John Keay has written well over 20 books, ranging from European to Middle Eastern history, but it’s his writing on the Subcontinent that he’s best known for. His new book draws on decades of research to provide a comprehensive portrait of the Himalaya from geology and politics to revolution and religion.
In her new book High, Erika Fatland traverses the Himalaya. Her journey starts in Kashgar in Western China. From her starting point in Xinjiang, she crosses the border into Pakistan and travels down the Karakorum highway onto Gilgit, Chitral and the Swat Valley. Dropping down to Lahore her journey takes her across the Punjab and into Indian Kashmir, then Leh, Manali, Dharmsala, Darjeeling and Sikkim before venturing onto Bhutan and Arunachal and Assam. Then in a second later trip to Nepal, Fatland goes trekking to Everest base camp, down to Lumbini and onto Upper Mustang then to before crossing into Tibet and onto Lake Manasarovar. After a short visit to a tightly-controlled Lhasa, her journey finishes in Zhongdian, the so-called Shangri La in Yunnan province.
For a book that is fundamentally about hope, Philippe Sands’s The Last Colony is a depressing read, not just its in its tale of colonial injustice, but also in its recounting of the US and Britain’s refusal to abide by the norms, the “rules-based order”, that they demand of others. “One rule for you, another for us?” as Sands succinctly puts it.
While celebrations kicked off in August to mark 75 years of Indian and Pakistani independence, a second more somber anniversary also took place, remembering the largest human displacement in history, an event which has shaped and defined the sub-continents past, present and future: Partition.
Set in a five Colombo beach resort in times more tranquil than Sri Lanka’s turbulent present, Amanda Jayatissa’s new novel, You’re Invited, begins when a young woman named Amaya notices dried blood under her fingernails and bruises on her knuckles just before her former best friend Kaavi weds Amaya’s ex-boyfriend, Spencer. Moments later, Amaya hears a knock on the door. Kaavi is missing and a search for her is underway. The mystery may appear solved before the story begins, but there are plenty and twists and turns to come. For the first two-thirds of the book, the chapters finish with an investigator’s interview with a member of the bride’s family or one of the guests. This structure gives voice to more than just the main characters and after each interview there seems to be another possible suspect in Kaavi’s disappearance.
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.