Category Archives: March 2023 Reads

Read 10 of 2023. Pyre by Perumal Murugan. Translated from the Tamil by Aniruddhan Vasudevan.



Pyre may seem so simply written on the surface. It may seem so not detailed in one sense, and yet as you turn the pages, and discover more, you see Mr. Murugan’s brilliance shine through the pages. From speaking about caste to patriarchy (because after all, it is all interlinked) to the micro-agressions that aren’t micro given the lay of the land, they are just aggressions, he takes the reader through a journey of strife, using themes such as love, religion, hatred, and the inequities that exist in every rung of societal hierarchy.

Pyre opens with Saroja and Kumaresen getting off a bus and entering Kumaresen’s village. They are in love. They harbour a secret: Of their marriage being inter-caste. Saroja hopes she will be accepted by her husband’s family and extended village people. The entire village and Kumaresen’s relatives cannot come to terms with what has happened. Saroja still believes that her faith and love will conquer it all.

Pyre simmers on every page. You can feel the heat, the hatred, the remoteness of the village, Saroja’s claustrophobia, Kumaresen’s helplessness, and his mother Marayi’s constant nagging, taunts, and temper. It is a book that is evocative, beguiling, and at the same time so raw in its approach – there are tender moments, far and few and in-between, but they exist nonetheless.

The characters are few, the book is a short one, the sentences are sparse and simple, and so much is playing out for the reader. Murugan doesn’t allow you to breathe sometimes – it feels that sticky, humid, a breath caught in your throat, stuck somewhere deep inside, because of what you have just read – the traditions, the beliefs, the culture of the land that cannot bring itself to view love of two people.

Aniruddhan Vasudevan’s translation is superbly succinct, and goes where the author takes him. Vasudevan brings his own touch to the cultural expressions that I am sure Murugan used very differently in the Tamil, and while reading it in the English you can see the effortless transition, or rather hear it in your head, as you go along. Pyre is tense and will always keep the reader on the edge. It is not an easy book to digest. It is also not easy to imagine what is happening, and what might. It is brutal, empathetic, nuanced, and tender – all at the same time.

Read 9 of 2023. Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov. Translated from the Bulgarian by Angela Rodel.

Time Shelter

Time Shelter is a sublime take on how we live, on how we have been living, and perhaps also about how we will live in the time to come. It is a book that most elegantly blends the past, the now, and the future, in its large-hearted vision of what it means to be human, of what we choose to live in a certain moment of time, and why we make the choices we do.

This book is everything I expected from it – nostalgia with a dash of contemporary, of what it means to live in the past, of dementia, of memory and the role it plays in our small lives – of what it means to be alive in a world that expects you to remember, when all you want to maybe do is forget. Of wanting to jump time and been given the opportunity to do that. Gaspodinov’s writing is sublime – it is. It is everything and everywhere indeed all at once. I cannot put my finger on it but I love it so much – just spectacularly written and translated beautifully by Angela Rodel.

For me the characters don’t matter, as much as what is going on – how years jump – decades whiz by, the joy of not wanting to keep track as a reader – of all the cultural references as years roll by – music, art, literature, movies, the works. Not to forget the role history will still play even if time is recreated and you are technically still in the present which is soon going to be the past. Absolutely spectacular! I hope it makes it to the shortlist.

Read 8 of 2023. Children of Paradise by Camilla Grudova


I was really looking forward to reading this one, and I absolutely enjoyed it as well. Vignettes of a time gone by, of a place you don’t know, though it could be any place at all in the world, since it is set in a dilapidated cinema hall – a recollection of how it used to be – and how it also is in some parts of the world, where the multiplex culture hasn’t seeped in.

However, having said this, “Children of Paradise” is for me about life and fiction merging beautifully, through a medium we all can relate to – that of illusions, of what we see on the screen, of how that becomes life for those couple of hours, and we get a chance to escape all drudgery, till we realize that the lives on-screen are also pretty much the same.

