HT Picks; New Reads

Updated on Nov 18, 2022 09:46 PM IST

On the reading list this week is a collection of writing by authors across millennia, who were born or lived in what is modern-day Bihar, a book on miniature painting at the Bundelkhand royal courts of Orchha, Datia and Panna, and a volume that features the work of persecuted poets, writers and activists

A collection of writing by authors across millennia, who were born or lived in what is modern-day Bihar, a volume on miniature painting from Bundelkhand, and a book that includes the work of persecuted poets, writers and activists. (HT Team)
A collection of writing by authors across millennia, who were born or lived in what is modern-day Bihar, a volume on miniature painting from Bundelkhand, and a book that includes the work of persecuted poets, writers and activists. (HT Team)
ByHT Team

From Vatsyayana to Hira Dom

408pp, ₹699; HarperCollins (A collection of writing by authors across millennia, who were born or lived in what is modern-day Bihar)
408pp, ₹699; HarperCollins (A collection of writing by authors across millennia, who were born or lived in what is modern-day Bihar)

A family is unable to decide whether a parrot who has landed in its garden is a Hindu or a Muslim.

A courtesan loses her ancestral mirror to rioters. The family that now possesses it finds itself transformed.

Mutta celebrates her freedom from domestic drudgery.

Vatsyayana hands you the keys to sexual bliss.

Hira Dom berates the caste system.

Over the centuries, many great empires and kingdoms took root in Bihar and, along with advancements in mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, science and statecraft, they produced exemplary works of literature.

The Book of Bihari Literature is a vibrant collection of writings -- poems, essays, stories -- that have flowed from the pens of the great poets, thinkers and writers across millennia, who were born or lived in what is modern-day Bihar. This book makes accessible to English-speaking readers the bounty of Bihari literature, and brings to the fore works in neglected languages by ancient philosophers and celebrated contemporary authors alike.*

Miniatures from the royal courts of Bundelkhand

253pp, ₹4500; Niyogi Books (About miniature painting at the Bundelkhand royal courts of Orchha, Datia and Panna)
253pp, ₹4500; Niyogi Books (About miniature painting at the Bundelkhand royal courts of Orchha, Datia and Panna)

This book about miniature painting at the Bundelkhand royal courts of Orchha, Datia and Panna offers a new insight into the origin and source of creation of these exquisite paintings, and seeks to dispel earlier misconceptions about their provenance. The miniature school of Bundelkhand that first developed at Orchha was the earliest and most Indian of all the Rajput schools and at the time of its founding, the only one to practise a purely indigenous style of painting, “untainted” by the naturalism of imperial Mughal painting. The authors’ interpretations and stylistic analyses of over 240 paintings from this collection, many of them published here for the first time, shed light on the school’s development from the late sixteenth century to the early days of British rule.

The book also introduces readers to the conceptual world of Rajput miniature painting and the rasa aesthetic that anticipates the modern aesthetic. The author Dr Phil Konrad Seitz, lived in India for many years, including from 1987-1990 as German ambassador. He and his wife Eva Seitz, are among the most important private collectors of Indian miniature paintings worldwide. Their readiness to share their collection with art lovers all over the world both in publications like this one and through major donations to museums has done much to enhance our appreciation of the marvels of Indian painting.*

Encounters with prison

304pp, ₹699; Westland (Featuring the work of persecuted poets, writers and activists)
304pp, ₹699; Westland (Featuring the work of persecuted poets, writers and activists)

That the pen is mightier than the sword is a phrase easy to mock. As examples from history show, distressingly, swords have killed poets for centuries. It is impossible to list all the poets who have been persecuted, for in many instances, we remember their words not their names.

And that is the point -- those who wield the sword are reviled, if not forgotten; those who they slay are remembered through their words. Empires have risen and fallen and national boundaries have changed. But the words of poets have survived, passed from generation to generation through word of mouth, books and, increasingly, the internet.

For, In Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit speaks powerfully of this history of resistance and courage. Conceived in dialogue with artist Shilpa Gupta’s multimedia installation, it brings together many of the poets featured in the installations -- every one of them persecuted for their words. Editors Shilpa Gupta and Salil Tripathi reached out to many other poets, writers and activists too, several of whom had faced persecution.

Much like the installation it is named for, For, In Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit is an immersive experience featuring illustrations and images alongside the written pieces. It is also the culmination of an effort of collaboration and support, often under extremely difficult conditions, forming a network that spans countries. The result is an anthology that speaks truth to power and is a testament of the community of words.*

*All text from book flap.

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Monday, November 28, 2022
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