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Paperback Pickings

Dorks who talk to Sartre

Sin is a puppy that Follows YOU HOME (Blaft/Tranquebar, Rs 250) by Balaraba Ramat Yakubu is the first full-length Hausa novel to be translated into English. It belongs to the littattafan soyayya, or romantic pulp fiction, genre that borrows heavily from Bollywood. Translated from the Hausa by Aliyu Kamal, the book’s characters are hackneyed — the protagonist, Rabi, is the virtuous wife while her husband, Alhaji Abdu, is a selfish philanderer who does not provide for his family. The story is filled with stereotypes, such as those about the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ woman — Abdu’s new wife, Delu, is a prostitute and a vamp, the complete opposite of the ‘virginal’ Rabi. Delu marries Abdu for his wealth and abandons him when he loses all his belongings in a fire. The plot is predictable and has a perfectly preachy ending where Abdu is made to pay for his “sins”, reminding one of the melodramatic narratives popularized by Hindi cinema.

Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary (HarperCollins, Rs 499) by Keshni Kashyap is a graphic novel with interesting illustrations. The book is written in the form of an “existential diary” that the protagonist, Tina M, was asked to keep. Through her diary, Tina is on first-name terms with the existentialist philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre. She ‘confides’ in him about every thing from her first kiss to the heartbreak she suffers. The illustrations by Mari Araki suitably accompany the prose and act as an innovative tool to carry the story forward. The book mocks intellectual pretence at all times. The 15-year-old Tina attends Yarborough Academy where she avidly observes all the cliques. She grapples with the question of identity after a fallout with her best friend, Alex, leaves her lonely. She eventually discovers a sense of belonging, thereby overcoming her existential crisis. The book debunks the lofty ideals of existentialism, is elegantly packaged and is free from literary jargon.

Who let the dork out? (Penguin, Rs 199) by Sidin Vadukut is a rather pretentious ‘satirical dig’ at the Commonwealth Games that were held in 2010. It is the third book in the Dork series. The book talks about the hullabaloo at the fictitious Ministry for Urban Regeneration and Public Sculpture right before the Allied Victory Games and the sudden turn of events that catapult the protagonist, Robin Varghese, into the bureaucratic hall of fame. The book is full of expletives and stereotypes. The narrative voice sounds less like that of an “interim CEO” of a firm and more like that of an overly-excited adolescent.