The Wish Maker
By Ali Sethi
Ali Sethi is a US-based Pakistani journalist who has written for The Nation and leading American publications. His novel The Wish Maker, which comes out in June in the US, is a coming-of-age tale.
Zaki, a teenager, grows up in a Pakistani household during the time of Benazir Bhutto’s government, in a family of bold, outspoken women. Zaki finds a soulmate in his female cousin Samar, with whom he watches American television, memorizes dialogues from Bollywood movies and forms some secret friendships. They are forced to go their separate ways when adolescence approaches, as he leaves home to discover the world. Years later, Zaki confronts his past and the pain that friendship and betrayal bring.
First take: Mahadevan writes on the 1980s; Sethi, on the 1990s; and Choudhury’s book is set in Mumbai.
By Anand Mahadevan
This book is due to hit bookstores shortly. From the Penguin India stable, Anand Mahadevan’s The Strike is about his experiences while growing up in Tamil Nadu in the 1980s— during the course of the novel, the legendary film-star-turned-politician MGR dies. Young Hari, Mahadevan’s protagonist, is shattered when his experiment at eating fish leads to the accidental death of his grandmother; his preference for Hindi over his mother tongue Tamil leads to slanderous graffiti against his family in his home city Chennai (then Madras); and his friendship with the household help lands him in trouble with a militant Tamil film fan. It has been described as a novel laced with eroticism and humour, and a searing portrait of what it meant to grow up in 1980s India.
By Manu Joseph
At this year’s London Book Fair, which concluded on 21 April, Blake Friedmann, the agent for Serious Men by Manu Joseph, a Mumbai-based journalist, auctioned the UK Commonwealth rights of the book to publisher John Murray for around £100,000 (around Rs73 lakh). HarperCollins India pre-empted the Indian subcontinent rights. Serious Men, to be launched in April-May 2010, is about a man called Ayyan Mani, who realizes he is a bit stranded in life. Purely to entertain himself he begins to play a game, which eventually goes out of control. Ayyan works in the Institute of Theory and Research as a personal assistant to a brilliant, insufferable astronomer, obsessed with the theory that microscopic aliens are falling all the time on earth.
A John Murray representative was quoted as saying at the fair that Ayyan will be “remembered as one of the great anti-heroes”.
Arzee the Dwarf
By Chandrahas Choudhury
It took Chandrahas Choudhury, the book critic of Lounge, three years to complete his debut novel, Arzee the Dwarf. Set in Mumbai, where Choudhury lives, it is about two weeks in the life of a “very short man”. The eponymous hero’s view of his surroundings is always from a low angle—in which the big city appears bigger, and more frightening. Arzee’s dreams, fears and suspicions hover around him, as they do for all of us. The book, by HarperCollins, has just come out.
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