The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Paperback Pickings

A chronicle of authority refuted

The following story (Harvill, £ 3.95) by Cees Nooteboom is an enchantingly told fable about Herman Mussert, who went to bed “last night in Amsterdam but wakes up in a hotel room in Portugal where twenty years before he slept with another man’s wife”. Therefore, is he himself' It is a brilliantly comic story, richly allusive and gamesome, playing wittily with past and present, first, second and third person. Those who like reading Calvino will also like this writer. Originally in Dutch, this novella had won the European Literature Prize, and is here consummately translated by Ina Rilke. Nooteboom is a major European writer, and it is refreshing to read a lighthearted, yet intellectually stimulating European storyteller who is neither British nor Indo-Anglian.

The definitive guide to screen writing (Ebury, £ 9) by Syd Field is a very practical guide to screenplay-writing, by somebody who has been described — by CNN — as “the guru of all screenwriters”. Hollywood swears by him, and he has a formidable academic career as well. “Yes, I can truly say,” Field writes in the introduction, “I was a child of Hollywood.”

Icons from the world of sports (Puffin, Rs 175) by Gulu Ezekiel presents a gallery of portraits — verbal and visual — of the “brightest stars of Indian sports who (sic) are still playing today”. There are other volumes in the series covering business and science. The heroes of this volume are Tendulkar, Paes & Bhupathi, Milkha Singh, Bhutia, Anjali Bhagwat, Pillay, Gopichand, Viswanathan Anand and Malleswari.

My little boat (Penguin, Rs 275) by Mariam Karim is écriture le femme — reminiscent of Hélène Cixous and Woolf’s Between the Acts — set in post-Pokhran, post-Babri-Masjid UP. Superimposed upon this Indian location are layers of dislocated memories. The writing is deliberately fragmented, generically mixed up, and often quite competently and poetically mad. “Qamrun Bua was mad, everyone knew, best of all her husband, Moosa. Her exaggerated expressions and hyperbolic speech bore testimony to the fact. But her biriyani itself was a hyperbole in gourmet terms, for the taste of which she was forgiven her linguistic indiscretions.”

Autism Spectrum Disorders: The complete guide (Vermilion, £ 5.20) by Chantal Sicile-Kira is a remarkably useful and engaging book, and might open up new vistas of awareness for Indian readers. It gives the general public, professionals and parents a better understanding of the autism/Asperger spectrum, as well as providing lists of resources useful to those who are on the spectrum, and those who work and care for them. “Living in three different countries and challenging the status quo in each one has developed my resourcefulness, creative thinking and negotiating skills to a level I never dreamed possible. Having a child with autism is challenging, but building all the family, educational, medical and community support systems needed is the real challenge. And everyone has a responsible part in this, not just the parents.” One of her epigraphs, by an unknown author, reads: “The history of man’s progress is a chronicle of authority refuted.”

Her story so far: Tales of the girl child in india (Penguin, Rs 200) edited by Monica Das is an anthology of short stories. “These stories,” writes Das, “celebrate the spirit of the girl child and her determination to keep hope alive, even when they describe the dismal prospects that surround her.” Mahasweta Devi, Ashapurna Devi, Amrita Pritam, Ambai, Ismat Chughtai and Kamala Das are among the writers included.

Email This Page