Amitava Kumar’s new book, Evidence of Suspicion, is just out from Picador India. It is, as the subtitle of the book will tell you, a writer’s report on the war on terror. There have been a slew of books on the war on terror, mostly from the West, and mainly American, and so this makes Evidence of Suspicion — viewed from a South Asian experience — different, curious, important, and necessary. Amitava travelled across the Subcontinent (and the US) talking to individuals-innocent and guilty- entangled (even brutally mangled) in some way or the other by this global war on terror. In a recent interview to Time Out Delhi, Kumar said: “I’m not here to attribute innocence or culpability. I’m only trying to show how we can’t proceed with identikit images. This book is a writer’s search for particularity and detail.”
As with all of this author’s books, Evidence of Suspicion is able to take a political issue and go beyond it to catalogue “with a critic’s compass and a curator’s zeal, the fierce ritual in art and literature, that has evolved out of the war.” In an earlier interview to an American newspaper, he spoke of the book’s origins: “The book began as a piece commissioned by Ian Jack, the former editor of Granta magazine, about an Indian man arrested by the FBI for trying to sell a missile. This man was a failed women’s clothing salesman. He was unable to find a missile to sell to the FBI informant, and the FBI had to arrange for a missile for him to sell. The story broadened when I read of a man in India who was arrested for possessing a missile. The man and his family — they were Muslim — were tortured for days. Then, it was found out that the alleged missile was a part of a textile machine. It was a bobbin. The book grew out of such stories.”
A book I’m also looking forward to this year is Aatish Taseer’s debut novel The Temple Goers which will arrive a couple of months from now. I’ve read his acclaimed translation of the Manto stories and his travel memoir but this fiction debut set in Delhi — and in many ways about Delhi — promises to be something else. Blurbs say it’s about a young man’s intense experience of a city. He returns to Delhi after living abroad and is soon swept up in two worlds: Elite Delhi and its underbelly!
In the works is also The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction Volume 2 which will focus on horror stories this time. We’ve had a lot of campus and chick lit humour more than we want — but not enough of workplace humour and that’s what a forthcoming debut promises to be: Dork: The Incredible Adventures of Robin 'Eienstein Varghese by Sidin Vadaqut. Also eagerly anticipated is Upamanyu Chatterjee’s newest satire, Way to Go. The big literary book of the year will be Martin Amis’ The Pregnant Widow. The blurbs for the book are vague, and even though I can’t exactly get a sense of the story, I welcome a return of Amis to a novel about young people; a significant character in the book is a student of literature.
“The Pregnant Widow is a comedy of manners and a nightmare,” says the blurbs, “with all the confused vigor of youth and the bittersweet and sometimes simply bitter — wisdom of age and experience. Brilliant, haunting, and gloriously risqué, it is Martin Amis at his fearless best.” Other big literary books (non-fiction included) in the year are Philip Pullman’s controversial The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, The Big Short, Michael Lewis’ definitive take on everything you ever needed to know about the financial meltdown, Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, Bret Easton Ellis’ Imperial Bedrooms, Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, Don DeLillo’s Point Omega, and Ian McEwan’s Solar.
The author of Shantaram has a sequel of sorts coming out called The Mountain Shadow. But the most anticipated thriller of 2010 is the final installment in Stig Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know all about the reading sensation these bestselling posthumously published thrillers have become internationally. Another posthumous sensation is yet another newly-translated work from Roberto Bolano, Monsieur Pain, Ralph Ellison’s unfinished follow up to Invisible Man, Three Days Before The Shooting, a multigenerational saga and finally, David Foster Wallace’s unfinished novel, The Pale King.
Elizabeth Kostova’s long awaited follow up to The Historian is just out: The Swann Thieves. Publishers Weekly says, “The Swan Thieves succeeds both in its echoes of The Historian and as it maps new territory for this canny and successful writer.” A mystery I’m not looking forward to is Henning Mankell’s The Man from Beijing, having been disappointed by his Wallander series. Though this one is not part of that series, I’m not holding my breath for this stand-alone international thriller. A mystery departure I am eager to check out is Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey, his first non-biblio thriller. Paul Theroux’s A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta sounds like a literary thriller to relish: A writer fighting a writer’s block in Calcutta finds himself turning into a detective when a dead boy is found on the floor of a cheap hotel.
It isn’t clear when Salman Rushdie will release his sequel to Haroun and the Sea of Stories, to be titled Luka and the Lake of Fire, but it should be worth the wait. The book I can’t wait for — but have no choice in the matter but to hang on for another couple of years at least — is A Suitable Girl, Vikram Seth’s sequel to you know which book. Hamish Hamilton will publish it in 2013. Lata is a grandmother now, and her one driving purpose in life is to find a suitable wife for her grandson.