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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

HT Picks: The week’s most interesting reads

A book on India’s association with magic, another on what could come after democracy, and a reissued classic on the Emergency

books Updated: Jun 29, 2018 22:26 IST
HT Team
HT Team
Hindustan Times
Magic, democracy and the Emergency: Diverse reads this week!
Magic, democracy and the Emergency: Diverse reads this week!(HT Team)
243pp, Rs 599; Penguin
243pp, Rs 599; Penguin


On 25 June 1975, the people of India lost their democratic rights after Indira Gandhi suspended the Constitution and imposed the Emergency.

This is the story of the travails of ordinary folk in the country’s capital during the nineteen-month long nightmare by two young city reporters who had a ringside view of events. For Reasons of State exposes the monstrous administrative machinery of the Emergency and the devastation it wreaked, with arbitrary arrests, homes bulldozed at half an hour’s notice and, worst of all, the dreaded forced sterilization campaign. Fusing painstaking investigation with literary flavor, the authors bring you the high octane drama of events as they unfolded, ending with the triumph of people against an all-powerful state.

This widely acclaimed book returns after forty-one years with a new thought–provoking introduction by the authors and an insightful foreword by Mark Tully at a time when the lessons of the emergency have fresh, contemporary relevance.*

247pp, Rs 599; Hachette
247pp, Rs 599; Hachette


Democracy has died hundreds of times, all over the world. We think we know what this looks like: chaos descends and the military arrives to restore order, until the people can be trusted to look after their own affairs again – if that day ever comes, which often it doesn’t. But perhaps we are focusing on the wrong threats.

In this incisive book, David Runciman – one of the UK’s leading political scientists and the host of popular podcast series Talking Politics – surveys the political landscape of the West, and shows us how to spot the new signs of trouble ahead.

From coups in ancient and modern Greece to nuclear war, environmental catastrophe, and the most heinous crimes, Runciman reveals how changes in our societies – now too affluent, too elderly, too networked – make them unlikely to fall apart as they did in the past. History never repeats itself. Instead, increasingly decaying institutions pose a severe risk to the future of our democracies.

All political systems come to an end. This book addresses the problem with verve and rigour and helps us to think about the previously unthinkable: what will democratic failure mean in the twenty-first century? Might there be something better after democracy?*

457pp, Rs 699; Panmacmillan
457pp, Rs 699; Panmacmillan


India’s association with magic goes back thousands of years – from the seals of Mohenjodaro that depicted sorcerers and yogis, to the jugglers and acrobats that dazzled spectators at the courts of Hindu maharajas and Mughal emperors. Tales were told of ropes being thrown up in the air, strong enough for a boy to climb; of fakirs being buried alive for months and brought back to life; and of sanperas charming deadly cobras with their flutes. In the early nineteenth century, touring Indian magicians mesmerized audiences abroad, prompting generations of Western illusionists to emulate them.

Jadoowallahs, Jugglers and Jinns; A Magical History of India tells the story of how Indian magic descended from the domain of the gods to become part of daily ritual and popular entertainment, and its transformation from the street to the stage culminating with the rise of the great PC Sorcar Sr.

Drawing on ancient religious texts, colonial records, newspaper reports, journals and memoirs of Western and Indian magicians, John Zubrzycki offers us a vibrant narrative on Indian magic from ancient times to the present day.*

*All text from book flap.

First Published: Jun 29, 2018 22:19 IST