The literary world tells us what to read this summer
Summer reading in India is not, unlike Europe or America, beach-holiday breezy, but a time for some indoors mind-bending. And so: Forged in Crisis: India and the United States since 1947 by the young don Rudra Chaudhuri (I must declare an interest—he is a son of very dear friends); Karachi: Ordered Disorder and the Struggle for the City by Laurent Gayer; and The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World by TV Paul. Rudra’s is a history of how good intentions can go awry, unless anchored in a rational understanding of national interests. Karachi has degenerated into the new Beirut—because, as Paul explains, the Pakistan state has too many warriors.
In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman: It has the quality of certain Conrad novels—such as Lord Jim and Heart of Darkness—where a narrated story, often told through the night, forms the main body of the novel.
All That Is by James Salter is arguably one of the best books I’ve read in years. I adore Salter’s other books— Light Years , A Sport and a Pastime —but this is the masterpiece. Incredible, also, from a writer in his late eighties. A miracle! Buy it immediately. I am also rereading Bruce Chatwin’s Utz and The Viceroy of Ouidah. Such elegance, such humour: ‘He knew God made men to rack them in the wilderness, yet his own sufferings had hardened him to the sufferings of others.
I’m kicking off my summer reading list with Alba Arikha’s Soon. Arikha is a gifted short story writer, memoirist and novelist and this narrative poem carries the natural lyricism present in everything she writes. I’ve also just gotten Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar (translated by Jerry Pinto)—I read Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto last year and loved it, so have been looking for more of him since then. Romesh Gunusekera’s Noontide Toll is another book I’m looking forward to reading (Monkfish Moon is a great collection of stories for those enjoying the revival of the form), and lastly Eduardo Galeano’s Children of the Days, which has just landed on my desk.
I’m planning to reread Gabriel Garcia Marquez, especially Love in the Time of Cholera And whatever of Pamuk’s that I have not read as yet.
The Night in Question is one of the finest short storycollections of the last 25 years. I love seeing an author rework a stylistic technique over different subjects or from different angles. This collection by Tobias Wolff, about people struggling economically and with addiction and mental illness, is as bracing as a stiff drink.
I’m excited to read Arunava Sinha’s translation of Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay’s Panty, two novellas about the sexual lives of women. Also, You Are Neera, love poems by Sunil Gangopadhyay.
This summer, given that I have an appearance at the Geoff Dyer conference at Birkbeck, I am looking forward to reading his new non-fiction, Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George HW Bush, and his novel, The Search. [Also] his old novel, The Colour of Memory, which is being re-issued in its 25th year.