Two books I’ve just finished: Manil Suri’s beautiful second novel The Age of Shiva, and filmmaker/scriptwriter Saeed Mirza’s oddly structured but often very engrossing Ammi: Letter to a Democratic Mother. As sometimes happens when I’m reading books in quick succession, my vagrant mind amused itself by making little connections between them (it’s a childish little habit but on occasion it helps heighten my engagement with them). While the narrative of Suri’s novel takes the form of a mother addressing her son, Mirza’s book is a lengthy letter written for his mother, who died in 1990. (Actually, it’s part-novel, part-memoir, part-film script and a number of other things all at the same time.)
This is just a teaser/pointer, I’ll write about both books at length soon; will also hopefully get to talk with the authors in the next few days. For now let me say that I loved The Age of Shiva: this is no time to be thinking of “best of 2008” lists, but this tender yet disturbing novel about a woman's life over three decades - as a wife, a daughter and most vitally as a mother - will almost certainly be in my personal top 5 at the end of the year. About Ammi...I had a couple of reservations about the second half, but on the whole it’s a thoughtful work, full of wisdom about the quirks and injustices of history, the forces acting on the world today, and the importance of learning from the past. It's very personal and makes me want to revisit Mirza’s films – the only one I remember well is Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho (saw Albert Pinto ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai and Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro a very long time ago), though I have fond memories of the TV serial Nukkad, which he also directed.
Like I said, will post longer reviews of the books as soon as possible. Lots of writing to do in the next few days.