick-witted and nimble, this odd literary beast has its ears to the ground. It slips into modes of narration that may appear radically opposed to one another but are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. Interspersed with scraps of news reports, photographs and drawings, it signals its affinity with the uncategorisable genre practised, most notably, by the German writer W.G. Sebald.

'Growing up in Kashmir, we were scared of the light'

A tall and robust woman with strong opinions (especially about giving career advice to her beloved younger granddaughter), Bobeh started to shrivel and become withdrawn, a mere shadow of her former self, as she aged. Forced to stay indoors, with all the windows shut tight (for fear of a stray bullet flying in—it did, in fact, kill a family relation when she left a pane ajar to let in some fresh air), with her asthma aggravated by the noxious fumes of tear gas used by the army to disperse protest.

Those miserable Goan Catholics of Mumbai's Orlem

In the last few years, readers of literary fiction in India have witnessed the flowering of a curious sub-genre in English language publishing—the hyperlocal Mumbai novel. The trend, if it is one, began with Jerry Pinto’s (2013), a harrowing story of mental trauma and healing, set in Mahim. More recently, Amrita Mahale’s accomplished debut, (2018), explored life among the insular Goud Saraswat Brahmins of Matunga.
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