Annus Horribilis: By Avinab Datta-Areng, Penguin, 88 pages, Rs. 250.
This book of poetry slows your swift descent into stony cynicism about the genre. Annus Horribilis has 55 poems, each a quiet photograph, a painting. And Avinab Datta-Areng is the poet and photographer, painter and critic, all rolled into one. With his words, he creates the image of a moment in time, making sure you see every little detail that could otherwise be glossed over—here, he turns your eye to the quality of light; there, a person’s burden of history, silently carried. The reader is shown the many subliminal somethings that crisscross a seemingly mundane moment. The collection is poignant, personal, powerful, and Datta-Areng, just what today’s poetry and its readers need.
The Paris Bookseller: By Kerri Maher, Headline Publishing, 366 pages, Rs. 799.
Kerri Maher’s book is a work of historical fiction based on the life of Sylvia Beach, publisher and founder of the iconic Paris book store, Shakespeare and Company. It traces Beach’s journey—her duty as a World War I Red Cross nurse that brought her from the US to Paris, to her meeting Adrienne Monnier, who became her lover, the store’s founding in 1919, and everything that followed. Literary stars like Ezra Pound and Ernest Hemingway make an appearance but the story focuses on the bond that brought us James Joyce’s Ulysses. Beach was the book’s brave publisher, and her store the place where Joyce finished his masterpiece. Though slow in parts, this is a warm spotlight on a stellar editor who recognised, supported and encouraged literary talent.
Capture The Dream—The Many Lives of Captain C.P. Krishnan Nair: By Bachi Karkaria, Juggernaut, 296 pages, Rs. 799.
In her characteristic style that combines a few too many puns with well-paced storytelling, veteran journalist Bachi Karkaria chronicles the life of Captain C.P. Krishnan Nair, best known as the founder of The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts. The enterprising man from Kannur, Kerala, was in the army before he entered the textile trade, and then hospitality, always relying on his wife Leela for advice and support. In Karkaria’s telling, it’s clear that Nair, a man of uncommon charm, could work a room and turn every connection to his advantage. While she came to her project well after Nair’s death—the book marks his birth centenary—she speaks to his sons, daughters-in-law, close friends and associates, to tell the story of his remarkable life.