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Saturday, October 31, 2015

A roundup of books and authors

The Word on the Street

Book fairs and book launches: The annual Canada-wide book fair The Word on the Street (WOTS) organized every September was held at a different venue – the Harbourfront Centre instead of the Queen’s Park. Space constraints at Harbourfront Centre made the fair intimate. There were fewer booths, or at least it seemed that way, and not enough writers reading.

The sprawl at Queen’s Park had ensured a leisurely and enjoyable afternoon stroll across different sections; at the Harbourfront Centre the stroll ended before it could even begin. WOTS is a great occasion for meeting friends; and this year’s wasn’t any different. I bought a few books (Danila Bootha’s novel Too much on the inside, an anthology of short stories set in Toronto, and a few others), and renewed subscriptions to a few magazines.

All Inclusive

Farzana & Susan G. Cole 
Later in September, I also went to the launch of Farzana Doctor’s All Inclusive, a novel that has already received a tremendous response. Among the early admirers is Austin Clarke. And this is what he says about the book and the author: “Her outstanding characterization and the depth of language establish the importance of Farzana Doctor’s writing. In her startling and evocative description of the lives of people in the tourist industry, All Inclusive is more than just a title.”

All Inclusive is Farzana’s third novel (after Stealing Nasreen and Six Meters of Pavement). She was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award in 2012 for Six Meters, which won the Lambda Award for Lesbian General Fiction. From the reception All Inclusive has received, it is evident that Farzana is the next big thing in Canadian literature.

Partha Chatterjee

The redoubtable Partha Chatterjee came to Munk Centre early October, and I took leave from work to attend his lecture on nationalism, internationalism and cosmopolitanism. 

Expectedly, it was fascinating and sweeping in scope. Replete with historical anecdotes going all the way back to the beginnings of the colonial period, Partha Chatterjee spoke about the rise of Indian nationalism in the early 20th century, the rise of internationalism through the League of Nations, which led to the formation of global institutions which enabled the gradual end of colonialism.

He spoke about the three different types of internationalisms – the western interpretation, the communist version that began promisingly with the Comintern (and the role of MN Roy), and the non-aligned movement. The rise of cosmopolitanism saw the rise of the elite in urban setup usurping power through the support of state institutions.

All the three ideas – nationalism, internationalism and cosmopolitanism were 20th century ideas that changed the world comprehensively. Tellingly, he compared the Khilafat movement of the 1920s to the ISIS mobilization of the present times.

Subsequently, after the lecture, I had an occasion to talk to him about the current situation in India, and Akshay Mukul’s book Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India. I said that increasingly it seems that the present Hindutva dispensation that has come to control India may find everyone (including Gandhi) acceptable, but cannot come to terms with Nehru’s concept of secularism. He disagreed and pointed me to read Gandhi’s views on beef. 

Coincidentally, the next day was Gandhi Jayanti and The Wire published Gandhi’s letter on the subject (read here: Gandhi on beef).

Real Justice

Early this month, I also attended the launch of Jasmine D’Costa’s non-fiction book. Real Justice: Branded a Baby Killer The Story of TammyMarquardt. The book narrates the story of Tammy a mother who was convicted for the murder of her two-year-old son based the evidence given by Dr. Charles Smith, a famous pediatric, who, it was later discovered, had made serious errors in his assessments, leading to wrongful convictions of many.

Jasmine is the author of the famed short story collection Curry is thicker than water, which has been translated into many European languages. She was the editor of Canadian Voices I & II and Indian Voices I.  Unfortunately, by the time I reached the venue of the launch event (the elegant Toronto Heliconian Club), the event was over. 

Jasmine sent the following quote from the Indian Consul General in Toronto Akhilesh Mishra, “Your presentation was superb, sensitive and very touching and left profound impact on us, as on most others in the audience.”

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