Saturday, June 30, 2007

On Simon Wilde's biography of Shane Warne

This piece appears today in Mint, and the rest of it is here.

Shane Warne is as Australian as they come—garrulous, plain-spoken, competitive, cocksure, cheerfully philistine—so one of the surprising aspects of his personality is his love for England. It is an affection that extends beyond the gullible figures of English batsmen, who set up Warne’s greatest successes, and extends to the fans, who love him as one of their own, the food and drink (Warne is a great guzzler of fizzy drinks and demolisher of chip butties), and even the county cricket scene.

It says something for Warne’s divided allegiances that, although he has retired from international and Australian domestic cricket, he still plays for Hampshire in England and proudly leads the team. The English media is just as devoted to Warne, with the broadsheets closely tracking his on-field deeds and the tabloids sniffing out every lurid detail of his off-the-pitch shenanigans. Even the two extant Warne biographies, of which Simon Wilde’s new book is one, are written by British journalists....

Other posts on cricket books and cricket: on Gideon Haigh's All Out, which has some matchless descriptions of Warne, on the best Indian cricket writing, and "Some thoughts on playing cricket at The Oval".

Saturday, June 23, 2007

On Manjushree Thapa's Tilled Earth

Of the many rough divisions possible in the world of literature, one is the separation of writers of fiction into those who demonstrate sympathy with their characters, even flawed or inadequate ones, and those who manifest a kind of impatience with them and choose to view them through the lens of irony and satire. The talented Nepali writer Manjushree Thapa is no misanthrope, but the overwhelming mood of Tilled Earth, her first book of short stories and third book overall, is that of weariness shading into cynicism. Sometimes it is Thapa's characters who feel impatient with and dispirited by their circumstances, but just as often it is Thapa who swoops on how, in different ways, they either lack the courage to break their shackles or have sold out and retired into complacency.

Many of Thapa's characters are low or high-level government servants or else workers at NGOs - people who could have made a difference to what they know is a poor, developing country but who have succumbed instead to careerism or sheer apathy. The pressures of life and love lead her characters to experience the tension between tradition - the way of "families, friends, society", of caste hierarchies and unequal gender relations - and modernity, with its idea of the individual as sovereign over his or her own life, free to choose the course that seems best. Thapa's characters also sometimes betray what she has elsewhere called "small-nation thinking" - they feel they are bit-players in history, and often look over the border at India.

Unusually, Thapa shows a facility for both the long short story, or the form as it is traditionally practiced, and the short short story, which is the briefest of glimpses into the world of a character, a window opened up and then shuttered almost at once. Some of her shorts beautifully evoke an entire world in just one or two paragraphs. In "Solitaire", the aged government clerk Hit Bahadur Thapa, indifferent now to the goings-on in the world outside his room ("Democracy had come and gone and come again over the span of his career"), is shown having discovered the pleasures of playing solitaire on his office computer in the last year of his working life. And the ambitious and self-involved student Ramesh is shown riffling through a dozen career options in a fine story called - the title is long as the story is short - "The Secretary of the Student Union Makes a Career Choice".

In the best story of this collection, "The Buddha in the Earth-Touching Posture", a retired bureaucrat is shown travelling all by himself to Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha. The bureaucrat thinks of himself, as do many of his station, as a man apart from the masses, sage and rational while they are credulous and servile. Thapa's achievement is to show that there is an element of truth in his reflections. The bureaucrat has left his wife behind because she is "driven by passion, the kind who supplicates to every god" while for him the Buddha is indisputably a historical figure, a wise man iterating the need for reflection, not devotion.

At Lumbini he is irritated to find the tourist brochures full of historical inaccuracies which are swallowed by tourists, the various sites anointed with flowers and vermilion, and giant but soulless monasteries raised by various missions from around the world to make "a gaudy Buddhist wonderland". "How banal people are," he thinks, and Thapa allows us to register the sense in which this is true, but also the way in which the bureaucrat has cut himself off from the world. Here is the acute way in which the bureaucrat is shown reflecting on his marriage:

My marital life has not been atypical. My wife and I have shared the usual joys and given each other the usual sorrows, and have settled into a passionless partnership. Though she would never admit it, she probably likes the life I have given her more than the person I am. I do not mind this. I too find her company limited. We are not intellectual equals, merely co-owners of lives jointly led. We consult on matters relating to our sons, our house, our properties, but we do not share a joint vision.
"Though she would never admit it, she probably likes the life I have given her more than the person I am" - it is by the articulation of these subtle but unsettling distinctions that fiction derives its power. Note how this conclusion is so much more affecting because the bureaucrat has arrived at it by himself, instead of the writer making this judgment about the character.

