The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Paperback Pickings

In the forests of the night

Ghond The hunter (Rupa, Rs 95) by Dhan Gopal Mukerji is about the growing pains of a boy who trains to become a hunter, but develops a bond with the animals of the forest. The biographical note on Mukherjee mentions that “his mission was to interpret Indian tradition and thought to an American readership” (and this, in the Twenties, when the Indian novel in English was something of a strange creature). And so “Keet a primitive form of American football without a ball.” There are elements of Pather Panchali as well as Jungle Book in this delightful novel whose universe is unlikely to appear alien to a foreign reader.

As I See it (Manohar, Rs 300) by V.S. Ravi is a collection of essays on the widest possible range of subjects. What makes the book a real surprise package is the fact that V.S. Ravi happens to be one of the most well known police officers of the country, being the former director general of police, Andhra Pradesh. Although Ravi seems to have written about everything under the sun — from Einstein’s theory to Shakespeare’s treatment of feminine beauty to the role of endomorphins in medical science to Bradman’s team to nicknames — his style is lucid and not altogether devoid of humour. In “Bollywood and Tollywood”, Ravi writes: “There is practically no film without a rape; the victim is usually the hero’s sister or a blind girl...”

SELECTED STORIES (Thema, Rs 120) by Samaresh Basu is the first volume of the late Bengali writer’s short stories translated into English by Sumanta Banerjee. These include Adaab and Shahider Ma (“Mother of a Martyr” in the collection) — stories which have made their way into the canon of Bengali literature. The translations, however, bear the marks of carelessness and hurry, and sometimes even fail to grasp the pulse of the original story. Of course, Basu is not a translator’s delight, but there is no reason why the inconsistencies, for instance in italicization, could not be avoided.

AGAINST ECOLOGICAL ROMANTICISM: verrier elwin and the making of an anti-modern tribal identity (Three Essays, Rs 140) by Archana Prasad brings together three essays which are part of the author’s project of revising her thesis. Following Ramachandra Guha’s 1999 book on Verrier Elwin (Savaging the Civilized), a fair amount of interest has been generated around the environmental activist. Prasad talks of how the Hindu revivalists are twisting Elwin’s ideas about the future of the tribals to further their own rather narrow interests.

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