Exploring Emotional History: Gender, Mentality and Literature in the Indian Awakening by Rajat Kanta Ray
Oxford University Press, India; 326 pp; history and social science
Do emotions have a history? Whose emotions does the writer, poet or diarist portray in an emotionally divided society? This seminal work seeks to find out some answers. It examines the emotional history of a nation, its gender concepts, its romanticism and its resistance – some relatively unexplored domains of intellectual exercise in mainstream history.
Ukraine, a contemporary amalgam of varied emotions and a case in point, comes to mind off and on while reading this book.
Elizabeth Costello by J.M. Coetzee
Vintage, UK; pp 230; fiction
What happens to a writer who is already famous for her first novel? Her life becomes a collage of conference rooms, seminars, prize ceremonies, residency programmes and a secret wish to preserve her novel for posterity. She starts inhabiting a Kafkaesque world. However, her Hellenistic world collides with that of her sister who thinks ‘Ordinary people do not want the Greeks. They do not want the realm of pure forms. They do not want marble statues. They want someone who suffers like them. Like them and for them.’ A must read.
‘Air of Solitude’ Followed by ‘Requiem’ by Gustave Roud; Translated by Alexander Dickow and Sean T. Reynolds
Seagull Books, India; pp 155; poetry
Gustave Roud is widely considered as the founder of modern francophone Swiss literature. Roud lived at his grandfather’s farm in Carrouge, Canton Vaud, for his entire life. This is the first English translation works of a poet as one of the great European poets between two world wars. His lyrical prose-poems, transcending borders, invoke a sense of solitude in everydayness. The pandemic brings him closer to us.
Desire of Roots by Robin S Ngangom
Red River, India; 102 pp; poetry
If a poetry book begins with such a dedication as ‘To my father and mother, who, by making love, also made poetry’, you intrinsically know that you are entering into a master poet’s mental realm where his signature abounds. Your slow, simple reading, at every turn of the page, actually becomes a complex walking tour through lanes, bylanes, blind alleys and dead ends of life and its memories. Hauntingly beautiful.
The Lotus Pond – on Art and Artists by A. Ramachandran and complied by Vinod Bharadwaj
Copper Coin, India;339 pp; art and autobiography
When a distinguished artist, with a great sense of history and perspective, writes autobiographical essays, it crosses the usual boundaries of art and literature and becomes a sitemap of his life and time in art. Influenced by Dostoevsky, Bashir and Manto, Ramachandran, a student of Malayalam literature and a student of Kala Bhawan, Visva Bharati, in his lucid prose, uncovers the whole of India and beyond through his paintings, drawings and observations. An intimate world view.
Conversations 1,2,3 by Jorge Louis Borges & Osvaldo Ferrari Translated by Anthony Edkins
Seagull Books, India; 337, 352 and 220pp; literature and interview
In these three-volume conversations, much like a free for all adda, Borges, a prolific reader and a cryptic writer, keeps changing tracks and brings in references to almost everything that the human civilization possesses. A long staggered read unfolds the mind of Argentina’s master writer and a no holds barred conversationalist who considered himself ‘a European in exile’. A candid read.