Thapa is less sympathetic to her protagonists in a story called "The European Fling", which is about two middle-aged people, a Nepali woman and an American man, who meet in Europe for a fling. Sharada and Matt are both in thrall to radical ideas - that is what brought them together during their university days. But, meeting after several years, they find they have less patience with each other. Matt has turned vegan, and spends all his time in bookstores obsessing over various injustices. Sharada, meanwhile, is pursued by a handsome Tibetan youth, and feels a little odd to be flirting so shamelessly, even needily, with him when she is "a leading gender specialist". Thapa's irony here is crushing, but is when she leaves some channel of redemption open for her characters that Tilled Earth is most satisfying.

Manjushree Thapa's website is here. And here are two more pieces about contemporary Nepali literature: a piece of Samrat Upadhyay's Royal Ghosts, which I liked very much, and a long interview with Upadhyay.

[A shorter version of this piece appears today in Mint.]

Saturday, June 16, 2007

On Christopher de Bellaigue's The Struggle For Iran

When George W.Bush declared in 2002 that there was an "axis of evil" threatening world peace and stability, what surprised most observers was the appearance of Iran as a part of a triad alongside Iraq and North Korea. After all, although its government was hostile to America, Iran showed no signs of becoming a rogue state, and its regime was in part democratically constituted. But Bush's belligerent rhetoric not only thrust the spotlight upon Iran internationally, it also, as the journalist Christopher de Bellaigue notes in his new book The Struggle For Iran, decisively altered the domestic political climate in Iran.

A reform movement of modest proportions, opening doors to greater social freedom for Iranian people, was quashed by the hardline clerics who run the country. In the presidential elections of 2005, a divided electorate ended up voting in the fire-breathing Islamist ideologue Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to replace the relatively moderate and liberal government of Mohammad Khatami. "Iran's pro-democracy movement," writes de Bellaigue, "could not survive in the atmosphere of protracted crisis that Bush helped create."

De Bellaigue's book, his second about Iran, builds upon and serves as a companion volume to the first, the widely acclaimed In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs (2005), an impressionistic account based on his travels around the country as a reporter. In his new book de Bellague, now a resident of Tehran and not just a traveller, is more carefully focussed on explaining Iran to the world, refuting misconceptions about the regime and its people and adding nuance to the broadbrush arguments made about the country around the world. Bringing together long essays originally published in journals like The New York Review of Books and the Guardian, The Struggle For Iran thoughtfully illuminates the politics, history, social life, art and cinema (Iran's best-known export to the world after oil) of one of the world's oldest civilizations.

Bellaigue's book often harks back to the most decisive moment in the history of modern Iran - indeed one of the towering events of the twentieth century - the Islamic Revolution of 1979, in which the corrupt and unpopular monarch Reza Pahlavi was toppled by the forces of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Khomeini and his followers inaugurated "the modern world's only clerical state", in which an unelected Supreme Leader chosen by the country's most influential clerics held power alongside a democratically elected president, himself chosen from amongst candidates vetted first by the council of clerics.

Although there was widespread support for the Revolution in its first decade (especially since Iran was fighting a damaging war with Iraq for most of the eighties), in recent times Iran's staunchly religious, censorious, and socially conservative establishment has seemed more and more out of touch with a vibrant society in which three-fourths of the population is under thirty. Even so, the Iranian state plays a directive role in every walk of life and controls over 60 per cent of the economy, its inefficiencies compensated for by booming inflows of petrodollars as world oil prices escalate.

The struggle for Iran, then, is a struggle between the hardline establishment, able to cock a snook at the world because of its oil resources and nuclear technology, and of moderate and liberal forces who now find themselves in disarray in Ahmadinejad's Iran. But Bellaigue cautions the reader against making the fallacy, implicit in the attitude of the Bush government, that if the present regime is somehow toppled, the path will be clear in Iran for a western-style liberal democracy.

