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Paperback Pickings

Thoughts on language and terrorism

On language (Penguin, Rs 325) by Noam Chomsky brings together in an omnibus edition two of the author’s most well-known and influential works, Language and Responsibility and Reflections on Language. The first work clarifies Chomsky’s position on politics, and his moral and linguistic thinking. The second develops the case of universal grammar and includes analyses of the important debates on language. For those non-linguists interested in Chomsky’s politics, this volume is an illuminating guide to an understanding of Chomsky’s mind.

 

Osama Bin Laden: King of terror or saviour or Islam' (Pustak Mahal, Rs 120) by Luis S.R. Vas is another addition to the tide of bin Laden books. There is no variation in the routine: Osama’s background and career, the workings of al Qaida, CIA and FBI reports, media coverage, the meaning of fundamentalism, are all headlined and sub-titled into their appropriate places. It is not yet clear, however, whether it is bin Laden’s mysterious power or the US’s need to project The Enemy that has given Osama pride of place in the terrorism industry.

Dev and Simran (Penguin, Rs 195) by Eunice de Souza is an occasionally witty narrative about a group of people bumbling through the pains and puzzlements of ordinary life. De Souza is refreshing because she does not search for philosophical profundities or perfect closures, while her lightly sardonic touch gives her tale an even surface.

In the heart of the Brahmaputra and other stories (Rupa, Rs 50) by Sarat Chandra Goswami is a neat selection of tales from one of the pioneering writers of the modern Assamese short story. The five stories here display a striking range of mood and landscape and of the experiences of despair, desire, wisdom, patience, folly and pain. Ably translated by Gayatri Bhattacharji, these few stories are enough to establish Goswami’s adroitness in handling the form.

An agnostic’s apology and other essays (Rupa, Rs 195) by Leslie Stephen puts together the English critic’s most incisive writings on belief and agnosticism. A leading agnostic of his time, Stephen popularized through his title essay, written in 1900, the term agnosticism, which had been first used by Thomas Huxley in 1870. The lack of an introduction is sadly felt in collections of this kind.


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