Paperback Pickings

Read it in a different way

By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 2.03.12

Read it in a different way

Stupid guy goes to India (Blaft and Tranquebar, Rs 395) by Yukichi Yamamatsu is a graphic novel, translated to English by Kumar Sivasubramanian, about the author’s attempt to sell his “manga”, or Japanese comics, in India. This book may catch the Indian reader off guard by its design. One has to read this novel in the Japanese way, from right to left — the back cover of the book is actually its front cover. This may turn out to be a challenging and subversive experience. And it is reason enough to make the book intriguing. But the story of a 56-year-old manga author travelling to India for the first time in his life to sell his creation is the real attraction of the book. The novel starts with Yamamatsu deciding to embark on this journey inspired by a story about “a salesman who went to sell electric rice cookers up in the mountains of South Asia, where there wasn’t any electricity”. Apart from being witty and amusing, Yamamatsu’s story is also a unique take on India.

Kiss and Tell (Penguin, Rs 150) by Nistula Hebbar initially promises to tell the story of a thrilling love affair between a bureaucrat and a political journalist that puts both their professions in jeopardy. As the story builds up, one expects the plot to gain in complexity and colour despite the frivolous tone. But all such hopes are put paid to by a bubblegum love story eclipsing all else and gradually transforming itself into a saas-bahu saga. The racy language and the bedroom details make for casual entertainment, which seems to be the sole aim of the book anyway. There is nothing wrong with that. But why drag in journalists, politicians, bureaucrats and scams to cook up a spicy but childish romance, when college kids would have been enough for it?

Barbed wire fence: Stories of displacement from the Barak valley of Assam (Niyogi, Rs 250) is a collection of 17 short stories about the people who were evicted from present-day Bangladesh as a result of Partition, and had to settle in the Barak Valley. The identity crisis that usually affects the victims of such displacement is one of the subjects of this collection edited by Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee and Dipendu Das. What these emigrants suffer from are not only feelings of deprivation, exploitation and political oppression but also the painful memories of home and the sense of being unwanted in a foreign land. The stories are touching, yet grounded in reality.