The thing is, Atal Behari Vajpayee is an honourable man. A while back, he’d obliquely criticised people who banned books and ravaged libraries, suggesting that they might choose to table their objections in more intellectual fashion. The thing is, it’s the elections and he’s campaigning in Maharashtra, also known as I Love Shivaji Central. The thing is, Laine hasn’t said anything defamatory, or even especially inflamatory, about Shivaji, in his book. The thing is, our honourable PM has done the crowd-pulling bit and slammed Laine in general, foreign scholars in particular, just to get that applause going. The thing is, if anyone else had pulled a volte face like that, I’d have had no hesitation in calling him a two-faced wuss who lacked the courage of his convictions and was only too happy to sell intellectual freedom down the river in pursuit of votes. But the thing is, we’re talking about Atal Behari Vajpayee here, and as everyone knows, AB Vajpayee is an honourable man. Isn’t he?
The regional winners for the Commonwealth Prize have been announced: the list includes Damon Galgut and Mark Haddon, which makes the Babu think deep thoughts about the standardisation of book prizes everywhere. Increasingly, the same names pop up on every shortlist–Monica and Jhumpa on the Orange and everything else, Haddon all over the place. Perhaps it’s time someone instituted a Mode Prize, honouring the writer whose work has made it to the highest number of shortlists in any given calendar year. For Indian readers, a caveat–there were no desis on the list of regional winners this year, which isn’t surprising. The last year has been dismal in terms of good fiction in English from India, and I can’t remember having to ride out a similar drought any time in the last decade. Here’s the official website, for Commonwealth watchers.
This, on the other hand, is a longlist I could learn to love. Eats, Shoots and Leaves, Gulag, and Mountains of the Mind could only end up in each other’s company on the Samuel Johnson list.
Patrick Neate (Twelve Bar Blues, The London Pigeon Wars) is in Delhi this week. Browsed his website and came across a few uncollected short stories. From Restaurants: “In London there are so many restaurants that it can sometimes seem like they must be reproducing. You might think that the steak house on the high street got the small Italian bistro drunk one night and she spawned the cheap vegetarian, you know?” And KK, if you’re logging on from the heart of darkness, this one’s for you. It’s called African Aid Worker.
Okay, now I need anti-depressants.
The Babu toddled off this week to see the Vagina Monologues (without Jane and Marisa, but we weren’t complaining) performed in Delhi, along with the significant other and a sainted aunt. Delhi took to the play with ginger enthusiasm–yeah, yeah, we chanted ‘Vagina’ happily enough at the beginning, but I noticed no one joined in on the ccc-uuu-nnn-ttt Reclaim-The-Word monologue. The reactions have been interesting: cautious approval, in-your-face defiance, carping criticism and pretty pointless rebuttal.
Verily, it’s in thy hands now. The New Testament has been translated into sign language.