The thread that binds Nadine Gordimer’s new collection of short stories, Beethoven was One-sixteenth Black, previously published in The New Yorker, Harper’s and Daedalus, is racial and political identity—an area that the Nobel Prize winner has explored in most of her works. In Tape Measure, a parasite recounts its shock at having been banished from his host’s body, flushed in the toilet into whatever lies beyond; in A Beneficiary, the daughter of a deceased actress discovers that the man she’s known as her father may not be; in Dreaming of the Dead, the narrator imagines a scene at a lower Manhattan Chinese restaurant where three deceased thinkers—Edward Said, Susan Sontag, and British writer Anthony Sampson—gush about each other over dinner. An intellectually charged collection, although the prose in some of the stories are a tad dull to retain your interest.
The HarperPerennial imprint begins their Indian run with a relaunch of six titles by author Nayantara Sahgal, including Mistaken Identity and Prison and Chocolate Cake. The niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, Sahgal’s last book, Lesser Breeds, came out in 2003. Mistaken Identity, one of her best known and acclaimed works, is about Bhushan, a philanderer and story-teller who regales inmates of a North India prison that he has been thrown in, with his numerous tales of romance and adventures in foreign lands. Mystery and gentle humour are the trademark qualities in Sahgal’s writings, and there are plenty of it in this book. Worth a revisit.
This is 35-year-old writer Anjum Hasan’s debut novel. An editor at the Bangalore-based India Foundation of the Arts, it’s in a way a fictional recreation of her childhood spent in the hill town Shillong. The three main characters in Lunatic in My Head—an adopted eight-year-old girl who is looking forward to the arrival of the sibling her mother is pregnant with; an aspiring IAS officer and a college professor who is in a souring romantic relationship—want to get out of the picturesque town to chase their ambitions and personal desires. Through them, Hasan combines an outsider’s angst with the nostalgia for a lost world in this promising debut.
In this travelogue, Beyond the Dunes, Delhi-based producer and film-maker Juhi Sinha uses her knowledge of the topography, people and history of Rajasthan gathered while she made documentaries on the state. Written in conversational prose, Sinha travels to unknown corners in familiar destinations and forgotten towns and palaces that have interesting stories. There’s a generous dose of the exotica typically associated with Rajasthan too, but the interesting parts are about the wastelands near Pokaran, the rural ballad singers, and characters such as Padam Singh, the rickshawallah who doubles as a bird-watching guide, and Nek Muhammad, the folk singer and his troupe.
Portrait of an artist
The Delhi-based artist Anupam Sud, 63, is known for her intricate intaglio prints, which she uses in various genres including lithography and screen printing. Along with a retrospective of her works that conclude in Delhi’s Lalit Kala Academy on 13 December, Palette Art Gallery has launched Transgressions in Print, a book on the interesting aspects of her life and works. Curator and historian Gayatri Sinha and Roobina Karode have contributed to the book, which also includes many images and excerpts from an enlightening private conversation between the artist and her former students, Subba Ghosh and Shukla Sawant who are teachers and artists themselves.