Thursday, December 30, 2021

A new book: My Country Is Literature

I have a new book out this month: My Country Is Literature — a book of literary essays, some of them first published here on the Middle Stage. It is published by Simon & Schuster, and has over 60 essays on writers and books (including a great many Indian novelists from across the history of the Indian novel) and a long introduction, "The Books of My Twenties, or, How I Became A Literary Critic," that is a memoir of my life in book-reviewing.

Two excerpts from it — one, a passage about the relationship of literary criticism to the essay and of the novel to life, and two, some memories of my father, who taught me to love books and to treasure libraries — are here and here. Here is a paragraph from it:

A book is only one text, but it is many books. It is a different book for each of its readers. My Anna Karenina is not your Anna Karenina; your A House for Mr Biswas is not the one on my shelf. When we think of a favourite book, we recall not only the shape of the story, the characters who touched our hearts, the rhythm and texture of the sentences. We recall our own circumstances when we read it: where we bought it (and for how much), what kind of joy or solace it provided, how scenes from the story began to intermingle with scenes from our life, how it roused us to anger or indignation or allowed us to make our peace with some great private discord. This is the second life of the book: its life in our life.

It's a book about all the pleasures and glories of being a reader and trawling the boundless seas of literature. If you know of someone, especially a young person, who loves books, please present them a copy.