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.

The Buddha of the Mahayana tradition anchored in such ancient Indian texts as the Jataka Tales or the epic Buddhacharita is a godly figure: he is born without causing any pain or suffering to his mother; he is born without sexual reproduction, moving from the heaven to the womb of his mother in the form of an elephant. Or that he is omniscient at birth. He speaks and walks immediately after his birth. Yet, this is not the Buddha that most people would recognize today or associate with the Buddhism of meditation and mindfulness. In his book The Buddha: Life and Afterlife between East and West, Philip C Almond traces the history of the story of the Buddha: how it underwent a transformation from being a story about divinity and miracles to becoming a story about a human being who set the example of how following the Middle Path can liberate oneself from suffering in life. 

Apocalypse narratives from the West tend to relate to the end of the whole world, rather than just a region or a country. Aliens, climate change, zombies, nuclear wars—the scale of these narratives is global. When Indian voices do come to these themes, they more often than not come across as very rooted in Indian geography and history. Therefore, Indian comedian Kanan Gill’s Acts of God will surprise those who hold Indian sci-fi as relevant to Indian history or its postcolonial context alone, for Gill’s debut novel comes with a sensibility with potential appeal to global readers of science fiction.

South Asian fiction based on the Partition of 1947 is generally concerned with specific incidents of trauma and violence. Urdu writer Ali Akbar Natiq’s Naulakhi Kothi, recently translated into English by Naima Rashid, adds a different dimension to the existing ways of narrating fiction. Its story begins several years before the partition and ends several years later, thereby using partition to frame a much longer narrative. 

The annual Jaipur Literature Festival is styled as “the greatest literary show on Earth”. For first-timers, the upbeat experience is akin to that of being at the Oscars (had one been at the Oscars), starstruck readers up close and personal with a veritable who’s who of the Indian and Anglophone publishing industry. For readers who normally choose to be in the company of authors and books in the unmediated intimacy of quiet reading, the festival offers a chance for reflection: whether reading and re-reading a book suffices or whether there’s some final meaning that to be arrived at by listening to the writers talk about their books. 

One of the objectives of the historians of the formerly colonized world is to rewrite history from the perspective of the colonized. Yet, such historians have arguably created a historiographic tradition that is lopsided. These are at best works that expose the unfair and oppressive means through which the European powers came to power and held it for centuries. But in a sense, this approach to (hi)story is not radical enough for as the villains become protagonists, the narrative revolves around what they did and how.

It is not uncommon for auto rickshaws and trucks in India to proudly proclaim “Mera Bharat Mahaan” (My India is Great) in decorative signage. While the statement (among other didactic notes about traffic safety) has kept bored or exhausted fellow commuters engaged, Yorim Spoelder points out in his new book Visions of Greater India: Transimperial Knowledge and Anti-Colonial Nationalism, c 1800-1960 that that talk about India’s “greatness” has a long history. The abstract greatness of the kitsch signage stems from another notion of “great”, that of a geographical entity that is not bounded by the Himalayas, but overflows into Central Asia on one side, and Southeast Asia on the other.