Even Iran's most liberal politicians, he writes, do not go so far as to demand a secular democracy - for good or bad, faith will continue to play a role in the construction of the state. As the failed experiment in Iraq shows, democracy, while no doubt the best kind of political system, only stokes resentment and rebellion when imposed from above. If democracy has to successfully take root in Iran, the perceptive Iranian-American writer Reza Aslan has written, it must be "framed in recognizable terms, based on familiar ideologies, and rooted in indigenous values and traditions". As the historian Maria Misra, whose book on India Vishnu's Crowded Temple is out later this year, observes:

The history of post-colonial states shows that democracy is most successful where it has been generated, at least in part, by indigenous traditions. Democracy came to India not because the British selflessly introduced it: democracy succeeded precisely because it was associated with opposition to British imperialism. It was fought for by a popular movement led by Mahatma Gandhi - a figure who blended the traditional and the modern into a seamless, but recognisably Indian, political system.
Propaganda campaigns such as the one launched by the Bush government last year, which budgeted $75 million "to broadcast US radio and television programmes into Iran, help pay for Iranians to study in America and support pro-democracy groups inside the country" may actually prove to be counter-productive.

As in his previous book, de Bellaigue is alert to the voice of the people, soliciting the opinions of Iranians across classes and ideologies. Additionally, his work highlights the wonders of pre-Islamic Persian civilization, a period of history that the present regime understandably seeks to obscure. He has a beautiful essay on attending group classes on the Sufi poet Rumi (Rumi believed, he writes, that an observant person who is ignorant of Islam's spirit is "more dangerous than an irreligious person"). Elsewhere, he notes the irony that Iran still owns the finest collection of Western art outside of Europe and America, put together by the former Shah's wife, even as the establishment has for three decades inveighed on the corruption of Western culture. The fascinating diversity of thought and practice of a complex society in flux - a necessary antidote to simplistic axis-of-evil, us-versus-them thinking - is opened up by this sophisticated and elegant book.

Some chapters from de Bellaigue's book are available online: "Who Rules Iran?", which describes a visit to the seminary town of Qom; "Lifting The Veil", a lovely essay on the Islamic Republic's collection of Western art, and "The Spirit Moves In Tehran", on joining other Iranians in classes on Rumi.

And some other good essays on Iran's society and politics: "Aunt Kobra's Islamic Democracy", a very funny and insightful essay by Reza Aslan, "The View From Tehran", a piece by the prominent investigative journalist and democratic activist Akbar Ganji; "The Democrat", a thoughtful profile of the theologian and reformer Abdolkarim Soroush by Laura Secor; an excellent interview with the Iranian intellectual and film critic Hamid Dabashi by Ramona Koval ("India has historically been a far more important factor in culture and civilisation in the moral and intellectual radar of countries such as Iran, but the people never talk about a place like India because we are trapped inside the east-west, secular-religious kind of dichotomy"); "Iran: Let the democratic process work", a piece by Dabashi; "Ideas whose time has come", a conversation between Danny Postel and the Iranian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo; and a discussion on democracy and human rights in Iran in the aftermath of the Revolution with the scholar Ladan Boroumand ("But in revolutionary situations, each actor projects its fantasy onto the leadership. And because Khomeini was discreet about his real agenda each social actor could fantasise about what the Imam wanted for Iran, and joined the movement on the basis of that fantasy"). See also Boroumand's essay "Prospects for Democracy in Iran".

And for those wanting to know more about the gimlet-eyed schoolteacher-turned-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Time magazine has a long interview with him here, and a superb photofeature here. Whatever his faults, Ahmadinejad is certainly not lacking in self-confidence - last year he sent President Bush an eight-page letter which begins, as if he was writing to none other than his granpa, "For sometime now I have been thinking..."

And some old pieces on Iranian films - "Hitchcock in Hijab" and "Anger in Tahmineh Milani's Two Women" - and writers - Hushang Golshiri and Houshang Moradi-Kermani.

[A shorter version of this piece appears today in Mint]

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The scorn of the literary critic

I have the highest respect for the work of Adam Kirsch, and read him every week on the website of the New York Sun. But a recent piece by him attacking literary blogs on the Sun website ("The Scorn of the Literary Blog") seems to me so ill-informed and tackily written that I've left a long comment beneath it taking issue with some of the points he makes.

