LITE BOOKSHELF – Politics, Politics

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This week’s bookshelf contains a mix of  poems, translations and political imagination. Dilemmas of the self, evocation of modern India, some unpublished letters – Please take a look.

Bookshelf1. Book: The Political Imagination; Author: Nayantara Sahgal; Publisher: Harper Collins; Pages: 242

Through the last five decades, the author has constantly responded to the changes that have enveloped India and the world through her wide-ranging works of fiction and non-fiction. This book collects her writings and lectures on subjects ranging from literature and the arts to international relations and imperialism, written through some of India’s most turbulent phases – independence, the emergency, globalisation and terrorism. This book draws from author’s rich body of work and includes letters and commendations written to her that have never been published before. Combining public
history with personal reflections, the author reveals the politics of her own imagination in this collection of her most culturally insightful and socially conscious writings.

2. Book: Once It Flowers; Author: Vindod Kumar Shukla, translated from the Hindi by Satti Khanna; Publisher: Harper Perennial; Pages: 330

A thunderstorm blows the roof off a village school. Guruji, the school teacher, who lives in the school building with his family, is forced to seek shelter in an abandoned police station. The schoolhouse opens to the sky, and along with it, this intensely poetic novel opens up to the inner world of a dozen characters – Guruji, his wife, their two children, the village watchman, the tailor, the tea shop owner at the railway station and the stationmaster.

There is also Jivrakhan,the wordly-wise grocer, and his wife, who listens to the radio because nothing else will fill the emptiness in her life.

3. Book: Escape Artist; Author: Sridala Swami; Publisher: Aleph; Pages: 74

This book maps the dilemmas of the self and offers a diviner’s eloquent testimony to survival in a world of dissolving certitudes, precarious relationships, transcontinental mobility and political cataclysm. Poised, subtle and luminous, Swami’s poetry clothes the ephemera of everyday life in an intimate tangibility and secures them against the insistent attrition of history and nature.

The writer effects surprising juxtapositions of myth and contemporary experience, investigates whether the finality of extinction is preferable to the self-parody of repetition and revisits Romanian poet and translator Paul Celan’s cryptic notations. At the core, this collection is a visceral awareness of what words can do: they can induce “temporary insanity”, voice “inaudible stories”, and remind us that “the measure of love is not loss but residue”.

4. Book: A Hundred Measures of Time; Author: Nammalvar and translated from the Tamil by Archana Venkatesan; Publisher: Penguin: Pages: 256

The “Tiruviruttam” is an iconic poem by Nammalvar – the greatest of the ‘alvar’ poet-saints of the Tamil Srivaisnava tradition. Its hundred interlinked verses celebrate the love between an anonymous heroine and hero, who come to be identified with the poet and his beloved deity, Visnu. The poet masterfully weaves the erotic and esoteric to reveal both the contours of love and the never-ending cycles of separation and union, of birth and death, from which only Visnu can offer release.