Payal Kapadia

There is no getting away from it: the title Twice Upon a Time must be one of the best things that happened to children’s literature in a long time. Together with the inspired illustrations, funny and fecund, the title promises a romp that evoked, in this reviewer, dusty memories of settling down with a book in a quiet corner of the summer vacation, and surrendering to the bliss of being swept away.

Reviewed by: Rohini Mokashi-Punekar
Akil Kumarasamy

Every once in a while there comes along an author, whose expert fingers peel life like an orange, pulling apart the skin, deftly separating the clingy pith to reveal sections of the luscious fruit within. It is with such delicacy and skill that Akil Kumarasamy probes memories, experiences, pain and grief in her short story collection, Half Gods.

Reviewed by: Sumitra Kannan
Vikram Seth

Imagine miniature vials of premium perfume curated by a well-known and trusted brand and aesthetically packaged and gift wrapped. Now replace those vials with slices of literary works by some of India’s well known writers enclosed in a hardbound book with a jacket that spells sophistication, stamped with the logo of a publisher that constantly strives to break new ground, and voila! There you have it! Love and Lust: Stories and Essays from Aleph’s Olio series.

Reviewed by: Shikhandin
Uzma Aslam Khan

Why do postcolonial states turn penal colonies into tourist destinations? Devil’s Island in French Guiana, Robben Island in Cape Town, South Africa, Penang in Malaysia or Port Blair in the Andamans seem to compete for a place under the sun; their contemporary fame ill accords with their past notoriety.

Reviewed by: Sachidananda Mohanty
Mirza Waheed

‘Of all the men in the world, of all the doctors in the world, of all the fathers in the whole world. I happened to be the one present in that place at that time.’ This line from Mirza Waheed’s Tell Her Everything immediately brought to mind that iconic dialogue from the iconic movie Casablanca: ‘Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine…’

Reviewed by: Madhumita Chakraborty
Upamanyu Chatterjee

In 1988 Upamanyu Chatterjee, a Patna born career bureaucrat, published English, August: An Indian Story. The novel, Chatterjee’s first, was a literary sensation. Turning into a cult novel, it transformed the Indian English writing space forever. Very few novels, we must admit, have played such a significant part in our literary scene as Chatterjee’s English, August did; indeed, Agastya Sen is a young man impossible to forget and so is Madna, the small town tucked away somewhere in the vast Indian landmass.

Reviewed by: Nabanipa Bhattacharjee
C.T. Indra and R. Rajagopalan

In late 2018 both The New York Times and The New York Review of Books carried long reviews of Tamil writer Perumal Murugan’s One Part Woman following its reprint for the American trade book market by Grove Atlantic. Controversy following the murderous threats to the author no doubt played a part in the attention it received. But it was also a symptom of changed times.

Reviewed by: AR Venkatachalapathy
Rakhshanda Jalil

‘How is one supposed to look like one’s religion?’ With these opening lines, the author, Rakhshanda Jalil sets the premise of her book which questions the common imagination of Muslims as a community. Through various essays, Jalil stresses that all the Muslims are not cut from the same cloth. The book is divided into four broad themes of identity, culture, literature and religion containing ten essays in each chapter.

Reviewed by: Sabah Hussain
Shashi Tharoor

Notes from the Hinterland belongs to the Olio series of Aleph Books. It a miscellany of fictional and non-fictional texts, including short stories, extracts, reportage and opinion pieces. The collection aims at projecting the multiple hues of life in small towns and villages. Narrated from a humanistic point of view, the selections hold pointers towards development of societies in states of transformation and/or present the problematic of societies in transition.

Reviewed by: Fatima Rizvi
Kumkum Chadha

‘This book is for a generation that has very few memories of the Seventies’ India.’ This is the opening line of the preface of Kumkum Chadha’s new book The Marigold Story: Indira Gandhi & Others, comprising eleven profiles of personalities largely belonging to the world of politics and stardom. The basic idea is to make the present generation aware of the human side of these larger than life personalities with all their weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Reviewed by: Suraj Thube
Priya Alika Elias

Besharam: Of Love and Other Bad Behaviours by Priya Alika Elias is a guidebook about what it means to young Indian women and how actually to be one. The author writes it from her perspective of having lived across various countries and how multiple locations for an Indian woman actually don’t simplify the expectations around her. The book has been divided into eight sections demarcated over sex, ugliness, love, hurt, culture, failure, judgement and independence.

Reviewed by: Arshi Javid
Saiyma Aslam

Aslam’s book is an exploration of how the lives of Arab Muslim women are influenced by culture, law, religion, patriarchy, contingencies of global restructuring and its accompanying socio- economic shifts. She employs feminism and travelling theory to challenge the (re)Orientalist myths about Arab women’s supposedly exotic lives as well as indigenous structures of patriarchal domination. She argues that the lives of Arab women are marked by heterogeneity…

Reviewed by: Ambar Ahmad
Mathew Joseph C

This book is a much delayed compilation of papers presented at a seminar conducted by the Centre for Pakistan Studies, Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, in March, 2012. Seven years in the making, perhaps the Editor’s ennui in goading the authors to submit papers in time reflects in errors, spelling ‘grateful’ as ‘greatful’ in acknowledgements, which stare glaringly at the reader in the very first page!