Kirsch has some good thoughts about what reviewing should be about ("The whole point of a review is to set one mind against another, and see what sparks fly. If the reviewer lacks an individual point of view, or struggles to repress it, there can be no intellectual friction, and therefore no interest or drama"), but then turns to literary blogs and makes several arguments for why they are a force for the bad.

One of the errors he makes is to assume that lots of writers and reviewers aren't also bloggers. If he'd accounted for this, he'd have seen that the blog-form allows for a different kind of literary criticism from that found in newspaper review sections, and wouldn't have made the slipshod arguments that he does ("bitesized commentary, which is all the blog form allows, is next to useless when it comes to talking about books").

It seems to me that Kirsch has fallen into the common trap of those writers who, working in the mainstream media and under some kind of editorial control, turn up their nose at what they feel is the say-what-you-like-and self-publish world of blogging. They are of course right to insist that bloggers should aspire towards higher standards (everybody should), but certainly wrong to assume that bloggers have no standards, or, even worse, that the form itself has no potential. It may have been true of the early days of the Internet, but now newspapers no longer have a monopoly on quality content online. It doesn't look like Kirsch has taken the time to look at - by whichever standard - the best of the literary weblogs out there, which are really what he should be comparing the newspaper book-review sections with if he wanted to be fair.

As someone who writes for the papers and my blog - mostly now for the papers - I know I couldn't do without this website. I've learnt lots of things by working on it, and even today it often gives me greater satisfaction to put pieces up here, without contraints of space and limits on quotation, than to see their shorter versions in the newspapers. Some of the literary blogs on The Middle Stage blogroll feature, day after day, week after week, exceptionally good commentary, links, and notes on unusual or neglected works (such as books from small publishers or the university presses).

In a way literary blogs are like a good opposition party in parliament, keeping the establishment on its toes, and often catering to niche interests. In fact, on the Indian scene - where a great range of books are published but the economics of newspaper publishing has marginalised books coverage, and most newspapers carry only a perfunctory one-page review section on Sundays - literary blogs probably have a more central role to play than elsewhere in the shaping of a robust literary culture, although I concede that this is the analysis of an interested party. But even in America and the UK, which have a healthier books culture, literary blogs have become an essential part of the scene. Blogs even link to the best of the newspaper reviews and essays, but instead of thinking in turn about what the best literary blogs have to offer, Kirsch seems fairly content to believe that the traffic deserves to be only one-way.

Just as there really isn't any competition in the world of literature - every essential poem, play or novel has its own specific luminosity - so too the newspaper review sections, literary journals, and litblogs can usefully complement each other. To argue that "the ethical and intellectual crotchets of the bloggers represent a dead end", as Kirsch does, is a mistake on not one but several levels. Wake up and smell the coffee, Mr.Kirsch.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

On Jeffrey Goldberg's Prisoners

Since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, observes the New Yorker staff writer Jeffrey Goldberg in his book Prisoners: A Muslim & A Jew Across The Middle East Divide, the Middle East has been "a landscape of wasting sadness and obliterating furies". For six decades now the Israeli state has been locked in intractable conflicts with Arab forces both without - from Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon - and within, in its ever-shifting tussle with the people of Palestine. Many rounds of talks and accords have come to nothing: the Middle East today is in more or less the same parlous condition as it has always been in contemporary public memory. Will the cycle of violence continue into the foreseeable future, or is there a way forward after so many years of accumulated resentments on both sides?

Goldberg's book, although it takes stock of many mistakes made, proposes no solutions, in part because there is no solution now that has not already been thought of before - what is missing, rather, is the will to proceed. Instead, his book is more a kind of political autobiography with some exceedingly interesting twists and turns - he is not a detached observer but an engaged party looking for some way that is acceptable to all. Sober and yet anguished, Prisoners carries on the great tradition of American nonfiction with its roots in magazine journalism, from Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, and Joseph Mitchell all the way down to the current editor of the New Yorker, David Remnick.

Goldberg writes that he was born an American Jew, in a family that was not very religious or tribe-conscious. But in his adolescence he began to seriously read Zionist literature and felt the pull of the state of Israel, the first real home of Jews around the world after thousands of years of harassment culminating in the abomination of the Holocaust. He bought into the perception that Jews were too soft and bookish, and unless they took up arms in their self-defence they would continue to be oppressed. With the zeal of a new convert, he journeyed to Israel in the late eighties and lived and worked for a while in a kibbutz. The state would not let him join the army because he was not an Israeli citizen, but he was drafted into the military police.

