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India Today - - LEISURE BOOKS -

Much of the fun of read­ing is in the an­tic­i­pa­tion. Be­fore its spine is cracked open, ev­ery book is per­fect, un­sul­lied by bore­dom or dis­ap­point­ment or, worst of all, aban­don­ment. These are some of the year’s most ea­gerly awaited ti­tles. And don’t worry about the books you won’t fin­ish or won’t even crack open. Re­grets and re­crim­i­na­tions are for end­ings not be­gin­nings.


FEW SEC­OND NOV­ELS CAN HAVE BEEN MORE freighted with ex­pec­ta­tion than The Min­istry of Ut­most

Hap­pi­ness. Arund­hati Roy’s Booker-win­ning de­but, The God of Small Things, turned her into a lit­er­ary su­per­star and a sym­bol for In­dia’s grow­ing self-con­fi­dence.

But in­stead of rush­ing an­other novel into print, Roy aban­doned fic­tion-writ­ing to be­come an ac­tivist and a dogged critic of un­tram­melled state power. Now, though, Roy has fi­nally writ­ten the sec­ond novel she’s put off for two decades, and her pub­lish­ers have been ratch­et­ing up the hype. “Lan­guage of the ut­most fresh­ness, joy­fully re­mind­ing us that words are alive too,” fawned one acolyte. “Ut­terly orig­i­nal... well worth the wait,” gushed an­other. Ex­pected out in June, The Min­istry of Ut­most Hap­pi­ness will be the lit­er­ary spec­ta­cle of the year.

If no nov­el­ist will want to be com­pet­ing with Roy for col­umn inches in June, there is much to look for­ward to in the first half of the new year. Pak­istani nov­el­ist Mohsin Hamid, best known for The Re­luc­tant Fun­da­men­tal­ist, re­vis­its fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory with Exit

West—a love story set in a coun­try on the cusp of civil war. An ad­vance no­tice has de­scribed the novel, due out in March, as “one of the most bit­ter­sweet love sto­ries in mod­ern mem­ory”. Pre­sum­ably mod­ern mem­o­ries are not as short as mod­ern at­ten­tion spans. Balli Kaur Jaswal’s Erotic Sto­ries for Pun­jabi

Wi­d­ows, also out in March, sparked a bid­ding war among Bri­tish pub­lish­ers. Deb­o­rah Mog­gach, who wrote The Best Ex­otic Marigold Ho­tel, has pro­vided a blurb. But there is rea­son to hope that the novel will not just be nos­tal­gic, sen­ti­men­tal kitsch for Bri­tish au­di­ences, as Jaswal won prizes in Aus­tralia for her de­but In­her­i­tance, set among the Sikh di­as­pora in Sin­ga­pore.

Hari Kun­zru, a Bri­tish nov­el­ist with Kash­miri Pan­dit an­tecedents, won sev­eral awards for his 2003 de­but, The Im­pres­sion­ist. He has since moved to New York and writ­ten three more nov­els and hun­dreds of pages of in­ci­sive jour­nal­ism. His fifth novel, White Tears, spills Amer­ica’s dirty se­crets via early blues mu­sic. In 2012, Kun­zru joined a small group of writ­ers who re­sponded to Sal­man Rushdie be­ing pre­vented from at­tend­ing the Jaipur Lit­er­a­ture Fes­ti­val by read­ing from The Satanic Verses, still banned in In­dia. Jeet Thayil was among their num­ber. A poet whose de­but novel, Nar­copo­lis, was short­listed for the Booker that year, Thayil’s sec­ond novel, The Book of

Cho­co­late Saints, is ex­pected in the sum­mer. An­other poet pub­lish­ing her sec­ond novel in 2017 is Meena Kan­dasamy, whose When I Hit You, or A Por­trait of the Writer as a Young Wife, is slated for May. The

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