A Look At Sumana Roy's Bookshelf
The author of How I Became a Tree speaks about her favourite books.
Sumana Roy's first book, How I Became a Tree, was published in 2017. She ventures into fiction with Missing: A Novel. It explores the institution of marriage: a blind husband waiting for news of his missing wife and what her absence offers to the memory of their shared lives. Roy lives in Siliguri, a sub-Himalayan town in West Bengal.
Middlemarch (George Eliot, Penguin Classics, Rs 869)
I first read this when I was accused of having a "Theresa Complex"---after the do-gooder saint---like Dorothea in Middlemarch. While that diagnosis was untrue, I was grateful to have been directed to it: Its subtitle, 'A Study of Provincial Life', was where the novel was, for me. I was struck by its structure and the beauty of the sentences, but, most deeply, by its desire for failure.
The Common Reader, Vol. 1 & 2 (Virginia Woolf, Vintage Classics, Rs 399 & Rs 499)
The 'common reader' is a sincere and empathetic persona, for Woolf is an uncommon reader. In essays about writers, including her contemporaries, written primarily because there was no culture of critical reading at the time, I find a model for literary philosophy that is now almost extinct: of the literary essay being as alive as a pimple.
A Strange and Sublime Address (Amit Chaudhuri, Penguin Books, Rs 279)
I read this when I was 21---so I've lived with it half of my life. The central protagonist of this novella about a young boy's holiday at his uncle's place in Calcutta is a feeling-ananda (joy). Chaudhuri is a philosopher of ananda and his writing is an exploration of this joy, the delight of being alive.
Pedagogical Sketchbooks (Paul Klee, Faber & Faber, Rs 985)
It was through this book that I discovered that the unit of poetry and painting are the same: the line. Klee's "An active line on a walk, moving freely, without goal. A walk for a walk's sake. The mobility agent is a point, shifting its position forward" is my favourite instruction about a line of poetry.
Very Close to Pleasure, There's a Sick Cat and other Poems (Shakti Chattopadhyay, Seagull Books, Rs 1,220)
The poet had the innocence of a child's thoughts and the wisdom of a forgotten philosopher. In these poems, I found a relative who desired to be a tree, and who, through social indifference, lived like one.
Pather Panchali (Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, HarperCollins, Rs 499)
I heard Apu's story in my father's voice every Sunday after a lunch of mangsho-bhaat [mutton gravy with rice], the marrow always a 'bone of contention' between my brother and I. I understood little, but I felt so much. When I saw my little brother falling asleep in the middle of the story, I wanted to cry.
Our Films, Their Films (Satyajit Ray, Orient BlackSwan, Rs 425)
It was while reading Sergei Eisenstein's On Disney, and Uncloven Space, a conversation between Mani Kaul and Udayan Vajpeyi, recently that I realized how much I love Ray's book. I've enjoyed reading both these books, and it is pointless to compare, but I realized that Ray's collection of essays is unique in showing us a spiritual history of seeing that is not to be found anywhere else.
Sahaj Paath Collection (Rabindranath Tagore, Vishva Bharati, Rs 390)
What a remarkable change this was from the sterile 'A for apple', the world of common nouns. Sahaj Paath (in four volumes), with Nandalal Bose's illustrations, was family: the bawling khoka, the bou with her head covered by just a line for an anchal, of sweets being made, the sound of animals, of a lenient sun who was uncle, surjo-mama.
Light Years (James Salter, Penguin Modern Classics, Rs 499)
I discovered Salter only a couple of years ago. I've grown fond of his sentences, and I read him as I read poetry, savouring each line. "The water lies broken, cracked from the wind." "The day is white as paper." These sentences are from the first two paragraphs, and each subsequent paragraph is as rewarding.
A Thousand Plateaus (Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Bloomsbury, Rs 799)
My favourite philosophers are also my favourite poets. In the case of Deleuze (and Guattari), I have read their writing, particularly this book, as poetry. Though it must have been the idea of the rhizome that most appealed to me when I first read it, I'm also moved by their thoughts on the human face: "All landscapes are populated by a loved or dreamed-of face."
Book prices are subject to change. All book details are as seen on Amazon.in.