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Posts Tagged ‘epic’


Life in a Rectangle
Sujit Sanyal| Finger Print| Rs 395

In this delightful pocketbook memoir on advertising business in Kolkata between 1970-90s, ad guru Sujit Sanyal, recalls the advertising agencies, the ideas and the people that shaped the industry in its incumbency. He talks extensively of Clarion (Satyajit Ray started his career at the agency, the communist student leader Prasanta Sanyal was its managing director) as well as its campaigns (the agency designed the first ever campaign for a political party in 1977 – ‘You vote for yourself when you vote for Congress’). But not only. Other agencies also get a mention, as do the people that headed them. An absorbing read, whether you are an ad man or a lay reader.

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Mahabharata
Shiv K Kumar| Harper Collins|Rs 399

“One wonders,” says Prof Kumar, “why most versions of the Mahabharata do not visualise its potential as a story rich in poetic beauty and aroma.” While this may hold true, it cannot be denied, that the epic has been translated into many languages and in many imaginative ways at different points of time as well. The Mughals did it, so did the Brits. Like AK Ramanujan’s collection and retelling of Three Hundred Ramayanas, there is no reason why there should not be many retellings of Mahabharata. Each age and each writer brings his or her sensibility to the mega tale. Prof Kumar’s version is a welcome addition to the lot.

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Embassytown
China Mieville| Pan Books| £ 7.99

In this skillfully crafted science fiction tale, Mieville, looks at problems of communication and the potency of language. Action takes place in the future – in a universe formed of “homo-diaspora” where humans engage in barter economy around living biotechnology – a world where hosts speak only truth and aliens, lies; where subjugation and propaganda are complicit in the language. Could it be possible that language is not just a tool of oppression, but that it could be the instrument of resistance? Mieville says he deals with “monsters”. His imaging of the future of language, its role and power, is his battle with one.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 25 March 2012)

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Portraits From Ayodhya
Scharada Dubey| Tranquebar| Rs 295

“Can we permit politics to use emotional triggers like ‘faith and ‘identity’ to amass followers?” asks Dubey in this excellent compilation of oral history, drawn from the interviews conducted with Ayodhya’s famed residents. Returning to the city two decades after the demolition of Babri Masjid, Dubey unflinchingly records the city’s multi-layered existence. “Even before 1949, there was a gang of five people who used to go around establishing temples in place of Muslim graveyards. My father was one of the five,” Vineet Maurya, a dalit farmer living next to the remains of the Masjid, tells the author. Don’t mistake this book for a travelogue it’s a socio-political document that deserves to be read.

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The Forest of Stories
Ashok K. Banker | Westland |Rs 295

After writing the immensely appreciated ‘Ramayana Series’, Banker returns with the retelling of the great epic, Mahabharata. A work, that is part of a larger project in which the author wishes to recap ancient Indian texts dealing with ‘mythology, itihasa, history and future history’. “Unlike my Ramayana series, where I often took great creative liberties,” says Banker, this version of the Mahabharata sticks closely to Vyasa’s Sanskrit epic. He reminds the reader that the famed epic is, “not a religious polemic. Not a historical document. Not Itihasa.” But just “a great story”. For those who have always wanted to read it in accessible English translation, it’s a welcome treat.

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Grandma’s Bag of Stories
Sudha Murty | Puffin| Rs 199

Sudha Murty’s books for children create an aura of magic that’s at once charming and riveting. In this book, Murty, retells the stories she had heard from her own grandmother, Krishtakka, while growing up in Shiggaon, a sleepy town in north Karnataka. Her stories are tales of everyday life encountered in a world free of  modern technology – there are kings here, thieves, monkeys, mice and gods. Each story has a moral and a lesson for tiny tots, and each is accompanied by lively illustrations drawn by Priya Kuriyan that any child will enjoy spending time with.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 26 February 2012)

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As China Goes So Goes The World
Karl Gerth| Hill and Wang| 258 pp, $ 16

This offering from Oxford University historian is a masterful study of the economic evolution of contemporary China. He asks the question, we sometimes stumble upon in our moments of lucidity – ‘what are the ‘collective’ implications of ‘individual’ consumer choices for China’ and ‘how does it affect the rest of the world’? They are already shaping the future, we will all share, says Gerth. Chinese government and business leaders, for instance, view domestic ownership of global brands and intellectual property as symbolic of national wealth and power, the economic equivalent of hosting the Olympics, but much more permanent. Think of the consequences? Think about what India is doing.

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 The Global Economic Crisis Through an Indian Looking Glass
Adarsh Kishore, Michael Debabrata Patra & Partha Ray| Sage| 318 pp, Rs 795

When a book opens with a foreword that states that ‘the recent global crisis was truly global’ and that the authors wrote it while serving the IMF one doesn’t exactly shiver in anticipation. One doesn’t expect any meaningful insights either. But one does look for an analysis irrespective of whether the writers toe the government line or not. And one assumes that the book is not a just an ego massager. But assumptions are often proven wrong. This lofty presentation is just a sequencing of crisis and policy responses thereof. Its analysis of impact of global crisis on India is to view RBI’s policies through rose tainted glasses. All is well, no mess. Just rising inflation.

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Conqueror
Conn Iggulden| HarperCollins| 546 pp, Rs 299

The intriguing thing about writers of pulp, whether its about modern events or history fiction is their ability to build stories into roller coaster ‘epics’. Iggulden, as the book jacket informs us, is one of the best selling authors in this genre. His first was on Julius Caesar followed by Mongol Khans of Central Asia. The latter comprises four books. The first three look at the exploits of Genghis Khan and the fourth Conqueror at the world of scholar king-turned empire builder, Kublai Khan. It will not be long before writers such as Iggulden will start tearing into our history as well. Think ‘Babur, the Mighty Tiger’ or ‘Akbar The Great’.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 4 December 2011)

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