I rarely get an opportunity to showcase some of the less well known writers I enjoy, but as part of International Authors Day (which is actually four days), arranged by Debdatta Dasgupta Sahay, I'll share some of the authors I've found during my visits to South India. Several of these writers are known in the United States, but I found the books noted here first in India.
As a member of the Nehru family, Nayantara Sahgal was expected to succeed in whatever she chose to do in life. She chose to write, and has produced a number of novels and memoirs. My favorite is a short novel titled MISTAKEN IDENTITY, set in 1929 about the son of a minor raja caught up in the Quit India movement, arrested and carted off to prison.
The struggle for dignity and independence is explored by another writer, Sarah Thomas. In DAIVAMAKKAL, or Children of God, a dalit woman is determined to claim a better life for her son through education. "Children of God" is the name Mahatma Gandhi gave to the Untouchables of India, and Thomas succeeds in bringing the struggles and achievements of this community to life through the story of Kunjikannan.
Sarah Joseph explores questions of faith in OTHAPPU, or The Scent of the Other Side. The novel is a critique of Christianity and what the author regards as the distorted forms it has taken in South India.
Thrity Umrigar captures the chasms that open between women of different castes, no matter how closely intertwined their lives, in THE SPACE BETWEEN US. In the rarefied world of the Bombay upper classes, Sera leans on her maidservant, Bhima, a woman of no power who can do little to protect her own family when the time comes.
Not nearly as well known in the United States as she should be is Anita Nair. Her recent mystery, CUT LIKE WOUND, suggests a new direction in her work. Inspector Borei Gowda is faced with the confounding deaths of a number of young male prostitutes. Taking place in Bangalore over little more than a month, the novel plays on all the tropes of crime fiction with a few Indian twists added to the form. Nair's novel MISTRESS tells a love story through the nine basic emotions of the traditional dance-drama art form called Kathakali.
Another favorite writer for me and many others is Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Perhaps best known for her novel HEAT AND DUST and as a screenwriter in a team with Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, Jhabvala wrote dozens of books, essays, reviews, screenplays, and stories. I came across a collection in India, A LOVESONG FOR INDIA: TALES FROM EAST AND WEST, with illustrations by her architect husband C.S.H. Jhabvala. These stories have such perfect detail and delicacy that I was convinced they were memoirs.
As part of the BlogHop for International Authors' Day I'm giving away a paperback of the first novel in the Anita Ray series, UNDER THE EYE OF KALI, to someone who comments, chosen at random.