Top Picks from Akshaya Mukul's Book Shelf

Journalist–scholar Akshaya Mukul is the author of Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India (2015) and recipient of the Homi Bhabha, Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund and New India Foundation fellowships. His recent book, Writer, Rebel, Soldier, Lover: The Many Lives of Agyeya, was released by Penguin India last month.

Team RD Updated: Feb 15, 2023 16:29:53 IST
Top Picks from Akshaya Mukul's Book Shelf

A Life of Picasso:The Minotaur Years, 1933–1943 BY JOHN RICHARDSON,Alfred Knopf, Rs 7,203

This is the last volume of a four-part biography on Picasso, each covering a decade of the artist’s life. Though part of Picasso’s inner circle, Richardson never lets intimacy get in the way of facts.Future biographers can learn how to be critical, do exhaustive research and maintain narrative style from the four volumes.


No other work of Rilke captures his life better or renders his experiences of love,death and solitude more breathtakingly.On its first appearance in 1931, the translation laid to rest the notion that Rilke was a difficult poet and has since become a historical document. Who can forget its opening lines—“Who would give ear,among the angelic host,/Were I to cry aloud? And even if one/Amongst them took me swiftly to his heart,/I should dissolve before his strength of being/For beauty’s nothing but the birth of terror …

”Awesome Nightfall: The Life,Times, And Poetry of Saigyo WILLIAM R. LAFLEUR, Wisdom, Rs 840

LaFleur spent decades studying the life and work of Saigyo, a medieval Japanese warrior-turned-poet monk,whose verses chronicle the violence and beauty, world and transcendence,erotic involvements, political upheaval,warfare and society of Heian era and Shoguns’ rule. LaFleur’s translations bring out Saigyo’s meditative world,the snake-like energy of his syntax.

These Are Not Sweet Girls:Poetry by Latin American Women EDITED BY MARJORIE AGOSIN White Pine Press, Rs 2,966

This is an anthology of astonishing range, from the early 20th century to the present.More than 50 women poets present a world of Latin America, so different,so true. Reading this collection is to understand the range and inventiveness of women’s voices.

Pessoa: A Biography BY RICHARD ZENITH Liveright, Rs 3,080

Having discovered a massive treasure trove of poet Fernando Pessoa’s private papers, Zenith, a Pessoa scholar, compiled this breathtaking biography that recreates Portugal’s dalliance with nationalism, everywhere Pessoa went,his bohemian circle of friends and the poet's spiritual and sexual quests.

Zbigniew Herbert: The Collected Poems 1956–1998 HarperCollins, Rs 1,316

A leader of Poland’s anti-communist movement, Herbert is the chronicler of 20th-century pain. His private and public angst emerges beautifully in this collection. If Mr. Cogito and Imagination is the key to his world, Report from a Besieged City reminds us that the world has changed not a bit from Herbert’s time.

Poems of Nazim Hikmet TRANSLATED BY RANDY BLASING ANDMUTLU KONUK, Persea Books, Rs 1,567

Thirteen years in jail, thirteen years in exile and banned in Turkey for thirty years—and yet Hikmet’s poetry talks of love, hope, the pureness of heart and passion. In these troubled times,Hikmet’s words work like an antidote.

The Stasi Poetry Circle: The Creative Class that Tried to Win the Cold War BY PHILIP OLTERMANN Faber and Faber, Rs 799

When East Germany’s secret policefound verse being used to spread subversive messages, they tried to train theirwriters to weaponize poetry. JournalistOltermann spent five years writing thisgroup biography about the chilling storyof East Germany’s descent into paranoia.

Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan Copper Canyon Press, 2007, Rs 1,957

Jordan led many lives—poet, journalist,artist, activist, teacher. In the words of Adrienne Rich: “Her poems are back and forth between manifestoes and love lyrics,jazz poetry and sonnets ... ‘spoken-word’ and meditative solos, with mood-shifts and image-juxtaposition to match.”

Migration BY W. S. MERWIN,Copper Canyon Press, Rs 1,870

This collection of Merwin’s entire oeuvre brings his vision, wisdom, unprecedented range and anger against self-importance in one place. Here is one: “I want to tell what the forests/were like; I will have to speak/in a forgotten language.”

Book prices are subject to change.

Do You Like This Story?
Other Stories