Goldberg was posted to Ketziot, the largest prison in Israel, home at the time to over six thousand Palestinians taken prisoner after the First Intifada of 1987. The presence of top leaders from Hamas, Fatah and the Palestinian Liberation Authority made the jail "a virtual Palestinian parliament". As a prison counselor Goldberg, who had never met any Palestinians before, had to serve as a bridge between the prisoners and the jail management. His account powerfully records, even from the point of view of someone who was not captive, what it is like to live in captivity.

At Ketziot, Goldberg established a tentative friendship with a young Palestinian prisoner, Rafiq Hijazi, and began to have discussions with him across the jail fence. Unlike the vast majority of the prisoners, with their aggravated sense of humiliation and implacable hatred, Hijazi is cool and analytical, open to another point of view. Goldberg wishes to make a friend of this person whose historical identity would make him his implacable opponent:

Rafiq and I would spend hours talking through the wire. We would ventilate our political stances. We would nitpick history. We didn't agree on much; he thought that Zionism was a form of kleptomania. But he did not mind hearing me rehearse for him the Jewish narrative. We would gossip about guards and prisoners, and we would, tentatively, with great gentility, talk about religion. We were both dedicated readers of our holy texts, though sometimes it seemed to me that he believed that the Quran was written by the hand of God, and I could not say I believed the same thing about my Bible. Despite this difference, we shared a set of essential values, because his distaste for violence seemed as real as mine.[...] "I don't like to see anyone get hurt," he told me once, and he said this without qualification.
Hijazi's abhorrence of violence is important, because Goldberg finds himself thinking that although the Palestinian liberation movement is full of the rhetoric and the practice of militant violence, there was no talk anywhere of nonviolent resistance - militant nonviolence. "The idea did not seem to exist in their moral vocabulary. It was a shame and a waste that the Palestinians had blinded themselves to the ideas of Gandhi and King. If they hadn't, they might have broken the occupation in a week. The Israelis, like the British soldiers of India, could not sustain such one-sided violence...especially in front of the television cameras."

Indeed, Gandhi's methods of recasting implacable conflicts so as to transform the dynamics of the relationship with an adversary are needed desperately now in the Middle East. As the scholar of religion Diana Eck illuminatingly writes:

Gandhi...never cast a fight in terms of the humiliation and defeat of the opponent. He saw clearly that if conflict is cast in terms of winning or losing, of us prevailing over them, then there will be no way forward [...]. Even if one wins absolutely, one still has a defeated enemy. The next round of the conflict is only postponed. In Gandhi's evolving philosophy of nonviolence, this is a crucial point. Gandhi refused to concede that the adversary...would forever remain polarized as the "other". If the polarization is not broken, then what we call "winning" is still losing, for we are left with an opponent, an enemy. [...] Gandhi refused to demonise his opponent as a person, even when he was in profound disagreement with everything he stood for.
In other words, Gandhi attempted to minimize the clash of egos, the sense of one's self-respect on the line, that is a part of any dispute, and focus instead on the principles at stake. These may be widely applicable thoughts, useful not only in a fight for political independence against a stronger party but even in an argument with your next-door neighbour.
Many years later, working now as a reporter, Goldberg returns to Palestine and seeks out Hijazi, now a free man and a professor of statistics at a university. His motto seems to be that of EM Forster, who in the epigraph to his famous novel Howards End (1910), urged "Only connect". Only through people-to-people connections, goes the optimistic hypothesis, can national or tribal hostilities be gradually broken down. Goldberg's talks with Hijazi over the years embody in microcosm the different stages and moods of the Middle East peace process.

"I realised I had all the hallmarks," writes Goldberg of his repeated visits to Palestine, "of a counterphobe, a person who seeks out close encounters with the thing he fears most." Counterphobe or not, his book illuminates in startling detail the texture of daily life in the occupied territories and the mentality of the different parties involved in the dispute. Goldberg's diagnosis is not optimistic. The radical group Hamas is now in power in Palestine, and in Goldberg's assessment it was Hamas which, "more than any other force, transformed the dispute between Arabs and Israelis into one between Muslims and Jews" in the eighties. But in humanising the conflict and making a genuine attempt to understand the thinking and aspirations of the adversary, Prisoners lays a tentative groundwork for a day when it may be possible to "only connect".

