Splainer

Sunday, January 30 2022


Dive In

 

Rainbows were scattered on the dark-green woollen tablecloth, like Advaith’s multi-reference objects. I opened and closed my eyes. I shook my head. No improvement. Rainbows everywhere. The typist, the clerk, the typewriter, the calling bell and the peon were all rainbows. I looked behind me. Even Gandhiji in the portrait on the wall behind me had rainbows in place of his spectacle frames.

This is an excerpt from KR Meera’s newest novella ‘Qabar’, which comes to us in an English translation by author and journalist Nisha Susan. In ‘Qabar’, dreams and illusion intertwine, to tell us the story of the country's history of communal violence, the divisions amongst us today, and the complicated nature of justice.

 

We had the opportunity to listen to translator Nisha Susan talk to Supriya Nair about ‘Qabar’ and the act of translation. Watch the interview here


Editor’s note: This excellent newsletter is part of splainer’s partnership with the wonderful bookstore Champaca. Founded by Radhika Timbadia, this women-run enterprise epitomises all the values we advocate: integrity, independence, a genuine investment in quality, and great care for their customers (read more about their philosophy here). In a world ruled by Amazon, we need more Champacas! We’ve come together to champion each other’s businesses, and help serve each other’s patrons better! Do let us know what you think of their newsletter—which you receive one Sunday every month as a splainer subscriber. PS: Splainer does not make any revenue if you buy from Champaca. This isn’t about money.

 
We Recommend

Short Stories From Around the World

The beginning of 2022, a new year, a new you, and perhaps you have a new resolution to read more? Or maybe, like us, you are disillusioned by resolutions but want to read more anyway. Short story collections entice you to dip in and out of the book, as and when you have time. And maybe you can up the challenge by reading a short story a day, as writer Mahesh Rao is doing!

 

Explore our favourite short stories around themes of travel, love, loss, memory, fear, and death that will resonate with you no matter who you are or where you're from. 

 

Florida

From the acclaimed author of ‘Fates and Furies’, Lauren Groff’s award-winning ‘Florida’ is a collection of eleven gripping stories set in and around the landscape of Florida, with all its swamps, storms, and snakes. With a powerful sense of place and Groff’s beautifully distinct prose, ‘Florida’ examines the complexities of womanhood, loneliness, love, and loss.

 

Unclaimed Terrain

Translated from Hindi by Laura Brueck, Ajay Navaria’s ‘Unclaimed Terrain’ is a work of Dalit literature that features a bold collection of short stories that explore spaces of ambiguity: of identity, morality, and politics. Populated by complex characters who occupy an ambiguous space between good and evil, these stories explore the harsh reality of the violence the caste system inflicts.

 

Polymorphism

‘Polymorphism’ by Indira Chandreshakar, a Bangalore-based scientist, writer, and editor, offers a strange, mind-bending collection of short stories that explores the idea of transformation when it is forced upon us. It is a must-read for those who enjoy horror, science-fiction, and speculative fiction. 

 

Lake Like a Mirror

In ‘Lake Like a Mirror,’ Ho Sok Fong, a Malaysian author who writes in Chinese, tells the stories of women who live in modern-day Malaysia and struggle to fight against the oppression they face every day. In nine disturbing stories, translated by Natascha Bruce, Ho Sok Fong paints a brutally honest picture of women living in structures that trap them.

 

Preeto and Other Stories: The Male Gaze in Urdu

‘Preeto and Other Stories’, an anthology collected by Rakhshanda Jalil, explores how male writers in Urdu literature have viewed women. In the introduction, Jalil offers us context for the portrayal of women in these stories. There is a shifting lens through which the male writers portray these women—sometimes idealising them and their suffering, sometimes remaining unsympathetic. In a way, the stories serve as ‘time capsules’—a way to see the prevailing attitudes of the time they were written, as well as the individual quirks of each writer.

 

No Presents Please

In Jayant Kalkani’s ‘No Presents Please: Mumbai Stories’, translated from Kannada by Tejaswini Niranjana, we meet people from all corners of the city in sixteen stories. A glimpse of the history and culture of Mumbai, and an intimate and careful portrayal of its people, ‘No Presents Please’ captures the beating heart of a city.

 

Skinship

In Yoon Choi’s debut collection, ‘Skinship’, she tells us the stories of Korean American families scattered across the US. She writes of struggles unique to the immigrant experience, with delicate focus and exquisite prose. In exploring the clash between first and second generations, the weight of displacement, and the cracks in a relationship, these stories express a profound understanding of love, humanity, and intimacy. 

 

The Women Who Forgot To Invent Facebook and Other Stories

Nisha Susan’s debut collection of short stories is searing and whimsical, exploring the connections between people, and the intimacy and violence that make up their relationships. With a keen focus on technology and the transformation of the digital landscape, these stories explore the feelings of a modern generation in contemporary India.

 
Book of the month

The Land Where Lemons Grow

If you are infused with an unfulfilled yearning to travel, come to Italy with ‘The Land Where Lemons Grow’ by Helena Attlee. She invites us to explore the landscapes, people and culture of Italy through their deep relationship with the hundreds of varieties of citrus that have become part of the land. 

 

Blending food writing and travel writing, this book is a chronicle of Helena Attlee’s journey to explore the Italian connection with fruits of the citrus family. It was shortlisted for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year, and won the Guild of Food Writers 'Food Book of the Year' in 2015. 

 

Attlee discovers that it was in Renaissance Florence, in the gardens of the ruling Medici family, that an early grafted citrus acquired the sour and brilliant yellowness we now know today. She takes us on a lemony food journey as we criss-cross Italy through time and space. We are given snippets of recipes from medieval cookbooks and contemporary chefs and homemakers. We taste Gandossi’s Limoncello; take a bite of citrusy cake, the Torta Alla Bergamotto Nosside; wait for a batch of candied peels to be prepared; recreate a recipe for tortoise pie with orange juice from the Middle Ages. We also peek into the global impact of the lemon and its origins in Asia, and the depiction of the citrus in art and sculpture. 


A fascinating and unexpected history of the citrus fruit, ‘The Land Where Lemons Grow’ is our pick this February in the Champaca Book Subscription, a monthly book subscription program where we’re reading books about travel. To get this book in your first box, sign up here!

 
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