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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

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You usually catch them at book launches and literary festivals, looking like they’d rather be writing or golfing than answering a bunch of questions from a bunch of people who essentially want to know how they themselves can get published.  And most of them have come up with a stock answer to that omnipresent(ed) question – read. So, we decided to ask authors what they themselves liked from what they read in 2011.
Manu Joseph
Author, Serious Men, and Editor-in-Chief, Open Magazine
“I have read very few books this year. I would say Death in Mumbai by Meenal Bhagel is my favorite for the year. It is a very engrossing journalistic account of a murder and, through this, she tells the story of a strand of Bombay. It was pleasing to read a high-quality book about Bombay by an insider and not an NRI.”
Sify Editor’s Note:
Meenal Baghel’s book is about the murder of television production house executive Neeraj Grover in 2009. The accused included an actress, Maria Susairaj, and her boyfriend Lieutenant Emile Jerome Mathew, a young naval officer. The brutal killing made headlines across the country, and the verdict came through this year.
Maria was found not guilty of murder, but guilty of destroying evidence, and was sentenced to a maximum three years' imprisonment. She was released the following day with time served. Mathew was found guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and of destroying evidence. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the killing, and 3 for destroying evidence.
In this book, Meenal Baghel, editor of Mumbai Mirror, explores the case. An extract can be found here
Patrick French
Author, Liberty Or Death: India’s Journey To Independence and Division, Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History Of A Lost Land, Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer, The World Is What It Is, India: A Portrait
“I much enjoyed Teju Cole's post-postcolonial novel Open City.”
Sify Editor’s Note:
Open City has received rave reviews from publications including The New Yorker and The Guardian.  The Brooklyn-based author’s first book, Every Day is for the Thief, was published in 2007. Several reviewers have described his writing as “beautiful” and “original”.
Open City tells of a Nigerian psychiatry resident named Julius, as he goes on walks around New York City. His thoughts, and the things he chooses to remember, form the focus of the novel, and come across as a microcosm of humanity itself. Teju’s style has been compared to that of Nobel-winning South African writer J M Coetzee.
Shreekumar Varma
Author, The Lament of MohiniMaria’s Room, Devil’s Garden and several other children’s books, plays and anthologies.
“I liked Davidar’s book, Ithaca, which traces the ups and downs of publishing through an interesting story, and Rahul Bhattacharya’s The Sly Company of People Who Care, which is a well-worded travelogue in the guise of a novel. I also liked The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad, which is a lesson in the art of gentle writing even when your subject is violence.”
Sify Editor’s Note:
David Davidar, who used to head Penguin Publishing, brought this book out under an imprint of Harper Collins, and then launched his own publishing firm, Aleph, along with Rupa Publications. He is also the author of House of Blue Mangoes and The Solitude of Emperors.
Rahul Bhattacharya’s The Sly Company of People Who Care recently won The Hindu Best Fiction Prize 2011. The narrator of this novel spends a year in Guyana, tracing the history of its plantations, speaking to the various kinds of people who make up its hybrid population, and exploring the culture of the Caribbean island, from music to marijuana. Bhattacharya first book was the non-fiction work Pundits from Pakistan, which is about the Indian cricket team’s 2004 tour of Pakistan.
Jamil Ahmad’s The Wandering Falcon is the debut novel of the 78-year-old, retired civil servant from Pakistan. The book contains seven loosely linked stories, based on the tribes in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Recently, Jamil Ahmad said he had written the book between 1971 and 1973, but could not find a publisher for several decades.
The Sly Company of People Who Care as well as The Wandering Falcon have been longlisted for the Man Asian Prize 2011.
Rahul Bhattacharya
Author, The Sly Company of People Who CarePundits from Pakistan
“I’m always late on books, so virtually all the books I read and cherished this year were published before 2011. Some much earlier, like Flaubert's Madame Bovary, some quite recently, like Damon Galgut’In a Strange Room, and some in between, like Ishiguro’The Remains of the Day. I also loved two Bengali novels, Moti Nandi’Oporajito Ananda, and Sunil Gangopadhyay’Pratidwandi, and an old book of poems, Mercy Ward, by a Guyanese man of letters and much else, Ian McDonald. I think the only 2011 book I read was Aman Sethi’s A Free Man, a work of reportage on the life – and lives  of a labourer, which was both moving and illuminating.
Sify Editor’s Note
A Free Man is the first book of Aman Sethi, who currently works as a journalist. The central character of the book is Mohammed Ashraf, a construction worker and a painter at Sadar Bazaar in Delhi. Sethi's writing has been acclaimed for its poignancy and its portrayal of reality. An extract from the book can be found here.


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