It is tempting to see Anuk Arudpragasam’s new novel A Passage North, set in the aftermath of Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war, as having political intent. It undoubtedly does: it is set around the dutiful visit of Krishan, a Tamil living in Colombo, to Sri Lanka’s war-scarred Northern Province for the funeral of Rani, his grandmother’s erstwhile care-taker, herself damaged by the war that took her two sons.
Vijay Gokhale retired as India’s Foreign Secretary in 2020 after nearly four decades in the diplomatic corps, specializing in China, including a posting as Indian Ambassador in Beijing, experience much in evidence in his recent thoughtful and surprisingly frank book on Sino-Indian diplomacy.
China’s increasingly dominant position in global economic and political affairs has so far not been matched by similar progress in international use of either the Chinese currency or language. This can at times seem curious to some of those charting China’s rise. Jeffrey Gil of Adelaide’s Flinders University offers The Rise of Chinese as a Global Language as an explanation of how at least the latter might finally come about.
Musica Viva’s new production of Norma—Vincenzo Bellini at his bel canto best—is perhaps an omen: it is just one letter shy of “normal”.
Among the most unsettling words that can come at the end of a 600-page procedural crime thriller are: “End of Volume One”.
Whether or not an explicit counter to current attempts to define a Hindu nationalist version of Indian identity, recent books for the general reader that present a nuanced multi-millennium, multi-everything story of Indian history are a welcome trend. While Tony Joseph deployed recent genetics research in Early Indians: The Story Of Our Ancestors And Where We Came From and Namit Arora visited a carefully-curated selection of ancient sites in Indians: A Brief History of A Civilization, Peggy Mohan’s vehicle is linguistics, which she uses to tell—as goes the subtitle of her recent book Wanderers, Kings, Merchants—“the story of India through its languages”.
The papers are currently full of articles and commentary on the ever-closer relationship between China and Russia, of their compatible economies, state visits, joint projects, shared geopolitical interests and camaraderie between their leaders.