De offers sneak peek into new book

Updated: Mar 12, 2011, 08:50 AM IST

New Delhi: Writer Shobhaa De Friday provided a sneak preview into her forthcoming "Sethji", her first novel in 15 years, at the Penguin Spring Fever festival in the capital while William Dalrymple read out an extract from his "The Return of the King: Shah Shuja And The First Anglo-Afghan War" to be published in 2012.

"Sethji", which marks De`s return to fiction, is a novel about the nexus between politics, big business and Bollywood. Set in Delhi, Mumbai and Bihar, it is a story of ambition, intrigue and sex in new India.

The writer read out a chapter from the novel, which will be published later in the year by Penguin.

In the 1990s, Shobhaa De changed the rules of Indian writing in English with her bestselling novels like `Starry Nights`, `Socialite Evenings`, `Sultry Days` and `Strange Obsession` that were well-plotted and racy and written in a language easy to understand.

De also pioneered the use of Hinglish in Indian literature.

In `The Return of the King...`, Dalrymple takes a look at the empire, the follies of colonialism and the hubris of imperial overreach.

The book saw the writer return to Afghanistan and Pakistan, areas he covered as a journalist and travel writer in his early twenties, but which have now found themselves thrust from the periphery into the very epicentre of global fears and anxieties, he said.

The book started off last year when the New York Times commissioned Dalrymple to write a full-page Sunday piece on the First Anglo-Afghan War and its parallels with the current, deepening crisis in Afghanistan.

The commission took him to the north-west frontier of Pakistan and Afghanistan and set him thinking about the extraordinary similarities between what the US faces today in cities like Kabul and Kandahar and the situation faced by the British in the very same cities, facing the very same tribes, nearly 200 years ago, the writer said.

`The Return of the King...` is a historical parable about the human costs of the west`s neo-colonial entanglements in the Islamic world, a spokesperson for the publisher Bloomsbury said.

Adman and commentator Suhel Seth read out from Jamil Ahmad`s `The Wandering Falcon`, an important Penguin title.

The literary session Friday evening, `Blockbuster Friday`, was devoted to big books in the making.