Tales from the Marvellous and the Real: : Boats on Land by Janice Pariat, A Review


Fiction voices from the Seven Sisters have always been distinct, with a flavour of the elusive or the mysterious, and with the depth of the unusual and the rare. With the IWE (Indian Writing in English) in bloom, many writers with an authentic voice on the region have made the cut in literary fiction — Mitra PhukanJahnavi Barua and Anjum Hasan, to mention a few. Janice Pariat now joins this pantheon of excellence with her debut anthology, Boats on Land.

There are 15 stories, all of which cover the period from British colonial rule to the hartal-ridden, angst-filled, factionalism-threatened today — that’s about two hundred years. As we read from the first story to the last, the events unfold in chronological order with different protagonists. Continue reading “Tales from the Marvellous and the Real: : Boats on Land by Janice Pariat, A Review”

Dilemmas of Displacement: Aerogrammes and Other Stories by Tania James

Tania James

Tania James Tania James’ debut was impressive; her Atlas of Unknowns was applauded by critics and readers alike among the Western audiences. On this side of the world, the book was shortlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. Ms James has also had prestigious bylines in Granta, Guernica and Boston Review. Which is what makes her short fiction anthology, Aerogrammes and Other Stories, an anticipated one. This reader’s verdict is an encore: it’s brilliant. Continue reading “Dilemmas of Displacement: Aerogrammes and Other Stories by Tania James”

Celtic Revival: A review of Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Dream of the Celt

Vargas Llosa

Vargas Llosa

Reading about Roger Casement in Mario Vargas Llosa’s latest novel, The Dream of the Celt, brings to mind Robert Browning’s poem The Patriot. “It was roses, roses, all the way” when Roger Casement, the late Irish revolutionary, poet and human rights activist, then a British diplomat, tabled the famed Casement Report documenting human rights abuses in the Congo Free State in 1904. Similarly, he later conducted an investigation of “rubber slavery” among the Putumayo Indians of Peru by the British-registered Peruvian Amazon company. Continue reading “Celtic Revival: A review of Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Dream of the Celt”

The magic of realism

Anuradha Roy

Anuradha Roy Anuradha Roy. Does the surname sound familiar? But there is no connection to Arundhati Roy except the gender and the pen. And this author writes in a totally different style too. There is no magical realism here, and the pace and prose need to be savoured in an unhurried way — think Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters. Continue reading “The magic of realism”

A chronicle of clashing perspectives

Leila Aboulela

Leila AboulelaLong listed for the Orange Prize 2011 and the IMPAC Dublin Award 2012, Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela is a chronicle of a clash of perspectives; of a family and a people who are at the threshold of change within and outside. Set in the 1950s’ Sudan, Lyrics Alley presents a very accomplished portrait of a country contemplating independence, which she has won after four bloodied decades. The fact only makes the premise – that history is created at such a slow and painful pace – more appealing. Yet, Aboulela has steered clear of references to a violent present or the Darfur issue in the course of her narration. Continue reading “A chronicle of clashing perspectives”

Of tigers, myths and wars

Téa Obreht

Téa Obreht The book under review won its author, Téa Obreht, the Orange Prize 2011. To win a prestigious book award at 25 must feel good. Just as good as the accolades stacked up in a short career: previous Orange Prize winner Ann Patchett called her “tremendously talented”; Irish literary genius and academic Colum McCann said, “she is the most thrilling literary discovery in years”; T C Boyle called her “towering new talent”. Téa Obreht has also been the youngest person on the 2010 list from The New Yorker’s list of best 20 American writers under 40. Continue reading “Of tigers, myths and wars”

The thrill of uncertainty

Santiago Roncagliolo

Santiago RoncaglioloI had three reasons for choosing Red April or Abril rojo on my reading list. One, this novel had won its Spanish author, Santiago Roncagliolo, the prestigious Premio Alfaguara, the highest Spanish language literary award, in 2006. Roncagliolo was the youngest writer to receive the award at the age of 31. Two, this is a Spanish original translated by Edith Grossman, the translator who introduced us to Garcia Marquez and Cervantes. The third reason was rather “Nobel” too; a literary report that claimed that Roncagliolo is the biggest challenge to Llosa on the Peruvian literary scene. In 2011, this novel won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Continue reading “The thrill of uncertainty”

Meet Rama the man

arshia sattar

arshia sattar Arshia Sattar is an acknowledged expert of the Indian narrative. As one journeys through her analytical re-interpretation of the Ramayana in Lost Loves: Exploring Rama’s Anguish, her ease at handling Rama and Sita as literary characters strikes you as extraordinary. It’s almost as though this writer has been a silent and sharp observer of the various lives of Rama and Sita across the plentiful narrations in the Ramayana realms. Perhaps that’s the secret behind this very readable demystification of the “eternal hero” of the Ramayana. Continue reading “Meet Rama the man”

Love in the time of war

Aminatta Forna

Aminatta FornaThe brilliance of this novel comes not from its unusual setting or the depiction of a place in gory detail, but from a sensitive weave of emotions that could have gone off into a dangerous tangent but doesn’t. The novel is an insightful portrayal of the fractured sensibilities of Freetown, a city in a civil war- torn country where a brute majority of the population suffers from post-traumatic stress, the results of war wounds both physical and psychological. Continue reading “Love in the time of war”

In search of love, catharsis and more

Tahmima Anam

Susan Brownmiller Bangladesh is mentioned in prominence in Susan Brownmiller’s pioneering work on the politics of rape, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape. The 1971 War of Liberation and its aftermath in the context of war “crimes” against women has been compared in the book to the Japanese rapes in Nanjing and German rapes in Russia during World War II. “… 200,000, 300,000 or possibly 400,000 women (three sets of statistics have been variously quoted) were raped. Hit-and-run rape of large numbers of Bengali women was brutally simple in terms of logistics as the Pakistani regulars swept through and occupied the tiny, populous land …” (p 81). Continue reading “In search of love, catharsis and more”