This Divided Island
Sub title: Stories from the Sri Lankan War
In the summer of 2009, the leader of the dreaded Tamil Tiger guerrillas was killed, bringing to a bloody end the stubborn and complicated civil war in Sri Lanka. For nearly thirty years, the war’s fingers had reached everywhere: into the bustle of Colombo, the Buddhist monasteries scattered across the island, the soft hills of central Sri Lanka, the curves of the eastern coast near Batticaloa and Trincomalee, and the stark, hot north. With its genius for brutality, the war left few places, and fewer people, untouched.
What happens to the texture of life in a country that endures such bitter conflict? What happens to the country’s soul? Samanth Subramanian gives us an extraordinary account of the Sri Lankan war and the lives it changed. Taking us to the ghosts of summers past, and to other battles from other times, he draws out the story of Sri Lanka today—an exhausted, disturbed society, still hot from the embers of the war. Through travels and conversations, he examines how people reconcile themselves to violence, how religion and state conspire, how the powerful become cruel, and how victory can be put to the task of reshaping memory and burying histories.
This Divided Island is a harrowing and humane investigation of a country still inflamed.
Sub title: Everyone Loves a Good Hanging
The Grddha Mullick family takes pride in the ancient lineage they trace from four hundred years before Christ. They burst with marvelous tales of hangmen and hangings in which the Grddha Mullicks figure as eyewitnesses to the momentous events that have shaped the history of the subcontinent.
In the present day, the youngest member of the family, twenty-two-year-old Chetna, is appointed the first woman executioner in India, assistant and successor to her father Phanibhushan. Thrust suddenly into the public eye, even starring in her own reality show, Chetna’s life explodes under the harsh lights of television cameras. As the day of her first execution approaches, she breaks out of the shadow of a domineering father and the thrall of a brutally manipulative lover, and transforms into a charismatic performer in her own right.
Meera’s spectacular imagination turns the story of Chetna’s life into an epic and perverse coming-of-age tale. Will the ardent young woman be able to escape the love that binds her? Will she bring herself to take a life? Will she add lustre to the illustrious name of Grddha Mullick? Or will she succumb to the dazzle of celebrity and the thrill of power over life and death? The lurid pleasures of voyeurism and the punishing ironies of violence are kept in agile balance as the drama hurtles to its inevitable climax.
A Bad Character
She is twenty, restless in Delhi. He is a few years older and has travelled the world. They meet in a cafe and they fall in love. In a dark, cool flat they have sex and do drugs. And then they travel the city. From the drug dens of Paharganj to the building sites of Noida, through the wastelands of Mehrauli and the dargah in Nizamuddin charged with plaintive song, the two play out their love story to its black end.
A Bad Character is a novel about a young woman finding her sexuality and herself against the backdrop of a dangerous city. It is the great novel of Delhi, capturing its beauty, its history and its violence like no other recent novel and it is a vivid account of a young woman coming of age. Written with passionate, lyrical intensity, A Bad Character is a haunting and utterly memorable novel.
It is the late 1970s. India has been wrenched by the Emergency. Like countless Indian children, Ajay and Birju are taken by their parents to America so they can have a better life. In New York, their flat is tiny, the students at their school racist. Like all striving Asian children, Ajay and Birju forge ahead, pushed on by their ambitious parents. But then everything changes. Birju has an accident that leaves him brain-damaged, and the world around Ajay collapses. His father begins to drink, his mother takes to prayer, and it is Ajay who must now bear all the guilty weight of their love.
Dark, sardonic, and written with biting wit and observation, Family Life is a superb portrait of one dysfunctional family that speaks to all families.
Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay [has] both fascinated and shocked readers of Bengali fiction' Indian Express
Darkly glamorous and fiercely erotic heroines take centre stage in these two novellas.
