The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Paperback Pickings

This year our bodies will be bitter

A Cannibal Time (Seagull Foundation for the Arts, Rs 140) edited by Sudhanva Deshpande is the December 2001-March 2002 issue of the Seagull Theatre Quarterly, devoted entirely to the Gujarat genocide. As Deshpande, guest editor and member of the Jana Natya Mancha, explains, “It is an attempt to understand what actually happened in Gujarat, so that, hopefully, we can begin to start thinking about how to fight it. Not just on the streets with demonstrations and dharnas, but also at the creative level, through plays and performances.” This issue brings together a wide range of articles, scripts and interviews from writers, activists, actors, directors and academics, weaving them together with Sahir Raza’s photographs of the Gujarat carnage and excerpts from what is often called Holocaust Literature. This is a beautifully designed issue, opening up a rich array of theoretical and creative approaches to the problem of Gujarat. One might wonder though about the beauty of this book, the typographical ingenuity which has gone into its making, the appositeness of the poetry and the sentiments they express. Genocide rendered in perfect design could make some readers a trifle uneasy.

War Without End (Routledge, Rs 495) by Dilip Hiro is subtitled “The Rise of Islamist Terrorism and Global Response”. Standing apart from the “Books on bin Laden” industry, this is a conveniently informative, level-headed and critical account of the Islamic movements which have thrived in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, and their changing relationship with America. This is how Hiro puts both bin Laden and Bush in their places, while putting in context the latter’s declaration, “So long as anybody is terrorizing established governments, there needs to be a war.”

For A Night Of Love (Hesperus, £ 5.99) by Emile Zola translates three tales, written in the 1870s, all of them about erotic transactions, bargains and extortion. This is the master of the naturalistic novel-sequence being minutely kinky, exploring the psychopathologies of everyday life in provincial France with precision and relish. In the title-story, Thérèse de Marsanne kills her lover in a sadomasochistic tussle and then summons her shy adorer to dispose of the body in exchange of sex. “When, overcome by dizziness, he seemed on the point of collapse, she would bite his ear until she drew blood, squeezing him so fiercely that her small fingernails pierced his flesh. And on they galloped, this cruel six-year-old queen riding through the trees, her hair streaming in the wind, on the back of the boy she was using as her steed.” “Fasting” is about a food-loving pastor and his aristocratic female congregation. A.N. Wilson’s foreword is readable and slipshod.

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