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Paperback Pickings

Heresies, gossips and fables

The wisdom of ants: A short history of Economics (Tranquebar, Rs 295) by Shankar Jaganathan is, as Azim Premji says in the foreword, “a book on the ‘philosophy’ of economics”. The author intends this book for those who are interested in forming their own views on different economic issues rather than be guided by the opinions of others. It takes its readers through the economic history of four world civilizations and points at how the economic theories prevalent today were actually formed ages ago. Jaganathan raises a few apt questions and tries to take alternative approaches in answering them. He makes use of the fable of the ant and the grasshopper and explains how it helped lay the foundation of economics as a discipline. The author looks at the business of trade and commerce through a social and ethical lens, thus helping his readers understand the nuances of the subject. The simplicity of style and richness of detail make this book conceptually vivid.

Faraway music (Hachette, Rs 299) by Sreemoyee Piu Kundu is a story of a writer, Piya Choudhury, who shares the story of her own life and the first copy of her autobiography with Sumaya Jehangir Atif, a budding reporter, in an interview that takes place mid-air on their flight back to New Delhi. Piya is a fiesty and impetuous youngster in love with her studies and music. Being brought up by her mother and grandparents, she is haunted by the her father’s absence. In Mumbai, while working as a journalist, she meets Abir, her editor, and love blossoms. But trouble soon brews in paradise when, working on a story, she has to choose between her love and integrity. She moves to New York and meets and marries David Cicconi, who helps her polish her creative acumen. The story is autobiographical and existential

Dark Diversions: A traveller’s tale (Penguin, Rs 299) by John Ralston Saul is a black comedy that makes the reader undertake a journey from New York to Haiti in the late 1980s. This enables us to get a glimpse into the lives of rich aristocrats. Saul’s narrator is a foreign correspondent having strong connections in the patrician, well-heeled classes and with political figures on both sides of the Atlantic. In a gossipy tone, the writer exposes a fascinating world of religious heresies and secret affairs. He cleverly juxtaposes it with corruption and political infighting among dictators. The conversational style and the fashion in which the subplots unfold suggest the influence of Maupassant.