“Children of Paradise” is an homage to cinema, to the yesteryears perhaps, and also to the people who live on the margins – on the sidelines, watching it all go by, as though their lives are cinematic too – almost fictional, and sometimes way too real. The chapters started with movies that I guess Grudova has loved over time, or as a reference to the protagonist, or in some way connected to the plot, which I could not fathom.

Having said all of this, “Children of Paradise” is simply about the people who inhabit the space “Paradise Cinema” – the ones who were banished to Earth, each searching for their own share of paradise – each of them not wanting to let go, each trying so hard to form their own realities, in a world of smoke and screen.

Read 7 of 2023. The Birthday Party by Laurent Mauvignier. Translated from the French by Daniel Levin Becker

The Birthday Party

Title: The Birthday Party
Author: Laurent Mauvignier
Translated from the French by Daniel Levin Becker
Publisher: Fitzcarraldo Editions
ISBN: 9781804270226
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 504
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

The Birthday Party by Laurent Mauvignier will test your patience. Nothing happens till the book reaches the last 250 pages or so. A lot happens – a lot more than we can imagine and Mauvignier takes us through lives in a hamlet, with such unassuming clarity and nonchalant writing that as a reader you feel removed and involved at the same time – if that can ever happen while reading a book, and yet it did happen to me.

The Birthday Party takes place in the present time, hurling back into time, traversing happiness, and melancholy, only for the characters to tumble into unbearable catastrophe. Patrice, a farmer in a French hamlet, is out on an errand for his wife Marion’s 40th birthday. Their daughter Ida is on her way home from school to get a cake ready with their solitary artist neighbour Christine. In seconds, or rather what seems pages and pages, Christine and Ida get taken hostage by intruders. Why did this happen? What was the reason? Who is behind this? Is it connected to Patrice, Marion, and Christine’s past?

There is a lot to cover to get to the answers. Long winding paragraphs, each character and their experiences are fleshed with great care, the translation by Daniel Levin Becker is busy – all over the place, given how the original is – till the reader finds a rhythm and pace to the chaos that is about the unleash itself, both on the reader and the characters.

The Birthday Party is so much more than what meets the eye. A book about families, about should the past really matter when it comes down to it, about what we have done that cannot be undone, about the evening itself, about what we truly know when it comes to those closest to us, and what lays beneath – quietly, silently, most dramatically, waiting to explode.

Read 6 of 2023. The Possession by Annie Ernaux. Translated from the French by Anna Moschovakis

The Possession by Annie Ernaux

Jealousy. The rawness of this emotion perhaps cannot be compared to any other. It slices you open, and you lay bleeding – for all to see, because it is visible – that’s what this emotion ensures – to come in plain view. It is as though you are different person under its spell, and hence you are possessed – as Ernaux was when jealous of an ex-lover’s current partner.

There is no timeline in this very slim work about this emotion. And like all Ernaux’s books, this memoir feels as though it belongs to the reader – it is always that close to home (at least for me). “The Possession” made me see myself as that person in love – the one that is obsessed with the other – the one that will not let go, the one that seeks closure but is unable to find it, the one that seethes in his own agony and suffering, day after day, wanting the same for the lover that once was.

She wants him back (is it because someone else has him now?). She years. She longs. She wants. “I want to fuck you and make you forget the other woman”, she says, and you know that everything before and after doesn’t matter. Ernaux’s writing is not only lucid but also it is the story of writing this book – how she wants to pour her emotions on paper, how that is perhaps the only way she will find some comfort – she may have given up everything else in the name of love or desire, but not her writing.

Anna Moschovakis’ translation is stunning, and you can tell by every sentence and every word used in all its glory, and brevity. Ernaux’s emotions I think may not have been easy to put on paper even in the original, and for Moschovakis to translate it the way she has is commendable.

The Possession entered me through its pages, and I have a very strong feeling that it will not let go for a while now. And I also feel the same way. I also want to be the other. The one who has him. The several others who are now with my several hims.