Aanchal Malhotra's Favourite Reads
Aanchal Malhotra’s debut publication, Remnants of A Separation: History of the Partition through Material Memory, was shortlisted for the Shakti Bhatt First Book Award and The Hindu Prize for Non-Fiction (both 2018). She is also the co-founder of the Museum of Material Memory, a digital repository tracing family histories
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Fourth Estate, Harper-Collins, Rs 499.
Doerr weaves the lives of a blind girl from France and an orphan boy from Germany into a tale of a precious jewel with a curse. Also mixed in the plot are a copy of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in Braille, broken radios and a haunting gist of love.
City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi by William Dalrymple, Bloomsbury India, Rs 499.
I had just returned to Delhi after spending nearly a decade living overseas. When I was trying to shed Delhi off me, this was the singular book that made me fall back in love with my own city.
The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos by Anne Carson, Vintage Books, Rs 1,212.
An essay on Keats’ idea that ‘beauty is truth’, Carson’s words penetrate the fragile threads of marriage and fidelity—a dialogue on grief and romance, on pleasure and suffering and coming undone.
The Veiled Suite: The Collected Poems by Agha Shahid Ali, Penguin India, Rs 399.
In another life, Shahid and I could have been pen friends, I think to myself every time I read him—writing to one another about distances, home, love and loss, about borders (both man-made and invisible), about the sky and paper and soil and music and the malleable nature of language.
An Atlas of Impossible Longing by Anuradha Roy, Hachette India, Rs 350.
To me, Roy is the greatest living Indian novelist. This book builds on the history of modern India through the secret histories of its characters.
India, Empire, and First World War Culture: Writings, Images, and Songs by Santanu Das, Cambridge University Press, Rs 2,145.
Going far beyond the grand narrative of the First World War, this book recounts—through letters, songs and intimate oral histories—the sheer extent to which Indian soldiers were indispensable to the victories of the Allied forces.
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, Penguin, Rs 682.
As an introvert, enclosing myself within my own world comes naturally. But whenever that world feels over-whelming, I find myself reading Foer’s words out loud—“This is my heart ... What you are feeling is the beating of my heart. It’s what keeps me alive.”
A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments by Roland Barthes, Vintage Classics, Rs 499.
A speculative and melancholic book, Barthes lays himself bare in it. It’s painstaking, detailed and poignantly sensuous in a way that archives the cavernous realm of romance.
In Freedom’s Shade by Anis Kidwai, Penguin, Rs 450.
Originally written in Urdu as Azaadi Ki Chhaaon Mein, this personal memoir about the Partition is a sincere and empathetic study of nation, refugee and ‘the other’.
The Book I Loved Most ...
The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal, Vintage Books, Rs 499.
It’s perhaps the only book close to my own understanding of material culture and memoir. De Waal follows the untold story of 264 netsuke (little Japanese carvings) to create a masterpiece, transforming a set of family heir-looms into a collective understanding of history and humanity.