Namita Gokhale's Favourite Books
The co-founder of the Jaipur and Bhutan literary festivals shares her list.
Author of several fiction and non-fiction books, publisher of many more as a founder--director of Yatra Books and co-founder of the Jaipur and Bhutan literary festivals, Namita Gokhale has donned multiple hats in a career spanning three decades. Her well-known works include Paro: Dreams of Passion and Mountain Echoes among others.
Abhijnanashakuntalam: The Recognition of Shakuntala (Kalidasa, Penguin, Rs 499)
The most popular and well known of classical Sanskrit plays, this is a heart-rending and masterfully constructed narrative of forgetting and remembering. I have written a novel Shakuntala: The Play of Memory, which is a tribute to this great work.
The Tale of Genji (Murasaki Shikibu, Everyman's Library, Rs 2,420)
Considered the first novel ever, this marvellous work of Japanese literature was written in the 11th-century Heian era by the noblewoman Lady Murasaki. I have read and reread the classical translation by Edward G. Seidensticker several times.
War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy, Penguin Classics, Rs 550)
The depth and range and craftsmanship of this massive novel is staggering. A philosophical chronicle of change and endurance, it is a truly universal work of art, with a unique place in world literature.
Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Vintage Classics, Rs 499)
I have been deeply influenced by the great Russian novelists, and Crime and Punishment, an intense psychodrama that takes the reader deep into the mind of the protagonist Rodion Raskolnikov, remains one of the most compelling novels I have ever read.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Muriel Spark, Penguin Modern Classics, Rs 350)
I love Muriel Spark's novels because they are whimsical and enigmatic, yet rooted in deep religious and mystic understanding. This is perhaps her best and most iconic novel.
Tughlaq (Girish Karnad, Oxford India Perennials, Rs 195)
This historical play about the crazed 14th-century despot Mohammed bin Tughlaq and his turbulent reign remains a relevant commentary on India's rulers and ruled. From failed Nehruvian idealism to providing insights into the present-day politics, it is an enduring classic that survives successive interpretations.
Mohandas, The walls of Delhi (Uday Prakash, translated by Jason Grunebaum, Hachette India, Rs 350)
The Hindi writer Uday Prakash is a friend whose work I admire. His novella Mohandas (the English translation is part of the book The Walls of Delhi) is a parable for our times, about the loss of identity, and the voices that go unheard in our society.
Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy, Modern Library, Rs 499)
Written as a serial novel, it documents the heart and mind of a woman as no other male author has ever done. Dostoyevsky declared it "flawless as a work of art". I recommend the excellent translation by Constance Garnett.
One Part Woman (Madhorubagan) (Perumal Murugan, Penguin India, Rs 299)
This controversial Tamil novel, translated into the English by Aniruddan Vasudevan, which shot to fame because it was banned for hurting sentiments within the community, is a deeply tender novel about love, trust, sexuality and the stigmatization of childlessness.
The Mahabharata, Bibek Debroy, Penguin (box set), Rs 4,999
Literally the greatest story ever told, this ancient epic, through its many versions and recensions, contains the essence of human nature and the battles of human striving with fate and destiny. There are several excellent translations, including the recent one by Bibek Debroy.
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