HT Picks: New Reads
Pakistan, race and caste, and a Bengali novel in translation are all on this week’s list of good readsUpdated: Sep 11, 2020 19:51 IST
THE NINE LIVES OF PAKISTAN BY DECLAN WALSH
The demise of Pakistan – a country with a reputation for volatility, brutality and radical Islam – is regularly predicted. But things rarely turn out as expected, as journalist Declan Walsh knows well. Over a decade covering the country, his travels took him from the raucous port of Karachi to the gilded salons of Lahore to the lawless frontier of Waziristan, encountering Pakistanis whose lives offer a compelling portrait of this land of contradictions.
He meets a crusading lawyer who risks her life to fight for society’s most marginalised, taking on everyone including the powerful military establishment; an imperious chieftain spouting poetry at his desert fort; a roguish politician waging a mini-war against the Taliban; and a charismatic business tycoon who moves into politics and seems to be riding high – till he takes up the wrong cause. Lastly, Walsh meets a spy whose orders once involved following him, and who might finally be able to answer the question that haunts him: why the Pakistanis suddenly expelled him from their country. Intimate and complex, unravelling the many mysteries of state and religion, this formidable book offers an arresting account of life in a country that, often as not, seems to be at war with itself.*
CASTE BY ISABEL WILKERSON
The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power - which groups have it and which do not. Beyond race or class, our lives are defined by a powerful, unspoken system of divisions. In Caste, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson gives an astounding portrait of this hidden phenomenon. Linking America, India and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson reveals how our world has been shaped by caste - and how its rigid, arbitrary hierarchies still divide us today. With clear-sighted rigor, Wilkerson unearths the eight pillars that connect caste systems across civilizations, and demonstrates how our own era of intensifying conflict and upheaval has arisen as a consequence of caste. Weaving in stories of real people, she shows how its insidious undertow emerges every day; she documents its surprising health costs; and she explores its effects on culture and politics. Finally, Wilkerson points forward to the ways we can - and must - move beyond its artificial divisions, towards our common humanity. Beautifully written and deeply original, no one can afford to ignore the moral clarity of its insights, or its urgent call for a freer, fairer world.*
HELLFIRE BY LEESA GAZI
For the sisters Lovely and Beauty, home is a cage. Their mother Farida Khanam never lets them out of her hawk-eyed gaze. Leesa Gazi’s Hellfire opens with Lovely’s first ever solo expedition to Gausia Market on her fortieth birthday. There will be many firsts for her today, but she mustn’t forget the curfew Farida Khanam has ordained. As Lovely roams the streets of Dhaka, her mother’s carefully constructed world begins to unravel. The twisted but working arrangements of a fragile household begin to assume a macabre quality as the day progresses.
Told in stark, taut prose, this grisly tale of a family born of a dark secret is one of the most scintillating debuts in contemporary Bengali literature.
*All copy from press releases