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HT Picks: This week’s most interesting reads

A new spy novel from an old master, an examination of the history of free speech in the country, and tales of animals in 19th century India

books Updated: Sep 16, 2017 16:17 IST
HT Team
Picks of the week.
Picks of the week.(HT Team)

Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret service, otherwise known as the Circus, has retired to his family farmstead on the south coat of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London are to be scrutinized by a generation with no memory of the Cold War. Somebody must be made to pay for innocent blood once spilt in the name of the greater good.

Interweaving past with present so that each may tell its own story, John le Carre has given us a novel of superb and enduring quality.*

Exploring the legal and political history of India, from the British period to the present, Republic of Rhetoric examines the right to free speech and argues that the enactment of the Constitution in 1950 did not make a significant difference to the freedom of expression in India. Abhinav Chandrachud suggests that colonial-era restrictions on free speech, like sedition, obscenity, contempt of court, defamation and hate speech, were not merely retained but also strengthened in independent India. Authoritative and compelling, this book offers lucid and cogent arguments that have not been substantially advanced before by any of the leading thinkers on the right of free speech in India. *

The Elephant in the Temple; J Lockwood Kipling; Rs 350, 291pp; Speaking Tiger

From military camels and hunting cheetahs, to herding dogs and talking mynahs, animals have been living, working, playing and performing with humans in India for centuries. In this intimate book, John Lockwood Kipling writes about animals in daily Indian life, bringing alive the sights , sounds and smells of the nineteenth century.

In these tales, 40 restless elephants are hoisted into a steamship and nearly sink it; a guilty goat gets the thrashing of its life; a cheetah keeper wakes up every night to a feline bedfellow; and a dog follows a king to heaven.

Kipling describes the animal kingdom with the authority of a naturalist, paired with a sympathetic engagement with Indian culture. He narrates religious myths, traditional folktales and incidents from day to day life with relish, peppered with local sayings – “The Indian lover can pay his sweetheart no higher compliment than to say that she runs like a partridge.’

Lavishly illustrated with Kipling’s own pen and ink drawings and enhanced by his son Rudyard Kipling’s verse, The Elephant in the Temple offers a fascinating glimpse of a time when birds and animals used to ‘come and go at their own pleasure, and rub shoulders with humanity.’ This wittily written book is a delight for aficionados of Indian history and animal lovers everywhere.*

*All text taken from book flaps.