Best reads of 2019

Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar

My list has six books, five of which I have reviewed. In no particular order, here are my best reads:

Prelude to a Riot, novel by Annie Zaidi, published by Aleph Book Company: This short novel packs an unbeatable punch. Zaidi’s new novel is an observation on the communal and religious situation in our country and the class divide and the creation of fault lines in a society. Here is my review of Prelude to a Riot: https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/prelude-to-a-riot-review-for-whom-the-bomb-ticks/article29656037.ece

Nowhere People, novel by Sabitri Roy, translated from the Bengali by Adrita Mukherjee, published by Stree (an imprint of Bhatkal & Sen, Kolkata): Roy’s novel is an intimate look at the lives of refugees. It is a long book and I found it to be quite demanding. However, once I got used to the narration, this turned out to be an insightful, empathetic read. Here is my review of Nowhere People: https://scroll.in/article/942279/this-intimate-look-at-the-lives-of-refugees-in-1947-resonates-with-the-politics-of-present-day-india

In Search of Heer, novel by Manjul Bajaj, published by Tranquebar (an imprint of Westland): Bajaj’s novel is a subversive retelling of the legend of Heer and Ranjha. The novel is filled with Bajaj’s signature style elements: a powerful female protagonist, a richly drawn male lead, sexual tensions, and major twists in the plot. Here is my review of In Search of Heer: https://bit.ly/2qsGsvz

The Sixth River: A Journal from the Partition of India, memoir by Fikr Taunsvi, translated from the Urdu by Maaz Bin Bilal, published by Speaking Tiger: Taunsvi was a satirist, but the dominant mood in this book is realism. This is a visceral account of the days leading up to the Partition of India in 1947 and the days soon after the Partition. The politics of the Partition, the way in which the ordinary people were crushed by the Partition, Taunsvi’s book is a chilling read. Here is my review of The Sixth River: A Journal from the Partition of India: https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/opinion/a-moving-and-visceral-account-of-partition

A Stranger at My Table, memoir by Ivo de Figueiredo, translated from the Norwegian by Deborah Dawkin, published by Doppel House Press, Los Angeles: de Figueiredo is half-Goan and half-Norwegian and this book is about is father, a member of the Goan diaspora. Through his father’s story, de Figueiredo maps the journey of the Goan diaspora, also giving insights into the history of Goa as well as Eastern Africa. The book was so beautiful in its English translation, I wondered how beautiful it must be in its Norwegian original. Here is my review of Stranger at My Table: https://scroll.in/article/925276/a-norwegian-biographer-writes-movingly-of-his-goan-father-who-was-largely-a-stranger-to-him

Flowers on the Grave of Caste, stories by Yogesh Maitreya, published by Panther’s Paw Publications, Nagpur: Maitreya’s book is just 80 pages long, but the effect its six stories have lasts longer. Maitreya is a Dalit and Panther’s Paw Publications is an anti-caste publishing house, and the stories in Maitreya’s collection are about caste atrocities and discrimination that Dalits have to face. Maitreya’s writing is raw and four of the six stories have a lived experience kind of feel, as if they are not works of fiction but anecdotes from real life.