- Me & My Shelf
Amitabha Bagchi's Bilingual Bookshelf
Amitabha Bagchi has written four novels and is an associate professor at the department of computer science and engineering at IIT Delhi. His latest novel Half the Night is Gone (Juggernaut) has been shortlisted for the JCB Prize 2018 and the Hindu Literature Prize 2018.
Amitabha Bagchi has written four novels and is an associate professor at the department of computer science and engineering at IIT Delhi. His latest novel Half the Night is Gone (Juggernaut) has been shortlisted for the JCB Prize 2018 and the Hindu Literature Prize 2018. Bagchi lives in Delhi with his wife and son.
ZINDAGINAMA, Krishna Sobti, Rajkamal Prakashan (Hindi) and Harper Perennial (English), Rs 295 and Rs 550 respectively
Perhaps the one book that has moved me the most, Zindaginama is a portrait of rural Punjab, a generation before Partition. Sobti writes a beautiful, demotic Hindi shot through with Punjabi. Her compassion and panoramic view of life make this a classic.
CHANDNI BEGUM, Qurratulain Hyder, Women Unlimited, Rs 450
The book seems like a madcap portrayal of a noble Muslim family’s decline at first, but is dense with cultural allusions that range from Banabhatta’s Kadambari to the Babri Masjid. It’s not an easy read, but a deeply satisfying one.
ARANYAK, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyaya, Seagull Books (English), Rs 699
This dreamy work is set in the forests of Bihar where a young man from Kolkata has taken a job as an agent for a landowner. He revels in the beauty of the forest and the simplicity of tribal life. However, his job entails clearing the forest and renting the land out to tillers, in other words, destroying the world whose beauty he admires.
DELHI, Khushwant Singh, Penguin Books, Rs 399
Singh is, I feel, the most underrated of Indian English writers. This book is a masterpiece that takes one thousand years of history into its sweep. The destructive pas de trois between different religions over the 20th century that continues to echo in our times falls into perspective as we read this book.
MAILA ANCHAL, Phanishwarnath Renu, Rajkamal Prakashan (Hindi), Rs 299
Set in a small village in Bihar in the time around Independence, this novel is funny and tragic, and vastly illuminating for anyone who wants to understand the painful circumstances under which the Indian republic was born. Sadly, its English translation, The Soiled Border, is no longer available.
THE SMALL WILD GOOSE PAGODA, Irwin Allan Sealy, Aleph, Rs 595
Better known for the Shandean excesses of The Trotter-Nama, Sealy focuses on the small in this recent work. Ostensibly about a modest construction project carried out within his compound, this book expands outwards in many directions. Sealy is the finest practitioner of the English language in India today. His prose is as filled with delight as the Pahari miniatures he loves.
IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME, (Volumes I–VI), Marcel Proust, The Modern Library, Rs 4,499
The lesson I learnt from Proust is that the sentence can be like a hurricane, sucking in ideas and characters from around it and spitting them out, churning with incredible speed around a preternaturally serene centre. Warning: Proust is addictive.
THE RINGS OF SATURN, W. G. Sebald, Vintage Classics, Rs 499
A Sebald-like character takes a walk through the wild countryside of Suffolk on the eastern coast of England. As he walks he reflects on various aspects of history and literature. Sebald’s prose creates a kind of shimmering otherworldliness shot through with pain.
PAHALA PADAV, Shrilal Shukla, Rajkamal Prakashan (Hindi), Rs 450
A young man lusts after a construction worker, until the mysterious death of her husband raises his conscience. Shukla’s one-liners and his deep sympathy for the plight of labourers make this an unforgettable work. An English translation, Opening Moves, was released in 1993 but is now out of print.
THE LIFE OF A TEXT: PERFORMING THE RĀMCARITMĀNAS OF TULSIDAS, Philip Lutgendorf, University of California Press, Rs 6,770
Lutgendorf loves Banaras, Tulsidas, Rāmcaritmānas, and the people who read it, recite it and perform it, and because he loves all of them, this book transcends academic limitations to become an uplifting journey into the world of this much-loved religious text.
Book prices are subject to change.