Deb, Shamshie, Hussein: recent reviews

The Sunday Times runs a review of Kamila Shamsie’s Broken Verses and Siddhartha Deb’s Surface. I suppose there’s a tenuous connection between the two books; Aasmani in Broken Verses is obsessed with the disappearance of her mother some 14 years previously, Deb’s cynical journalist in Surface sets out in search of a woman identified only by a photograph, but having read both, the Babu can’t see much in the way of similarity. Perhaps it’s just geographic reviewing: take two books from roughly the same region, lump them together, never mind whether they’re at all similar.
Tabish Khair did a better job of connecting the dots in The Guardian when he reviewed Deb and Aamer Hussein together:
“What is significant is that they often write about people, regions, affiliations or texts that might not always be visible in the west or in English. They are cosmopolitan writers with many regional interests, but these supposed opposites – the cosmopolitan and the regional – meet so easily in these two books that one almost fails to find the meeting remarkable.”
Jai Arjun Singh explores the connections between Deb and Joseph Conrad in his review of Surface:
“And this also has been one of the dark places of the earth”: Marlow, speaking on the banks of the river Thames, in the opening pages of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1902)
“The ghost of a 100-year-old novella shifts beneath the surface of Siddhartha Deb’s new book, which is why it’s remarkable that Surface is itself such a fresh read.”
And Anita Roy gives the book a thumbs-up in The Indian Express:
“In a land where no one is quite what they seem, where cameras lie and currency is counterfeit, where young boys take up arms in desperate causes, where curfews are frequent and electricity rare, where beneath a surface there is another — and yet another — Deb’s elegant, restrained writing discerns harsh truths about the nation state and the human soul in equal measure. Unlike so many new Indian writers who, like shooting stars, burst onto the scene amidst much razzle-dazzle and vanish as fast, Deb is clearly a writer with staying power, and Surface is a novel that lingers in the mind, disturbingly, long after the final page is closed.”
Rana Dasgupta praised the “wit and liveliness” of Broken Verses, but also found:
“Given its grand themes of nation, politics and art, however, this book’s philosophical arc is disappointingly constrained.”





3 responses to “Deb, Shamshie, Hussein: recent reviews”

  1. Amardeep Avatar

    So many intelligent book reviews. The publishing pie may still be small in India. But from this bumper crop of intelligent, inventive reviews it looks like the literary conversation is definitely thriving.

  2. coolie Avatar

    He is a very good writer.

  3. coolie Avatar

    Siddhartha Deb interviews the American crime writer George Pelecanos:I have been absorbed in Pelecanos’s fictional world for some time, and it is clear why he is a rising star of the genre. In 13 books, written at a speed of one a year, he presents a view of Washington, DC that has nothing to do with postcard images of Capitol Hill. His new novel, Drama City, is as good an introduction to his work as any, with stylised, fast-paced dialogue, vividly rendered scenes of violence, deft plotting, criminals who range from the demented to the tragic, and a pair of central characters looking for redemption in this wasteland, I can see some of the impulse in Surface, and as well as Conrad the novel explicitly references Graham Greene, thriller writer of murky stories where borders are shifting and morality is in constant asphyxiation. It is always satisfying to see a good writer come to life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: