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Category: Books

  • Kolkata and Singapore

    Kolkata and Singapore

    I wonder why there is no street named after Calcutta in Singapore, nor after Singapore in what is now Kolkata. For their histories are interlinked. Both were ruled by the British and share some street names. Both had Armenian Street, Synagogue Street, Elliot Road and roads, bridges and landmarks named after generals and administrators such […]

  • The magic and mayhem of Salman Rushdie

    The magic and mayhem of Salman Rushdie

    When Salman Rushdie graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in history in 1968 and said he wanted to be a writer, his father yelped in pain. “What,” he cried, “will I tell my friends?” Events eventually forced Anis Rushdie, a barrister who had also graduated from Cambridge, to change his opinion. Nineteen years later, […]

  • Niall Ferguson’s Empire

    Niall Ferguson’s Empire

    America’s abrupt pullout from Afghanistan, completed on August 30, 2021, was anticipated by the Scottish historian Niall Ferguson almost 20 years ago. America invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 to oust the Taliban after 9/11. Soon after, Ferguson began speculating about an imminent American withdrawal from the country. American intervention in a crisis is routinely followed […]

  • Roger McGough’s Summer with Monika

    Roger McGough’s Summer with Monika

    I have been a fan of Roger McGough, Adrian Henri and Brian Patten ever since I came across The Mersey Sound, Penguin Modern Poets 10, in my schooldays. Published in 1967, the same year that the Beatles came out with Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, it had the same mixture of whimsy, youthfulness and […]

  • John le Carre’s spymaster George Smiley and his faithless wife

    John le Carre’s spymaster George Smiley and his faithless wife

    I can’t forget John le Carre’s description of spymaster George Smiley catching a glimpse of his wife Ann cheating on him. The scene came to my mind as I read the obituaries of John le Carre, who died on December 12 at the age of 89.

  • Jan Morris and Harold Evans

    Jan Morris and Harold Evans

    Two people I admire greatly died this year: the legendary editor Harold Evans and Jan Morris, the only writer I know who had written both as a man and a woman.

  • Can literature be a healer in a pandemic?

    Can literature be a healer in a pandemic?

    Hamlet tells Horatio: There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. His words seem all too true today if you substitute science for philosophy. Who ever thought a virus transmitted by a bat could disrupt the whole world?

  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North

    The Narrow Road to the Deep North

    The Narrow Road to the Deep North, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2014, depicts the suffering and brutality inflicted on Australian prisoners of war (POWs) by their Japanese captors who forced them to build the infamous Death Railway though the jungle from Thailand to Burma.

  • In praise of PG Wodehouse

    In praise of PG Wodehouse

    It feels like heaven,To be reading PG Wodehouse again,Hailed by critics one and all,As the Garden of Eden before the Fall,

  • Jan Morris’ beautiful diary

    Jan Morris’ beautiful diary

    Even in her 90s, Jan Morris remains a pleasure to read. I am re-reading her book, In My Mind’s Eye: A Thought Diary, first published in 2018, when she was 91 or 92 years old. And what a pleasure it is. She is observant as ever, recording her observations in beautiful prose. Filled with fond […]