The themes of The Earthspinner are elemental, from passion’s fire to the destructive power of the monsoon. Fire, water, and of course, earth are at the core of Anuradha Roy’s novel. Shaped when wet and fired in a kiln, earth stands for the inexorable drive to human creativity.
With climate change and environmental conservation on many minds these days, it’s only fitting that the late Manindra Gupta’s 2016 short novel, Pebblemonkey, told from the point of view of an adventurous monkey, has recently been translated into English by Arunava Sinha. The story takes on magical realism and weaves it into a cautionary tale about humans who exploit nature and think nothing of it.
South Asian history is so complex and layered that making sense of it can take considerable effort. T Richard Blurton’s richly-illustrated India: A History in Objects emphasizes precisely this complexity and diversity—“The variety of South Asia is remarkable in terms of language, script, ethnicity, religion and architecture”— rather than a single narrative throughline.
Today, the idea that the Himalayas have the world’s tallest peaks—by a large margin—is entirely uncontroversial. Just about anyone can name Mount Everest and K2 as the world’s tallest and second-tallest mountains respectively.
In middle grade novels, the main characters are typically concerned about making friends, fitting in at school, and, in recent years, adapting to new cultures. But with Varsha Bajaj’s new novel, Thirst, the main character, Minni, has a life-and-death situation on her hands: Mumbai’s water supply. As the title implies, water is scarce for Minni’s family and their neighbors in the poorest areas of the city.
In mid-June 2020, Indian and Chinese forces clashed in the mountainous north-western portion of the Sino-Indian border in the Galwan River valley in Ladakh, resulting in scores of casualties, including twenty Indian and four Chinese deaths. Each side eventually deployed about 50,000 troops to this freezing battlefield located 14,000 feet above sea level. Both sides quickly deescalated, but the clash upended years of diplomatic efforts to resolve the long-simmering border dispute. Indian journalist Manoj Joshi’s new book Understanding the India-China Border provides details of the clash, historical insight into the causes of the fighting, and places the longtime Sino-Indian border dispute in the context of global geopolitics.
South Asia is a literary universe unto itself. It is home to hundreds of languages intersecting in multiple ways with history, ritual, and traditions of the classical Sanskrit as well as vernacular orality. In Sensitive Reading: The Pleasures of South Asian Literature in Translation, editors Yigal Bronner and Charles Hallisey put together a set of texts from multiple languages translated by renowned Indologist David Shulman (along with works of music as well as a work of visual art). The chosen texts all to a greater or lesser extent deal with love—declarations of love, desire, longing, love for the divine, and the pain of separation. Their curation brings together the classics from the ancient and medieval periods in Indian history with a smattering of works closer to the present—19th and 20th centuries.