Learning to see through
Understanding power (Penguin, Rs 375) by Noam Chomsky collects seminars, talks, discussions, teach-in sessions and colloquies conducted by this linguist, philosopher and political activist. The aim of these transcriptions is to help people learn how to think critically for themselves, to unmask the workings and deceptions of powerful institutions in today’s world. Two themes underlie every aspect of this collection: the progress of activism in changing the world, and the role of the media in staving off that activism, in shaping the way we think. This book is also something of a hypertext. Detailed annotations and documentary sources can be found, with numerous crucial links, at www.understandingpower.com. A short preface on 9/11 helps us “understand” how that event has made people like Chomsky and Bin Laden not only intellectually indispensable, but also commercially viable for thinkers and publishers.
The black book of Gujarat (Manak, Rs 295) edited by M.L. Sondhi and Apratim Mukarji is an important collection of essays, reprints of newspaper articles, reports and relevant government documents on the post-Godhra genocide in Gujarat. Such books, even if they tend to recycle journalistic writing and foster some indifferent analysis, help to keep the collective amnesia regarding Gujarat at bay. The cover design is rather lurid and could put off serious readers.
Waiting for rain (Penguin, Rs 250) by Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay is Nilanjan Bhattacharya’s translation of Brishtir Ghran (1985), set in Calcutta in the early Seventies, in the grips of a torrid summer and of the Naxalite movement. Somsundar is an unemployed boxer, Manju an affluent young woman, and Adri her handsome and successful fiancé. All three have to make sense of their own lives before they can come to terms with the strange times they live in.
Travel writing and the empire (Katha, Rs 250) edited by Sachidananda Mohanty is a purely academic collection of essays on the imperial politics of travel as “a mode of assessment of territory, of knowledge gathering, and of putting a discursive system into place”. The introduction is a useful survey of the state of the art in the “politics of representation”. There are essays on Katherine Mayo’s Mother India, Hajji Baba, Fanny Parkes’s journals, modern touring brochures, Kannada travel fiction, and the Andaman cellular jail episodes in the diaries of Charles Tegart.