Sreeraj also mentioned two poetry books by contemporary British poets. Answering Back: Living poets reply to the poetry of the past by Carol Ann Duffy is a compilation of poet responses to poems of the past. Poets of the now speak to poets of then and the ensuing conversation is a beautiful one.
Another poetry book Sreeraj mentioned was The Mara Crossing by Ruth Padel, great granddaughter of Charles Darwin. The book contains ninety richly textured poems on the broad theme of migration. ‘We’re all from somewhere else,’ she begins, tracing the journeys of cells, trees, birds and beasts. “This is why I think that the idea of nationalism is weak,” Sreeraj said, “We emerge from somewhere and go elsewhere. Life is all about journeys, all about migration.”
I remember reading this wondrous book a while ago- you can go through the review here.
Apurba read The Last Wave, an Island Novel by Pankaj Sekhsaria, a journalist who has reported extensively on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The story is about how the protagonist Harish who has taken up a research job in Port Blair meets Seema, a native of the islands who studied in JNU and has returned home. The novel deals with many themes including the conflict that globalization poses in the islands, illegal immigration from Bangladesh and the Jarawa tribal community.
“The reason this book spoke to me was the setting,” Apurba said. “Most Indian English literature today is about the cities- Mumbai, Delhi, South Delhi…very few books are set in remote places and now particularly because we don’t read as much vernacular literature anymore, these kind of books are very refreshing. Take the books by Mahasweta Devi, for instance,” Apurba said.
Jaya also seconded Apurba about the thirst that the present generation has for books replete with remote geography. “If you want to know about Sikkim, Chetan Raj Shrestha’s is a fantastic author to consider.” The discussion went on to the importance of reading serialized versions of translated vernacular literature in Malayalam and the states in India where the literary scene is particularly vibrant.
If you want to get a flavor of Pankaj Sekhsaria’s prose, read this.