And some links: an interview with the Israeli novelist and political "dove" Amos Oz, in which he says intriguingly that he hopes the conflict will end in a Chekhovian and not a Shakespearean tragedy; "Bridging The Divide", an interview with the Palestinian intellectual Sari Nusseibeh, whose memoir Once Upon a Country was published recently; Looking At Ourselves", a speech given earlier this year by the novelist David Grossman, who lost his son in the clash against Lebanon last year; "Unwrapping The Gift", by the Palestinian emigre writer Samir El-Youssef; "Palestinians Need a Gandhi, Not a New Arafat", an old piece by Eric Weiner upon the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004; and "Gandhi vs. Terrorism" by Mark Juergensmeyer ("After a solution was imagined, the second stage of a struggle was to achieve it. This meant fighting - but in a way that was consistent with the solution itself. Gandhi adamantly rejected the notion that the goal justifies the means. Gandhi argued that the ends and the means were ultimately the same").

Jeffrey Goldberg discusses his book in a long dialogue with Shmuel Rosner here. And David Remnick, one of the best reporters of our times, has a piece here on the implications of Hamas's victory the Palestinian elections of 2006.

[A shorter version of this piece appears today in Mint.]

Sunday, June 03, 2007

On Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns

A slightly different version of this piece appears today in the Observer.

The fictions of Khaled Hosseini portray not just a world out of joint—an Afghanistan racked first by conflict with the Soviets and then a civil war—but also, within it, families where unnatural formations are prevalent and guilty secrets harboured. This surfeit of disorder results in extravagant narratives that are always ticking away like timebombs. Disaster is never more than an arm's length away in Hosseini's work, as guns and bombs on the streets, and an insensitive and authoritarian patriarchal culture inside the home, create an atmosphere "of abasement, of degradation and despair".

While Hosseini's second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, rehashes some of the conflict-generation formulas of his debut novel, the bestselling The Kite Runner, the good news is that the writing is more assured, as is some of the characterization, and this is surely a praiseworthy thing. The Kite Runner was a schmaltzy, even insincere, story of two boyhood companions, master and servant, who are actually half-brothers. The book had plot turns you could see coming a mile away, and dull, flat writing that never rose much higher than the base ground of cliché. Indeed, at one point the grown-up narrator, now a successful novelist, even mounts an intriguing defence of clichés—"Because, often, they're dead-on".

The formation of a pair of boys overseen by a powerful father-figure of The Kite Runner is replaced, in A Thousand Splendid Suns, by a pair of striking women in thrall to a sinister husband. Mariam is an illegitimate child, a harami, who is married off when still a teenager to an elderly shoemaker, Rasheed. Mariam is unable bear Rasheed the son he so desperately wants, and is continuously mocked and beaten by him. She recalls her embittered mother's words: "Like a compass needle that points north, a man's accusing finger always finds a woman".

When the fighting in Kabul between the forces of rival warlords sparks off an exodus of civilians, Rasheed gives refuge to the attractive teenager Laila, and presses her to marry him. Laila agrees, but only because she bears in her womb the child of her lover, Tariq, destined to become another harami unless she acquiesces. Mariam is relegated to second-best status not just by Rasheed but also by the narrative, which often depicts her from Laila's point of view.

Hosseini is at his best in some of his descriptions of landscape—the secluded pastoral retreat where Mariam grows in the company of her mother, a visit made by Laila and Tariq to the giant Bamiyan Buddhas later blown up by the Taliban - and his account of the developing relationship of the two wives, which begins with hostility and slowly blossoms into a concord. Some of Hosseini's characters, like the demonic Rasheed, still feel more like obstacle courses that must be overcome by his battling protagonists. He still italicizes far too many sentences, and his chapter endings are like an archive of narrative alarm bells. But this is a modestly good and fairly readable work by an improving writer.

Friday, June 01, 2007

In Pragati

My recent piece on Arun Maira's book Discordant Democrats for Mint also appears in the June issue of Pragati, the monthly magazine of the group The Indian National Interest.

Pragati can be downloaded for free here. Among the other goods things I spotted in it was "Six great revolutions changing the nature of India's economy and society", an excerpt from Niranjan Rajadhyaksha's new book The Rise of India: Its Transformation from Poverty to Prosperity.