The diva is a nearly universal phenomenon. When Tosca sings in Giacomo Puccini’s opera of devoting her life to art and love, she speaks not just for herself but for a tradition of divas connecting Rome’s Teatro Argentina to Shiraz’s mystical soirées, to the pleasure pavilions of Delhi, to the entertainment quarter of Yangzhou.
There is a Kashmir that tourists know about: the one with houseboats, carpets, the one called the Paradise on Earth. There is another Kashmir the world knows through the newspapers, that of militants, a place embroiled in the Indo-Pak border conflict. Madhuri Vijay’s debut novel is a “fictional” attempt to know Kashmir from both extremes—the latter more than the former—through the lense of a woman visiting here for the first time.
The diva is a nearly universal phenomenon. Wherever poetry, music and mime have been practised with virtuosity, great women performers always take centre stage. Traditional Asian divas are however less well known and understood among English language readers than the great divas of Mozart and Puccini. Whether from Shiraz at the court of the Injuids, from Delhi during the twilight of the Moghuls, or from Yangzhou under the last Ming emperors, these Asian divas constitute the first identifiably modern women.
A new book by William Dalrymple is always something of an event. The Anarchy doesn’t disappoint: readable, informative, full of color. Dalrymple lets the protagonists speak for themselves as much as possible, protagonists which thankfully, but not surprisingly given the author, include Indians as much as Europeans.
Manu S Pillai, the acclaimed author of a monumental historical study, The Ivory Throne: Chronicles of the House of Travancore (2015), presents himself here in a somewhat lighter vein, with a series of essays on interesting personalities, known and unknown, from Indian history both before and during British rule.
Author and memoirist Fatima Bhutto’s slender but potent volume for Columbia Global Reports (an imprint from Columbia University devoted to long-form journalism), surveys a shift in global popular culture in which America’s soft-power dominance is facing challenges from local art forms.
The classic debate of whether our lives are determined by self-will or fate is given a provocative twist in the latest novel from Indian author Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay.