Zero K

At the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, astronaut Dave Bowman is reborn as a star child. As man has evolved over the centuries, Kubrick suggests, attaining more advanced states of being, this is the highest, closest to God. It’s a haunting image: a luminescent… Read more

Swimmer Among the Stars

At the end of “Tale of the Teahouse”, in Kanishk Tharoor’s debut collection of short stories, Swimmer Among the Stars, stands a burnt teahouse. The place at which the city’s tea drinkers would gather. They were also the city’s storytellers. The ones discussing rumours… Read more

In Other Words

Italian is a language I lost. Its speaker and I parted ways, and he took with him its rich, rounded sounds, its abundant theatricality, and sudden soft gentleness. For months I couldn’t bear to hear the language. I couldn’t watch Italian movies. If things are never just ‘things’, bearing… Read more

Grief is the Thing With Feathers

What shape does grief take? For poet Sharon Olds, it’s a stag, leaping. In her Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry collection, Stag’s Leap, which tells the story of her divorce after a 30-year marriage, the animal becomes emblematic of her husband, “casting himself off a… Read more

The Noise of Time

It’s coincidental that a month before I read The Noise Of Time, I finished Olga Grushin’s The Dream Life Of Sukhanov. Usually, the books I pick follow no thematic order. I am swayed by recommendations, whimsy, Facebook posts, memory. Which means that my reading list… Read more

Hear the Wind Sing

What do we talk about when we talk about Haruki Murakami? His cult-like celebrity-hood? Those immaculately designed book covers? The gazillion websites collecting “Murakami music”? Where does one begin? Sometimes, through all the glitz and glamour, it’s difficult to glimpse…. Read more

First Infinities

What happens to poems deferred? When they lie unshared, unseen. Do they dry up, raisins in the sun? Fester like sores? Do they sag? Like heavy loads. Do they explode? Rarely do they land in your hands, like Vijay Nambisan’s First Infinities, beautifully bound and produced… Read more


Fine short stories, like good poetry, render the familiar strange. And I don’t mean in the genre-specific “magic realism” kind of way. Only that the mundaneis seen in a different light. Coaxing us to summon uncanny connections, and appreciate the utterly bewildering… Read more

H is For Hawk

While I was reading Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk, news arrived from Bengaluru that a friend, dear and cherished, had passed away, suddenly, with an illness, yes, but with no special warning. It conjures, as Macdonald says in the book—among other things, an explication… Read more

Book Blurbs

Up until the time I published a book, I was under the gentle delusion that writing was the most arduous part of the process. Months, nay years, of unvented frustration, despairing of plot dead ends and dull characters, lengthy bouts of creative blankness, and constant questioning… Read more

Small Print

n any given day, Asia Writes, an “up-to-date resource for writers in the Asia Pacific region or of Asian origin”, receives hundreds of calls for submissions from literary journals, both print and online. These they tweet or post for their “followers” — not members of some terribly secretive… Read more

Wind Horse

In Ken Loach’s The Wind that Shakes the Barley, set during the Irish War of Independence (1919-22), the drama unfolds with a young man’s refusal to say his name in English. The British soldiers threaten him, yet he continues speaking Gaelic and for this effrontery… Read more

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage

Ann Patchett is an old friend. Or at least that’s what it feels like at the end of the book. You’ve peered into her childhood— divorced parents, grew up on a farm, attended convent school—and shared her resilient dream of being a writer. You’ve spent time with her… Read more

The Wandering Falcon

The narrative of The Wandering Falcon, Jamil Ahmad’s debut novel, shifts as easily as the desert sands-one layering the other, fashioning a new landscape with each gust of wind. Set around the permeable borders of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, years before the rise… Read more

The Peripheral Centre

The Peripheral Centre is an ambitious book. As the back flap explains, “it seeks to give voice to the many issues and concerns that have emerged as a result of the… decades of conflict and violence that has besieged the seven states of India’s Northeast”. The contributors… Read more

The Harappa Files

If nostalgia had shape and colour, it would look like this. Although you may not think so to begin with. The Harappa Files, Sarnath Banerjee’s third book, starts with a playful Postmodernist jab at himself as Paul Auster and Italo Calvino were wont to do by placing… Read more

The Americans

Flight, as motif recurs through the book packed with characters who in some way or another desperately seek to escape. Their stories are narrated through swift, interlinked chapters, a postmodern pastiche ranging from school notes, diary-like entries, third-person points… Read more

Sweet Tooth

For a book that revels in exploring the invention of the self, McEwan couldn’t have chosen a better setting – the murky world of the MI5, where identities are discarded and shelved like wrinkled old suits. This in an era when Britain, plundered by low national… Read more


Reading Swarnalata is taking a step back in time in more ways than one. The novel is set in the past, in tumultuous mid-19th century Assam, and its style too is pedantic and archaic, as though wrenched straight from the arms of a realist Victorian novel. This is not necessarily… Read more

Not Only the Things That Have Happened

Some books are sculptural in nature. Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach is as smooth and polished as a pebble found on that part of remote English coastline, a natural Fabergé egg. Henry Miller’s work often reminds me of Duchamp’s Fountain – wildly irreverent… Read more

High Low In-Between

Imraan Coovadia’s third novel High Low In-between is a book of fission and fragmentation. Set in Durban, after the “new government” has come into power, there is nothing of great joy or hope held out for reborn South Africa. The story opens with a retirement party… Read more

Grimm Tales

In Jonathan Gottschall’s slim, illuminating book The Storytelling Animal, he says that long before primates thought of writing Hamlet or Harlequins or Harry Potter stories – long before writing at all – they thronged around hearth fires trading wild lies about brave tricksters… Read more

Dirty Love

Sampurna Chattarji’s collection of vignettes and stories set in Mumbai, is a terrifying onslaught. You are at the mercy of her razor-sharp words, held close to your throat, to your wrists. And you are compelled, willingly or not, to read on. The collection falls in line after… Read more

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