The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Paperback Pickings

A prison diary (vol II): Purgatory (Pan, £ 5.99) by Jeffrey Archer records his days in Wayland prison in Norfolk after he had been transferred there from the high-security Belmarsh prison in south London. That stay made up the material for the first volume of the Prison Diary. His company has changed substantially, since now he is with prisoners charged mainly with non-violent crimes. Even in his diaries, Archer is ever the novelist, polished, observant, restrained, neutrally curious, and quite at home. Although a personal document, Archer’s voice here is familiar, and his material reminiscent, however mildly, of the world of intrigue and crime so excitingly brought to life in his novels.

Manual of the warrior of light (HarperCollins, Rs 295) by Paulo Coelho captures the Portuguese writer’s inspirational philosophy of life in the form of a manual. Framed by the story of a young boy’s initiation into the meaning of faith in the deepest beauties of life, the manual is the outcome of a dialogue between him and a mysterious woman he meets on the beach only twice. Margaret Jull Costa’s translation is able to convey the limpid brevity of Coelho’s almost poetic chapters, in which the author charts out the strategies of the warrior fighting for his enlightened destiny in the difficult world of meanness, obscurity and hostility. More a poem than a novel, the book extracts and strings together the philosophical essence of Coelho’s best-known novel, The Alchemist.

Freedom of India in the words of its Architects (EastWest Books, Rs 450) edited and compiled by M.S. Ram is an unusual book on the Indian freedom movement. From Bahadur Shah’s and Queen Victoria’s to Gandhi’s, Nehru’s and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s, voices are the substance of this volume, capturing the many aspects of the national struggle, its many aspects and its dynamic politics. The drama is inevitable, but also incidental, to the book’s documentary value.

The Green dwarf (Hesperus, £ 2.95) by Charlotte Brontë is the fascinating product of a seventeen-year old imagination, which can hardly be called juvenile because of the young author’s precocious blend of fantasy and tart humour. A complicated tale of love and intrigue, it is an obvious descendant of the convoluted tales that spewed collaboratively and endlessly from the four Brontë siblings as they walked round and round the huge table in their dining room. It is still enjoyable, that is what is amazing.

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