In Panty, when a mysterious young woman arrives in Calcutta and moves into a guest house, she finds in an otherwise empty wardrobe a soft and silky panty in leopard-skin print. She thinks the woman who wore it must have possessed a wild sexual nature. A feeling of companionship envelops her; the sexual lives of the two women begin to mingle and blur.
In Hypnosis, another young woman-a TV journalist on perpetual night duty-has an unconsummated but passionate affair with a famous musician that leaves her shattered. In the nightmarish sequence of events that follows, she allows herself to be hypnotized and drugged to aid her search for love.
Exposing our darkest desires and deepest fears when it comes to love, the effect of Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay's ferocious storytelling is deliciously anarchic and deeply unsettling.
A Strange Kind of Paradise
Sub title: India through Foreign Eyes
A Strange Kind of Paradise is an exploration of India’s past and present, from the perspective of a foreigner who has lived in India for many years. Sam Miller investigates how the ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Chinese, Arabs, Africans, Europeans and Americans—everyone really, except for Indians themselves—came to imagine India.
His account of the engagement between foreigners and India spans the centuries from Alexander the Great to Slumdog Millionaire. It features, among many others, Thomas the Apostle, the Chinese monk Xuanzang, Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta, Vasco da Gama, Babur, Clive of India, several Victorian pornographers, Mark Twain, EM Forster, Allen Ginsberg, the Beatles and Steve Jobs. Interspersed between these tales is the story of Sam Miller’s own 25-year-long love affair with India.
The result is a spellbinding, 2500-year-long journey through Indian history, culture and society, in the company of an author who informs, educates and entertains in equal measure, as he travels in the footsteps of foreign chroniclers, exposes some of their fabulous fantasies and overturns long-held stereotypes about race, identity and migration.
A tour de force that is at once scholarly and thought-provoking, delightfully eccentric and laugh-out-loud funny, this book is destined to become a much-loved classic.
Vasantha retired early, bought himself a van with his savings and now works as a driver for hire in Sri Lanka. As he ferries new entrepreneurs, charity workers and families around the country, he reveals with self-deprecating wit and folksy wisdom their uncertain lives after the end of a decades-long war. On his journey from the army camps of the north to the moonlit beaches of the south coast, he begins to wonder if the past can be left behind— especially his own, and his country’s—and what the future might hold for a lovelorn soldier out on the ramparts, a fast-moving hotelier in a bombed out town, an eager Jaffna student of Italian, or a desperate librarian of empty shelves? Perceptive, somber, finely tuned, Noontide Toll draws an extraordinary portrait of post-war Sri Lanka grappling with the ghosts of its troubled past.
A Great Clamour
Sub title: Encounters with China and Its Neighbours
One Part Woman
All of Kali and Ponna’s efforts to conceive a child—from prayers to penance, potions to pilgrimages—have been in vain. Despite being in a loving and sexually satisfying relationship, they are relentlessly hounded by the taunts and insinuations of the people around them. Ultimately, all their hopes and apprehensions come to converge on the chariot festival in the temple of the half-female god Ardhanareeswara and the revelry surrounding it. Everything hinges on the one night when rules are relaxed and consensual union between any man and woman is sanctioned. This night could end the couple’s suffering and humiliation. But it will also put their marriage to the ultimate test. Acutely observed, One Part Woman lays bare with unsparing clarity a relationship caught between the dictates of social convention and the tug of personal anxieties, vividly conjuring an intimate and unsettling portrait of marriage, love and sex.
The Essential Ved Mehta
The Essential Ved Mehta is the definitive collection of the author’s work, containing excerpts from nearly all his writings, many of which first appeared in William Shawn’s New Yorker. It begins with his first book, the classic autobiography highlighting his blindness, Face to Face, and goes on to feature, among others, his iconic books about India and his great family saga Continents of Exile. Each entry comes with a reflection by Mehta. Authoritative and illuminating, The Essential Ved Mehta is not just an introduction to this seminal writer but also a passionate record of a writer looking back upon his own work.