India bagged its first ever International Booker Award this past week. It is the first time a book written in an Indian language, the 725-page long Ret Samadhi (Tomb of Sand), has been recognised by the Brits. Author Geetanjali Shree, who hails from UP and studied at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), is based in Delhi. But those who want to read it will have to wait, as due to the initial rush of interest, the English translation is out of stock at Amazon.
Amidst her activism for safeguarding queer rights and speaking in several conferences through her week, Dr Aqsa Shaikh has been making some time for reading The Handmaid’s Tale, a book by Margaret Atwood. Shaikh is a prominent trans activist and a teaching faculty at Jamia Hamdard in Delhi.
Youtso Rakdo, a Tibetan woman studying in Delhi, says she is reading Ocean Vuong’s On Earth we’re Briefly Gorgeous. Rakdo says, “Vuong’s writing focuses on personal narratives of exile, identity and trauma. The book is beautifully written and honestly feels like a poem. I did read it once but then I felt like my understanding of the text did not do enough justice to it so I decided to re-read it.”
Harshita Jha, a university student, says, “This summer , I’m reading Desperately Seeking Shah Rukh by Shrayana Bhattacharya, which is by all means a strange choice for me. I am not into Bollywood and most importantly, have never been a Shah Rukh fan.”
She says that the one reason why she chose this book as her current read was serendipitous. “On International Women’s Day, I landed up at a talk at the Women’s Study Centre, Delhi University. Among other people at the table was a very nonchalant woman who I thought was another PhD student, but to my surprise, it was her, the author of Desperately Seeking Shah Rukh.”
Another interesting title is Kai Chand the Sar-e-Aasman by Shamsur Rehman Farooqui, a celebrated figure in Urdu literary circles in Delhi and all over the country.
Tushar Srivastava, an aspiring scholar of history, says he plans to read and re-read it post the Booker Awards announcements of this year.
His reason: “It not only reflects the pre-colonial cosmology of ideas, and its translation in literature/language but also awards one of the traps of translation, the rich literary tradition which actually exists in the subcontinent.”
Mantasha, a content producer and a literature graduate in the capital, tells us that she is currently reading The Rebel by Albert Camus while she is also simultaneously hooked on to his other book, Summer in Algiers. She says, “Camus ponders over the people who live in Algiers, those people he was proud to call his countrymen, and he connects them to the harsh landscape where he discovered their culture.”
Mantasha says that for her, “The way Camus condenses such paradoxical questions into words, explaining everything so simply, is simply incredible. Understanding the obscurity through the mind of this unrivaled genius is definitely beneficial!”
Nishit, a member of the book club ‘One More Chapter’ says, “Currently I’m reading Cynical Theorie by British author Helen Pluckrose. There has been a rise in ‘cancel culture’ with the social justice mob crushing all opposing views. People are walking on eggshells when expressing their views. This book describes the origin of the movement and its pros and cons.” He adds, “Next I plan to read The Silent Coup by Josy Joseph. It gives a history of India’s deep state.”
Another member of the book club tells us that he just finished reading the Manga title A Distant Neighborhood by Jiro Taniguchi. He says, “This was my first Manga. I wanted to explore a new culture. I liked it so much that I plan to continue reading more of them. Next on my reading list is his other book A Journal of My Father.”
Shubhankar Sharma from the club says, “The last book I read that came with a backstory was Mistborn, a 2006 book by Brandon Sanderson. What drew me to it? Brainwashing by Internet algorithm. What I’m looking forward to this year is his other book Lost Metal.”
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Shruty covers stories related to migration, gender, sexuality, development and education in Delhi NCR at the Patriot.
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