Author Amitava Kumar’s Top 5 Book Recommendations

On the sidelines of the signing of his new book, The Yellow Book, at Kunzum Jorbagh we met up with author Amitava Kumar and asked him to name five books that everyone must read. Here’s his list of must-read books:

1. I Remain In Darkness by Annie Ernaux
“This book is about her mother’s dementia. We all have parents and our parents get older and they die. The other book by Ernaux would be A Man’s Place. This deals with her father’s death.”

I Remain In Darkness is an account of Ernaux’s mother’s deteriorating health due to Alzheimer’s disease. At first the formerly independent mother moves in with Ernaux and her sons. Ernaux keeps a journal, recording the details of her mother’s slow decline: the way she shrinks until she’s “like a little doll”. Ernaux also records her own reactions ranging from defiance to emotionless to finally being overwhelmed by a flood of feeling after her mother’s death.

2. A House For Mr Biswas by VS Naipaul
“Anyone who is Indian must read VS Naipaul’s A House For Mr Biswas.”

A House for Mr. Biswas follows the life of Mr. Mohun Biswas, as he struggles to find his freedom and a house of his own. The son of a poor labourer in Trinidad, Mr. Biswas lives as a guest in one crowded, inhospitable house after another, before an unhappy incident forces him to vow that he will work and get a house for himself. Along the way, Mr. Biswas’s fortunes suffer several reversals. Naipaul’s first book, A House for Mr Biswas is a vivid portrait of a man who fights to free himself from the entanglements of family, custom, and religion. It is an unforgettable look inside colonial society at the beginnings of great transition.

3. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
“I think Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things opened, or started something in our culture, about expression, about writing and about having a politics.”

Roy’s debut novel, The God of Small Things is a story of two fraternal twins who are reunited when they are 7 years old. The narrative explores how small, seemingly insignificant occurrences, decisions and experiences shape people’s behavior in deeply significant ways. The novel also touches upon the effects of casteism in India. It won the Booker Prize in 1997.

4. Waiting For The Barbarians by JM Coetzee
“Here is a man in apartheid South Africa. But Coetzee doesn’t want to write about apartheid by mentioning that name. Instead it is all presented as an allegory, it’s all hidden. It’s lovely.”

Narrated in the first person, Waiting For The Barbarians is a story of an unnamed magistrate of a settlement that exists on the territorial frontier of “The Empire”. All hell breaks loose when the Empire declares a state of emergency and deploys the Third Bureau – the special forces of the Empire – to ward off the area’s indigenous people called “barbarians”, who might be preparing to attack the town.

5. The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald
“There was a British writer who didn’t sell a lot, but she was an amazing writer. She started writing very late in her life. An Englishman and his wife are in Moscow, Spring has arrived and the wife leaves this man and disappears. It Is a beautiful, light and mysterious book.” 

Pick these books from any Kunzum store or Whatsapp +91.8800200280 to order. Buy the book(s) and the coffee’s on us.

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