How to be Both
Passionate, compassionate, vitally inventive and scrupulously playful, Ali Smith's novels are like nothing else. How to be both is a novel all about art's versatility. Borrowing from painting's fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it's a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There's a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There's the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real - and all life's givens get given a second chance.
Sub title: Medicine and What Matters in the End
Doctors are trained to keep their patients alive as long as possible. But they are never taught how to prepare people to die. And yet for many patients, particularly the old and terminally ill, death is a question of when, not if. Should the medical profession rethink its approach to them? And in what way? With aging populations and hospital costs rising globally, these questions have become increasingly relevant. In his new book, Atul Gawande argues that an acceptance of mortality must lie at the center of the way we treat the dying. Using his experiences (and missteps) as a surgeon, comparing attitudes towards aging and death in the West and in India and drawing a powerful portrait of his father’s final years-a doctor who chose how he should go – Gawande has produced a work that is not only an extraordinary account of loss but one whose ideas are truly important. Questioning, profound and deeply moving, Being Mortal is a masterpiece.
The Sun That Rose from the Earth
A young Rajput orphaned by the revolt of 1857, Beni Madho Ruswa travels many years later from Cawnpore to Delhi to get the divan of Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib autographed by the great poet himself. Young Mir Taqi Mir, a rising star in the world of poetry, meets the first great love of his life, Nurus Saadat, an exquisite beauty from Isfahan. A tumultuous love affair follows, accompanied by ravishing verse. Aspiring poet and wealthy businessman Darbari Mal Vafa pays a visit to Lucknow and learns of the life and work of the poet Shaikh Mushafi through the stories told by his widow. Poets—historical figures ranging from Ghalib, Mirza Jan-e Janan, Budh Singh Qalandar, Amir Khan Anjam, Mir, Kishan Chand Ikhlas, Haidar Ali Atash and Mushafi—and poetry occupy centre stage in the fabulous stories of The Sun that Rose from the Earth, set in the great cities of north India and spanning the glittering age of the Mughals.
And Then One Day
Sub title: A Memoir
And Then One Day tells a compelling tale, written with rare honesty and consummate elegance, leavened with tongue-in-cheek humour. There are moving portraits of family members, darkly funny accounts of his school days, and vivid cameos of directors and actors he has worked with, among them Ebrahim Alkazi, Shyam Benegal, Girish Karnad, Om Puri and Shabana Azmi. The accounts of his struggle to earn a living through acting, his experiments with the craft, his love affairs, his early marriage, his successes and failures are narrated with remarkable frankness and objective self-assessment. Brimming with delightful anecdotes as well as poignant, often painful revelations, this book is a tour de force, destined to become a classic of the genre.
He saw his uncle once or twice a week. They got on each other’s nerves, but had grown fond of the frisson. He was Ananda’s sole friend in London—and Ananda his. ‘Friend’ was right; because his uncle was capable of being neither uncle, nor father, nor brother. Ananda’s uncle, Rangamama, is an eccentric bachelor who has taken early retirement and lives off his pension in a squalid bedsit in Belsize Park. His habits are angular—he rarely bathes, and devours paranormal stories—and his personality combative. Ananda, by contrast, is fragile, nervous and romantic. Uncle and nephew circle around their past, walk the streets of London and find in each other, an unspoken solace. A retelling of the story of Odysseus and Telemachus, Odysseus Abroad is a novel about a young man and an old man, about friendship, loneliness and love. Written in a voice at once tender and ribald, wry and unsentimental, this is Amit Chaudhuri’s most extraordinary novel yet.
• ‘A master of form and language, Chaudhuri’s fiction has always defied easy categorization. In this new novel, Naipaul meets Amis? Yes. Joyce visits Thatcher’s England? Yes. But so much more. Wittingly inventive, deeply moving, it’s his finest work to date’ - Caryl Phillips
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.