Over the course of thirty-seven fragments, an elderly man coming to an understanding of his world tells the “story” of his village: chronicles of a village serves as an indictment of History for what it leaves out. The narrator often offers a curiously romantic view of a pastoral world that is being overtaken by the outside world, and as a celebration/tribute/elegy for his father, mother, and brother. 

Detective fiction in the West is often grouped with crime fiction and thrillers; but in detective fiction, the focus is on a puzzle and the process of solving it. It’s a game with the reader in which a mystery needs to be unraveled before the detective figures it out. In some places, the detective becomes a figure of interest in himself—detective figures have been, traditionally if less so at present, more often than not, men—a complex personality whose story is interesting and deserves an independent treatment of its own. It is a genre that solves problems, finds answers, holds the culprit accountable: all very attractive attributes for those who just like a good story.

In 2015, author Sanya Rushdi was hospitalized after her third psychotic episode and was subsequently diagnosed with schizophrenia. Hospital, first published in 2019 in Bengali and then in an excellent recent English translation by Arunava Sinha, is an attempt to make sense of what had happened to her and the things around her during that period of time. This is not however a straight-up memoir but rather a work of auto-fiction. While most characters might share names and trajectories of their real-life counterparts, it would be wrong to read it as an unvarnished factual account of true events. 

The Solitude of a Shadow is about revenge, and the road to it. Its publication marks Devibharathi’s first novel after decades of novellas, essays, and plays—one of which won last year’s Sahitya Akademi Award. It has now been translated from Tamil by N Kalyan Raman for a wider audience. The story is straightforward: a young boy watched his family suffer at the hands of one man, Karunakaran. As a child, he vowed to make Karunakaran pay, and as an adult, he finds himself in a position to fulfill his promise. But things are never that simple, and the unnamed narrator avoids revenge at all costs. But baser things like plot fall into the background in favor of exploring the transformation of one man, and the result is a puzzle of a novel that the reader must piece together. 

Seicho Matsumoto was one of Japan’s most celebrated mystery writers —with two dozen novels to his name from the late 1950s, at a time when Japan was rebuilding after the war until just before his death in 1992—but only in recent years his work has been translated into English. Point Zero, translated by Louise Heal Kawai, is one of his early novels. The story, set in 1958 and the first part of 1959, takes place mainly in Tokyo and the western port city of Kanazawa and is defined by both the hope of the new era and the agonies of war.  

Somewhere in Tamil Nadu, there is a small village with “a golden four-lane highway near it but not a single tamarind tree.” Here, the novel’s unnamed narrator spends his days loitering around town and smoking cigarettes. This routine—and everything about life as he knows it—changes with the arrival of Kamala, a widowed mother, a schoolteacher, and the future object of his obsession. She & I, written by Imayam in Tamil and translated by D Venkataramanan, follows these two characters over a decade to tell a powerful story about obsession, self-destruction, and the violence of unrequited desire through vignettes and spare prose.