Kashmir, Mao, free spirit, join forces on book shelf

New Delhi: The books on the shelf this week are mercurial: serious and thought-provoking, yet fun.

1. ‘My Kashmir: The Dying of the Light’; Written by Wajahat Habibullah; Published by Penguin India; Priced at Rs.499

Jammu and Kashmir has been ravaged by conflict for 60 years. Caught in a tug-of-war between India and Pakistan, the state, a model of harmony and co-existence for centuries, is today riven by conflicts of ethnicity, religion and national identity; by friction between national and local governments and by rival claims to territory.

The book lays out the intricate web of issues at the root of crises that engulfed the state at the close of the 20th century. In an account that is part history, part memoir, the writer draws on his long personal experience in the state administration to trace the missteps of the Indian government.

2. ‘Mao`s Great Famine: The History of China`s Most Devastating Catasrophe (Indian Edition)’; Written by Frank Dikotter; Published by Bloomsbury/Penguin-India; Special Indian price: Rs.650

Between 1958 and 1962, China descended into hell. Mao Zedong threw his country into a frenzy with the Great Leap Forward, an attempt to catch up and overtake Britain in less than 15 years. The experiment ended in the greatest catastrophe the country had ever known, destroying tens of millions of lives. Access to Communist Party archives has long been denied to all but the most loyal historians, but now a new law has opened up thousands of central and provincial documents that fundamentally change the way one can study the Maoist era.

This astonishing, riveting and magnificently detailed book chronicles an era in Chinese history much speculated about but never before fully documented. Dikotter shows that instead of lifting the country among the world`s superpowers and proving the power of
communism, as Mao imagined, in reality the Great Leap Forward was a giant - and disastrous - step in the opposite direction.

3. ‘A Monsoon of Music’; Written by Mitra Phukan; Published by Penguin India; Priced at Rs.450

Four musicians: a bright, young, aspiring student, two highly-respected gurus married to each other, and a globe-trotting star, each deeply immersed in the tradition of Hindustani Shastriya Sangeet. Their lives intersect in the small mofussil town of Tamulbari on the banks of the Brahmaputra.

Against the backdrop of a magnificent musical heritage and the timeless ragas that sweep through the pages of this wonderfully evocative novel, the writer presents the ambitious sitarist Kaushik Kashyap, who tours the world with his beautiful Italian student; Nomita, the shy, small-town vocalist, whom Kaushik`s parents have chosen for him; Nomita`s Guruma, the calm Sandhya Senapati, and her husband, the handsome Tridib Barua, who seem to be hiding deep, dark secrets; and Guruma`s friendship with the well-known industrialist Deepak Rathod.

4. ‘Release and Other Stories’; Written by Rakshnanda Jalil; Published by HarperCollins-India; Priced at Rs.350

In this anthology of stories, a debut collection of fictional short stories, the writer tries to explore the lives of Indian Muslims, not the marginalised ghettoised Muslims of the popular stereotype, but the mainstream one.

The title story is an exquisite invocation of a vanished world, while others deal with contemporary commonplace issues. The illusion of domestic harmony, marital discord and the definitions of success and failures surface as stories in Jalil`s collection.

5. ‘An Attempt to Assassinate My Inner Bourgeois’; Written by Yann Kemminon; Published by Full Circle; Priced at Rs.295

Writer, essayist, philosopher, art teacher and a magician...Yann Kerninon is a professional illusionist, conjuror and a multi-faceted character. Through a poetical, libertarian, and humorous style, this free-spirit seeks to determine, experiment, and embody the means of recovering a vivifying, genuine and enchanted life. His first essay,Cahiers d`Ubiquite (Workbook on Ubiquity) was published in 2003.

Updating the primary sense of ubiquity, which is the supernatural ability of being in different places at the same time, he undertakes to rethink simultaneously all fields of life, from cycling to poetry, from Labradors to society, from the giggles to terrorism. His books mingle the great philosophers of the past (Nietzsche, Heraclite etc.) to some prominent ideas and figures of popular culture, including the Punk movement or the Monty Pythons, a British comedy group.



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