Reviewed by: Rana Banerji
Santanu Das

So much has already been written on the history of the First World War—its cause, spread and consequences—that an addition to the corpus of existing literature, expanded substantially in the last few years on the occasion of the war’s centenary, is unlikely to cause much of a stir. Yet the book by Santanu Das that seeks to be ‘the first cultural and literary history of India and the First World War, though it necessarily engages with the social and the political’ has turned out to be a definitive exercise that enriches our understanding like few others before.

Reviewed by: Amitabha Bhattacharya
Torill Kornfeldt

Reading Torill Kornfeldt’s book The Re-Origin of Species: A Second Chance for Extinct Animals feels a little odd. Part of that is to do with its translatedness. Make no mistake about it; Fiona Graham has done an excellent job, barring an occasional infelicity such as nanny goats ‘falling pregnant’ (and there are quite a few avoidable errors of copy editing).

Reviewed by: Satyajit Rath
Sejuti Das Gupta

Class, Politics, and Agrarian Policies in Post-Liberalisation India by Sejuti Das Gupta is a valuable and timely contribution to a political economy analysis of state and agrarian policies in India during the period of neo-liberal economic reforms. That Indian agriculture has slipped into some kind of a persistent crisis, leading to rural distress since the late nineties is something that has been amply written about and recognized.

Reviewed by: Arindam Banerjee
Sukumar Muralidharan

This is a fascinating book on contemporary media studies comprising eight chapters focusing on the existing debate on speech and freedom, nationalism, the state, civil society, satire, media, market, advertising and journalism.

Reviewed by: Manoj Jena
Bernard D’Mello

Maoism in India has evoked the interest of and intrigued social scientists and scribes in India and across the world of all persuasions for over seven decades. Though generally chronicled from the uprising in Naxalbari in 1967, its history goes back to the Communist Party of India-led uprising in Telangana in 1946 with the same intent, ideology and strategy. The Naxalbari movement of 1967 in West Bengal has a historical continuity with Telangana.

Reviewed by: Ajay K Mehra
Walter K. Andersen

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is ideologically driven, has a strong and complex organizational structure and is demonstrably the most powerful non-government organization in present-day India, with a determining influence in cultural and political life. In terms of its appeal and reach across social and geographical boundaries, both its growth and expansion have been phenomenal. Yet, it remains inexplicably mystifying and beyond the reach of those who wish to understand its unfolding strength objectively.

Reviewed by: Rabi Prakash
Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay is better known as a prolific columnist and author. Quite often his journalism is considerably informed by modern Indian history, more particularly Hindu-Muslim relations. Besides, he has also authored a few books which include a biographical account of Narendra Modi and also a detailed account of the anti-Sikh pogrom which was unleashed after the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984.

Reviewed by: Mohammad Sajjad
Alf Gunvald Nilsen

In the post-liberalization era the tribal communities are facing two contradictory situations. On the one hand, neo-liberalization has enhanced the processes of dispossession and marginalization and on the other hand, tribal organizations have compelled the Indian state in recent years to introduce various national laws like the FRA and MNREGA, which give tribal and other marginalized communities ownership and livelihood rights.

Reviewed by: Kamal Nayan Choubey
Amir Ali

This book is a necessary compilation that comes from an embattled republic of letters in a nation slowly being desiccated by the philistinism of its politics. The great merit of the book is its comprehensive nature as it focuses expansively on many themes. There is the question of the economy being roiled by adverse global headwinds that the ruling dispensation seems to be gloriously inept at handling.

Reviewed by: Amir Ali
Neera Chandhoke

From India’s most clear-headed political theorist Neera Chandhoke (a former Professor of Political Science at Delhi University), comes a new page turner—an extraordinarily accessible and yet tightly argued monograph on the nature and value of contemporary India’s plural democracy. Anyone familiar with Chandhoke’s earlier works such as Democracy and Revolutionary Politics (Bloomsbury, 2015)

Reviewed by: Aakash Singh Rathore
Francis Fukuyama

Francis Fukuyama needs no intro- -duction. He shot into prominence with the publication of his widely read book, The End of History and the Last Man in 1992. In brief, Fukuyama had put forth the thesis that with the collapse of Communism ideological wars have come to an end and the future belonged to liberal democracy, which—in a Hegelian sense—was the culmination of all human associations, and indeed, its very pinnacle. Fukuyama’s contention was problematic and in a short period it became widely apparent that liberal democracy faced severe challenges from within.

Reviewed by: Syed Areesh Ahmad