Saturday, February 26 2022

Dive In


There are so many things about personality, about character, about intentions, relationships, motives, and even hidden motives, that can be affected just by how you arrange words.

That’s translator Bryan Karetnyk talking about his experience of translating Seishi Yokomizo’s classic crime novel ‘The Village of Eight Graves’ from Japanese. Karetnyk talked to crime enthusiast Sumana Mukherjee about Japanese literature, the efforts of translating across cultures, and their mutual love for crime fiction! Watch the conversation here.


Yokomizo wrote fascinating crime mysteries, set in Japan and often with murders taking place in locked rooms with seemingly no solution. Why not take a crack at solving the mysteries yourself?

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 weekend every month as a splainer subscriber. PS: splainer does not make any revenue if you buy from Champaca. This isn’t about money.


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We Recommend

Words and Wordles 

Toni Morrison once said that “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” Do you find yourself starting your mornings with 5 letter words before your cup of chai? Then you have most certainly been bitten by the Wordle bug, which has taken the world by storm these last few months. While we deliberate over whether The New York Times buying Wordle is good for us or not, we thought this would be a good time to rediscover the magic of words. Especially the joy they create when strung together and set to perfect rhythm, making sentences that sound like music! Today we bring you a collection of books that spark our love for words.


The Dictionary of Lost Words

This enchanting book by Pip Williams is a story about love, loss and the power of language. As her father and team put together the world’s first Oxford Dictionary, Esme collects the ‘forgotten’ words left behind. 


Word by Word

With wit and irreverence, lexicographer (that’s the word for a dictionary compiler!) Kory Stamper cracks open the obsessive world of dictionary writing. Filled with fun facts, this is a fascinating memoir and an insider’s tour of Merriam-Webster.


How to Read A Book

For those of you who prefer to read, rather than write, this is a wonderful guide by Mortimer J Adler and Charles Van Doren on how to read better. Full of techniques for different purposes—from speed reading to technical reading—and accompanied by lists of recommendations, this is a book for book-lovers.


The Bookseller’s Tale

Step into the world of book-lovers in Martin Latham's ‘The Bookseller’s Tale,’ which explores everything from mythic libraries, to curious bookstores, to fanatic collectors. Latham is a bookseller himself, and considers this book a ‘reluctant memoir,’ examining not only a cultural obsession with books, but also his own!


Literary Miniatures

In this unique book, Florence Noiville conducts interviews with world-famous authors around the world. A multi-lingual journalist, many of these interviews were actually conducted in the author’s native language! Find in these pages a glimpse into the lives and works of authors like AS Byatt, John Le Carré, and Mario Vargas Llosa.


Lost In Translation

In the wonderful diversity of languages in our world, there are thousands of phrases that capture a feeling or situation beautifully—and that have no equivalent in English! This delightful illustrated book collects a multitude of words from languages around the world, for all the feelings you thought were indescribable. 


Sounds Appealing

David Crystal, Britain’s famous linguist, explores the origins of accents, the way they have changed over time and why we pronounce the way we do. How do accents and pronunciation relate to identity? How have they changed over time? This is a fascinating exploration of an unusual aspect of language.


Writing Badly is Easy

Amitava Kumar’s style book makes the case for blurring the lines between academic and creative writing. Compiling writing advice by award-winning writers, like Colson Whitehead and Alain de Botton, this book presents a new, fascinating way to look at writing.

Book of the month

‘The Cane-Cutter’s Song’ by Raphaël Confiant

There’s a history of India’s people that is often left untold—that of the people working as indentured labourers, who made their way across the sea to places like the Caribbean, Malaysia, and East Africa. After the abolition of slavery, these groups of people formed a replacement to slave labour for colonialists—working often in bad conditions, and facing terrible violence. This intricate and forgotten history is explored in Raphaël Confiant’s ‘The Cane-Cutter’s Song,’ translated from French by Vidya Vencatesan. 


In this book, travel is not an easy choice—and sometimes not a choice at all. We meet the Indians of Martinique, brought across the sea as indentured labourers to work in the sugarcane fields. Some sign contracts escaping dire circumstances in India, expecting to return home with riches, and some are lured onto the ship under false pretences. But once on the island, Indians find themselves at the lowest rung of a complex social order. Here, there are white occupiers, freed Black workers who were formerly enslaved, and people of mixed races, all trying to cement their own place in Martinique’s society. 


We witness a history that is not often seen, a story of survival often fraught with violence and fear. We watch stereotypes soften as the years pass, as a new history of the Antilles emerges, built from these complex interrelations between diverse cultures.

‘The Cane-Cutter’s Song’ is our pick for the Champaca Book Subscription this March, an exploration of the idea of ‘travel’ as something borne out of necessity.


In today’s edition

From Our Shelves 

  • Stories from the Margins


Life at Champaca 

  • We’ve ordered our favourite Westland titles!

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