Upto the Marx
A. J. Philip
Across Time and Continents
A tribute to Victor G. Kiernan
ed. Prakash Karat.
Left Word Books, New Delhi.
Pages 255. Rs 450.

PM General Secretary Prakash Karat has one thing in common with his predecessor E. M. S. Namboodiripad—a sense of history. I first read about the Marxist historian, Victor G. Kiernan, in one of EMS’s articles in the CPM mouthpiece, Deshabhimani, in the early seventies. He introduced the British scholar as one of the greatest interpreters of Marxism, whose understanding of the Indian situation was almost unparalleled.

It rekindles hope in secularists
Prophets Facing Backward: Post-modernism, Science and Hindu Nationalism.
by Meera Nanda. Permanent Black.
Pages: 308. Rs 695

ur modern "prophets" have been "facing backward" for a long time, and now a ‘fanatic scientist’ has come along to tell us why. The aggressive postures of the Hindutva-led Hindu nationalism, which went through a rare mobilisation process in the past decade or so, have been a source of nagging worry for the diminishing, hopelessly marginalised, tribe of the secularists. First it was L.K. Advani’s ceremonial Rath Yatra, then the demolition of Babri Masjid at Ayodhya, and thereafter, the horrifying reality of post-Godhra, state-sponsored communal riots.

I am a fanatic rationalist
Rana Nayar
speaks to Meera Nanda on her life, interests, passion for science and her book Prophets Facing Backward

Fly with it
Shastri Ramachandaran
The Red Carpet
by Lavanya Sankaran Review, Headline
Pages 215. Rs 295

the global IT meltdown and before the markets began reviving some two years ago, B2B, meaning "Back to Bangalore", became the survival strategy for global tech majors as well as techies. As a global IT hub, Bangalore attracted not only investments, and individuals who had made tracks to greener pastures in the West, but also a lot of interest and curiosity – about the city, its culture and inhabitants, its way of life and society in general.

A bland catalogue
Jaswant Singh
The Cripps Mission
by Prashanto Kumar Chatterji.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, Kolkata.
Pages 217. Rs 300.

he transfer of power from Britain to India and the birth of Pakistan on August 15, 1947, was the culmination of a series of developments and unsuccessful efforts to avoid a division. The first such effort on the part of the imperial power was the visit of the one-man Cripps Mission to India in 1942. Sir Stafford Cripps was sent to India at a time when the war was not going well for the Allies and Japanese forces were knocking at the doors of India after impressive successes in South-East Asia. The principal war ally, the USA, had persuaded the War Cabinet of Britain, headed by Sir Winston Churchill, to send Sir Stafford to India with a set of short-term and long-term proposals to solve the Indian question.

Life behind bars
Harbans Singh
My Days in Prison
by Iftikhar Gilani. Penguin.
Pages 148. Rs 195.

edicated to all those who believe that life and liberty, far from being a gift of society, state or Constitution, are inalienable rights of every individual. My Days in Prison is not only a graphic description of Iftikhar Gilani’s experiences in Tihar Jail, but also an indictment of the judicial process, justice as it is meted out and the media that chooses to become a willing tool of the establishment. It is a book that is bound to disturb all those who cherish freedom and who aspire to build a society whose foundations are laid on the principle of rule of law. It is also disturbing because of the fact that when the Fourth Estate is manipulated, however momentarily, it can play havoc with not only an individual life, but also with the fabric of a civil society.

Spirits come calling
Just Beyond: Short Stories
by Anjan Ray. Stellar Om Books International. Pages 251. Rs 195.

his collection of short stories deals with the experiences with the supernatural, which are hard to believe. Anjan Ray claims that he has heard people narrate incidents that are beyond explanation. He admits in Preface that the title of the book was inspired by the Nobel laureate physicist William Fowler’s lecture: "Everything we consider supernatural is probably sitting just beyond the boundaries of science as we know it."

An engaging tale
Sridhar Chari
by Sudha Murty. EastWest Books (Madras) Pvt. Ltd.
Pages: 171. Rs 150

never knew it would be so dangerous to be beautiful and poor," says the heroine of Sudha Murty’s novel Mahashwetha, summing up her plight as a good-looking but poor woman, who after being wooed and wedded by a handsome doctor, gets turned out of the house, not only because of her poverty, but because she is unfortunate enough to develop leucoderma.

Short Takes
Resolving the identity enigma
Randeep Wadehra
Identities at large
edited by Rupinder Kaur, Paramjit Kaur & Rabinder Powar. Twenty First Century Publications, Patiala. Pages: xv + 131. Price: Rs 300

dentity has been an enduring enigma for those who’ve tried to define it in specific terms in consonance with contemporary milieu.

  • I have read that somewhere
    by Aswath Venkataraman. Frog Books. Pages: 147. Price: Rs 245

  • Celestial Gems
    by Joginder Singh Hemkunt Publishers. Pages: 146. Price: Rs 151

Battle for the books of Herculaneum
uried deep in the Villa dei Papiri, covered by the molten lava of Vesuvius, lies one of the finest libraries of the ancient world. But excavation may destroy more than it saves. By Peter Popham They look like lumps of coal, and when the Swiss military engineer and his team who first explored the buried town of Herculaneum in the 18th century encountered them, that was how they were treated: as ancient rubbish, to be dumped in the sea.