TBR Recommends – October 2021

The Sickle by Anita Agnihotri, translated from Bengali to English by Arunava Sinha
HarperCollins, India; 280 pp; fiction/translation

The farmer protests in north India have been in news for more than a year now, and recent incidents such as the one in Lakhimpur Khera, Uttar Pradesh, alert us to the urgency of the situation. Agnihotri’s novel is a striking example of how social and political developments can be used in fiction. A former bureaucrat, Agnihotri uses her experience of India’s hinterland to portray the distress of farmers, the mismanagement by local and national governments, and the rise of a virulent, irrational ideology. While the Bengali original came out a few years back, Sinha’s translation makes it instantly available to a larger audience. This is a very important book for our times.

The Illuminated by Anindita Ghose
Fourth Estate, India; 308 pp; fiction

This exciting debut by a former senior editor at Mint Lounge and Vogue India gives us an insight into what it is to be a woman in India overrun by Hindutva. Ghose combines realism with utopian/dystopian narrative strands in a way that reminds one of Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie. She address important contemporary issues such as the #MeToo movement, ecological disasters and how they can affect women, and again, the rise of a virulent and hateful ideology. While the resolutions to the problems that Ghose provides might leave some readers asking for more, there is a distinct note of hope — so essential for our times.

Lost, Hurt, Or In Transit Beautiful by Rohan Chhetri
HarperCollins, India; 63 pp; poetry

Winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize, this book is the latest offering from one of the most original voices in Indian English poetry. Also a translator, Chhetri explores personal and political history and experiments with meter and narrative. His influences are as varied as Leonard Cohen and Aga Shahid Ali as well as C P Cavafy and Robert Duncan. While his themes can be hyperlocal, like a resistance movement in Darjeeling or a winter in Delhi, his diction is international, as evidenced by the different publications — Paris Review, New England Review, AGNI — where these poems have previously appeared.

Uttaran Das Gupta

Uttaran Das Gupta is an assistant professor in the Jindal School of Journalism and Communication. He is the author of Visceral Metropolis and Ritual.