There is danger in KS Silkwood’s King of the Jungle, the story of a misanthropic never-been artist working as a park-keeper who discovers vulnerability and rediscovers his humanity — namely, the temptation to descend into sub-Good Will Hunting soppiness. Continue reading
Heir to Dostoevsky’s character studies and inspiration to countless modernist ruminations on fracture and fragmentation, Knut Hamsun’s profoundly psychological portrait of disintegration, 1890’s Hunger, may be rightly regarded as a literary forebear to the hollow man. Continue reading
If there’s one thing would-be authors could stand to learn from Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s 20-year literary career, it’s her uncanny ability to churn out product. Her latest novel, One Amazing Thing, revisits the fundamentals of the Divakaruni method: invoke a sense of exuberant melodrama and shameless sentimentality unencumbered by the likes of subtlety or understatement — with an almost bewildering efficiency. Before they can even realise it, readers are dosed with enough easily digested bromides to kill a horse.
American journalist and author Katherine Russell Rich spent a year between 2001-2002 in India learning Hindi at an Udaipur school. Recently released in India, Dreaming in Hindi, an account of her stay in the country, has won the approval of Oprah and was received warmly by The New York Times. In an email interview, Rich discusses how the trip shaped her understanding of India and its culture, the intricacies of Hindi, and how the Gujarat riots affected her work and perception of our country. Excerpts:
What about Dreaming in Hindi will surprise Indian readers?
I think a lot in the book will surprise them. The language took me deeper into the country than many Western writers go, or than the ones who come over and write about finding themselves in India go. I was more interested in finding India, which I’d fallen in love with through the Hindi language when I was studying it back in New York. A lot of Americans come to India and are overwhelmed by the differences, but because I was going in on words, I was able, through language, to make faster sense of India. The more I understood life there, the more that aspects of it became so compelling. I begin to love the closeness I found in Indian families, for instance, and maybe that’s one thing that will surprise Indian readers—that a fiercely independent, privacy loving New York journalist could come to cherish the nosiness and clamor and boisterous emotion that you find in Indian families. I still sometimes wish I had an Indian family here in New York to go stay with.
Daisy Hasan’s The To-Let House opens with a twin invocation — of Shillong, and of memory. Framed as a coming-of-age story pitched against ethnic tensions in Shillong, the novel, at its core, is built around recollection and remembrance of the city, the ‘to-let house’ and the ‘mansion’ to which it is attached. Launched at India’s Jaipur Literary Festival, To-Let House is Hasan’s first novel (which, as a front cover inscription helpfully reminds readers, was long-listed for the 2008 Man Asia Literary Prize) and traces two pairs of siblings — Di and Addy, Kulay and Clemmie — over three sections covering 1979, 1984-88 and, briefly, 1997.