Indian Authors

13 Indian Authors in '13 (self-challenge)

I don't want to set any reading goals for 2013. I want to walk into a library and dig out a book that is buried under all the seemingly popular ones or grab a book that instantly pops out at me, or choose the one with my kind of blurbs or an author I always wanted to read, but never did. I want to read all the books already on my shelf, so I won't feel like this moron who actually owns interesting books and hasn't gotten around to reading them. I want to go to book sales and buy huge stacks of ancient, obscure, second hand books with dog-eared pages (though I don't like to do that myself, it goes with the 'look'), scribbles in the margins and that old musty smell of book. I want to read, because I love to read and not because I have to. There are many things that I have to do this year, and I would like it if there were still something left after completing them, which was more than a mere obligation.

I do have one very vague goal, though, and that is to read some Indian authors. The title reads "13 Indian authors in '13" merely because it sounds catchy, I guess. I haven't actually planned how many I'm going to read. Recommendations, as always, are welcome. This list will include authors I have wanted to read, or been recommended, and won't quite possibly include books I got for review.

#1  Amitav Ghosh

In An Antique Land: The book is a very loosely structured combination of two stories - the author's stay in Egypt while conducting research for his doctoral dissertation and the story of a 12th Century Jewish merchant and his slave. This book was so much more than what I expected. It was this beautiful blend of language, history, anthropology. It offered social critique and musings on human character. It read at times like a travelogue and at times like an actual research paper, all with a nice flow to it. I hadn't expected the lighthearted writing style and the humour that made me chuckle every so often.

- The Calcutta Chromosome: I liked the book, though perhaps not as much as In An Antique Land. Follow this link for the review.

- Sea of Poppies: I liked this book: the characters, their lives so wonderfully intertwined, their feelings and decisions are all portrayed precisely but beautifully. The historical fiction element kept reminding me of In An Antique Land, which captured the aura of the past rather more attractively. The nautical "Laskari" language took some getting used to and footnotes would have been a huge help. The book seemed to me not quite complete (and only partly because of the cliffhanger ending) but a promising start. I do like books set on ships, so I'm looking forward to reading the sequel.

#2  Vikram Seth

- An Equal Music: This book promised SO much and delivered so little. Follow this link for a short review.

#3  Rana Dasgupta

- Solo: This book is about a 100 year old Bulgarian man, his memories and his daydreams; the life he lives and the life he creates to make up for it. It's beautiful, heart wrenching and leaves you wondering about age, failure, circumstance, reality and most significantly psychology, people. I found the book brilliantly surreal and entirely different from what I had expected.

#4  Rama Mehta

- Inside the Haveli: This exotic little book gives you a lot to think about - the lives of the women of the Haveli, their customs, their willing discrimination towards themselves and others and the strong rejection of the changing ideas of the outside world. The language is very Indian, with many colloquializations (this word check tells me that's not a word; isn't it?) and a few words out of the regional language to add flavour. The style however is fluid and the descriptions are vivid and apt. If you like books on India, this is a must read!

#5 Girish Karnad

- Hayavadana: The play is a combination of absurd, shocking, hilarious. I can only imagine how it must be on stage. Hayavadana is based on Thoman Mann's novells The Transposed Heads, which was apparently based on a Sanskrit story from KathaSaritSagara. It is very Indian, whatever that means and folk-ey. I liked the fact that the translation into English was done by the author, it reduces considerably the chance that anything was lost in translation. It's an interesting retelling, worth a read to anyone who has heard the story of the Transposed Heads.

- Naga-Mandala: Again: absurd, shocking, funny. I enjoyed the play, the way it was written, that willing suspension of disbelief it demanded. It was great, though probably not as great as Hayavadana. I like how Karnad uses traditional ways to show a modern view - it makes the point he's trying to make all the more effective. There's a Kannada movie called Nagamandala, but I can't imagine it being as cool. The narrative adds the perfect sort of charm to this play, as to Hayavadana.

#6 Rohinton Mistry

- Family Matters: Painfully beautiful and quite fascinating, though the book was, it left something to be desired. Follow this link for the review.

#7 Vikram Chandra

- Sacred Games: This book is SO amazing. Follow the link for the review.

#8 Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

- One Amazing Thing: A beautiful read. Follow this link for the review.

#9 Tarun Tejpal

- The Alchemy of Desire: The story explores why the narrator falls seemingly out of love with his wife of fifteen years. It's a book about desire, mostly sex and what makes any relationship tick. And it's about stories, ambition and the struggling writer, about histories and coping with the mundane realities of our life. Despite the directionless plot, feeble humour and descriptions frustratingly cluttered with similes, the book was good. I don't, however, see myself reading anything else by the author.

#10 Salman Rushdie

- The Enchantress of Florence: Read the review here.

#11 Arundhati Roy

- The God of Small Things: This is one of those Indian books that everyone has read and I'm happy I finally did. My reaction went something like, 'Meh..', till about halfway through the book, the latter half was considerably better. The unlikely humour, the apt metaphors and the vivid imaginations of the twins were worth the read. Few writers capture childhood so strikingly. That being said, my 'rating' still hovers somewhere between "i liked it" and "it's okay". One point off for being so, so sad. Another for the stubbornly disjointed narrative. 

#12 Jhumpa Lahiri

- Interpreter of Maladies: This is a collection of nine short stories about the intermingling of the American and Indian cultures, and the challenges faced, issues of identity, religion and love. The certain exotic charm of this book was not lost on me. That being said, not all stories left an impression on me, and only a couple deeply affected me in this Pulitzer Prize winning collection of nine. I didn't love every story, but they had their moments. Read the review here

#13 Kiran Desai

- The Inheritance of Loss: I'm not sure how I feel about this book. The dark humour promised was there, and the book certainly made me think, it was emotional and harrowing and altogether a bit too honest; but frankly, there were many moments so painfully dull that they made me want to throw the book away. I won't read anything else by the author.



Mel u said...

If you have not yet read it, I highly recommend A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. It is set in Mumbai. Thanks for visiting my blog

Priya said...

I haven't, but I will! Thanks for the recommendation. :)

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