akhil sharma, anuradha roy, books and strips, dsc 2016 shortlist, family life, hang woman, k r meera, mirza waheed, mybookjacket, Neel Mukherjee, Raj Kamal Jha, she will build him a city, sleeping on jupiter, the book of gold leaves, the lives of others
The list is out. I’ve never paid attention to this prize before but I think it’s about time I started paying more attention to literary nominations.
1. Akhil Sharma: Family Life (Faber & Faber, UK) –
Hailed as a “supreme storyteller” (Philadelphia Inquirer) for his “cunning, dismaying and beautifully conceived” fiction (New York Times), Akhil Sharma is possessed of a narrative voice “as hypnotic as those found in the pages of Dostoyevsky” (The Nation). In his highly anticipated second novel, Family Life, he delivers a story of astonishing intensity and emotional precision. We meet the Mishra family in Delhi in 1978, where eight-year-old Ajay and his older brother Birju play cricket in the streets, waiting for the day when their plane tickets will arrive and they and their mother can fly across the world and join their father in America. America to the Mishras is, indeed, everything they could have imagined and more: when automatic glass doors open before them, they feel that surely they must have been mistaken for somebody important. Pressing an elevator button and the elevator closing its doors and rising, they have a feeling of power at the fact that the elevator is obeying them. Life is extraordinary until tragedy strikes, leaving one brother severely brain-damaged and the other lost and virtually orphaned in a strange land. Ajay, the family s younger son, prays to a God he envisions as Superman, longing to find his place amid the ruins of his family s new life.
Heart-wrenching and darkly funny, Family Life is a universal story of a boy torn between duty and his own survival.
2. Anuradha Roy: Sleeping on Jupiter (Hachette, India) –
A train stops at a railway station. A young woman jumps off. She has wild hair, sloppy clothes, a distracted air. She looks Indian, yet she is somehow not. The sudden violence of what happens next leaves the other passengers gasping.The train terminates at Jarmuli, a temple town by the sea. Here, among pilgrims, priests and ashrams, three old women disembark only to encounter the girl once again. What is someone like her doing in this remote corner, which attracts only worshippers? Over the next five days, the old women live out their long-planned dream of a holiday together; their temple guide finds ecstasy in forbidden love; and the girl is joined by a photographer battling his own demons. The fullforce of the evil and violence beneath the serene surface of the town becomes evident when their lives overlap and collide. Unexpected connections are revealed between devotion and violence, friendship and fear as Jarmuli is revealed as a place with a long, dark past that transforms all who encounter it. This is a stark and unflinching novel by a spellbinding storyteller, about religion, love, and violence in the modern world.
3. K.R. Meera: Hang Woman (Translated by J Devika; Penguin, India)
Award winning novel Aarachaar(Executioner) is a story based on the Indian culture of caste and religion. Set in Bengal, it tells the story of a family of executioners with a long lineage, beginning in the fourth century BC. The protagonist of the novel, Chetna, is a strong and tenacious woman who struggles to inherit this profession.
According to noted literary critic M. Leelavathy, Aarachaar is one of the best literary works produced in Malayalam and follows the legacy of O. V. Vijayan’s classic work Khasakkinte Itihasam. The novel received the 2013 Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award. It was also awarded the prestigious Odakkuzhal Award in 2013 and Vayalar Award in 2014.
4. Mirza Waheed: The Book of Gold Leaves (Viking/Penguin India)
The Book of Gold Leaves’ is a heartbreaking love story set in war-torn Kashmir. In an ancient house in the city of Srinagar, Faiz paints exquisite papier mache pencil boxes for tourists. Evening is beginning to slip into night when he sets off for the shrine. There he finds the woman with the long black hair. Roohi begs for the boy of her dreams to come and take her away. She wants a love story, an age-old tale of love, war, temptation, duty and choice.
5. Neel Mukherjee: The Lives of Others (Vintage/Penguin Random House, UK)
The aging patriarch and matriarch of the Ghosh family preside over their large household, made up of their five adult children and their respective children, unaware that beneath the barely ruffled surface of their lives the sands are shifting. Each set of family members occupies a floor of the home, in accordance to their standing within the family. Poisonous rivalries between sisters-in-law, destructive secrets, and the implosion of the family business threaten to unravel bonds of kinship as social unrest brews in greater Indian society. This is a moment of turbulence, of inevitable and unstoppable change: the chasm between the generations, and between those who have and those who have not, has never been wider. The eldest grandchild, Supratik, compelled by his idealism, becomes dangerously involved in extremist political activism—an action that further catalyzes the decay of the Ghosh home.
6. Raj Kamal Jha: She Will Build Him A City (Bloomsbury, India)
As night falls in Delhi, a mother spins tales from her past for her sleeping daughter. Now grown up, her child is a puzzle with a million pieces, whom she hopes, through her words and her love, to somehow make whole again.
Meanwhile, a young man rides the last train from Rajiv Chowk Station and dreams of murder.
In another corner of the city, a newborn wrapped in a blood-red towel lies on the steps of an orphanage as his mother walks away.
There are twenty million bodies in this city, but the stories of this woman, man, and child–of a secret love that blossoms in the shadows of grief, of a corrosive guilt that taints the soul, and of a boy who maps his own destiny–weave in and out of the lives of those around them to form a dazzling kaleidoscope of a novel.
I’m thoroughly ashamed to say that I haven’t read any of these. BUT. I have The lives of others and I’m going to get a move on it as soon as I’m done reading the books I’m to review. Have you read any of these? (If you want to view the longlist it is here.)
*image taken from DSC facebook page.