Check out authors who made News in 2023

Among the innumerable books that launched this year, works by a selection of writers created a buzz for various reasons. Here are CE’s top picks
Anti-caste activist and writer Meena Kandasamy
Anti-caste activist and writer Meena Kandasamy

CHENNAI : Among the innumerable books that launched this year, works by a selection of writers created a buzz for various reasons. Here are CE’s top picks

Mani Shankar Aiyar

With the launch of Memoirs of a Maverick: The First Fifty Years, career diplomat and politician Mani Shankar Aiyar offers a rare glimpse into the first five decades of his life, reflecting his journey from a challenging childhood in Dehradun, raised by a widowed mother, to his experiences in the Indian Foreign Service and politics. The book explores significant moments, like his time at The Doon School with Rajiv Gandhi, and his transition from a diplomat to a close associate of Gandhi in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Aiyar, known for his wit and candidness, shares anecdotes and insights from his life, including his evolution into a firm atheist, his independent thinking, and the influences of his mother.

Meena Kandasamy

In 2006, anti-caste activist and writer Meena Kandasamy entered the mainstream literary scene with her debut poetry collection Touch. Ever since Kandasamy has expanded the boundaries of writing while deconstructing violence and delving into themes of oppression. From being the editor of the bimonthly The Dalit in her teens to penning an antinovel The Gypsy Goddess on the Kilvenmani Massacre, the core of Kandasamy’s work lies in activism. Her most recent work The Book of Desire – published in February – is a feminist translation of Tiruvalluvar’s Kamattu-p-pal. In her translation, she reclaims female sexuality, and desire in a long line of translations where women have been outliers.

Chandan Gowda

Writer and academician Chandan Gowda’s latest book Another India: Events, Memories, People, which launched earlier this year, is a social anthropology that explores India’s rich history and traditions, along with its cultural evolution. With the book, Gowda discusses modern society’s binaries – urban-rural and modern-traditional – and how these often favour more modern, urban perspectives, neglecting the richness of rural and traditional life. He emphasises the need to recognise the value of traditional societies and their responses to ethical dilemmas. The book isn’t a critique aimed at replacing Western ideals with local ones but rather a call to acknowledge and integrate the moral and aesthetic richness of India’s vernacular cultures.

Perumal Murugan

Over his three-decade career, this Namakkal-based literary chronicler has mapped Tamil Nadu’s rural landscape through themes of class and caste. Murugan’s novels and short stories are a fiery critique of the violence of caste. Murugan began writing early on and published his first novel, Eru Veyyil in 1991. He has amassed awards over the years but 2023 brought him a spot on the International Booker Prize longlist for Pyre. Later this year, he bagged the JCB Prize for Literature and The New Indian Express’s Ramnath Goenka Sahithya Samman for Literary Excellence. The translation of his short story collection Sandalwood Soap by writer Kavitha Muralidharan was released this year. 

Ramachandra Guha

In 2023, renowned historian Ramachandra Guha made news with his book Rebels Against the Raj: Western Fighters for India’s Freedom, for which he received the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography. The book, which Guha describes as having lived in his mind for 25 years, delves into the lives of seven foreigners who came to India in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and became deeply involved in the Indian Independence Movement. The book is not just a historical account but also addresses contemporary issues. Guha views it as a challenge to the crude, jingoistic nationalism prevalent in India today. He illustrates through the lives of these individuals that identity is not fixed and that a foreigner is not inherently adversarial. This thematic focus is underscored by epigraphs of Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, and emphasises the nuanced understanding of identity and nationalism.

Sugata Srinivasaraju

Sugata Srinivasaraju’s latest book Strange Burdens: The Politics and Predicaments of Rahul Gandhi gained significant attention in 2023 for its in-depth analysis of Gandhi’s political journey and ideology. The book is more a political commentary than a biography, offering a perspective on Gandhi’s evolution in Indian politics that is borne out of his decades-long career as a journalist. In the book, Srinivasaraju highlights contrasts between Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while not aiming to polarise but rather to explore the complexities in their political narratives. He describes his approach in the book as ‘critically sympathetic’, acknowledging both Gandhi’s privileges and burdens, and evaluating his recent radical shift in politics.

CS Lakshmi

The personal is political. CS Lakshmi or Ambai’s powerful works capture this adage well. Making waves as a Tamil feminist writer in a time when there were hardly any in the mainstream, she challenges stereotypes of women and the art of storytelling. From The Purple Sea to A Night with a Black Spider, her works examine the daily lives of women. This year, she added the Shakti Bhatt Body of Work Prize and Tata Literature Live! Lifetime Achievement Award to her long list of accolades.

Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee

This year, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and cancer physician Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee explored the field of cellular medicine and its implications for treating diseases, including cancer, with his latest book The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human. Dr Mukherjee’s own battle with depression influenced his perspective on mental health, emphasising the importance of understanding it at a cellular level. His book intertwines scientific discussions with personal anecdotes, reflecting his multifaceted experiences as a physician, scientist, and patient.

Dr Mukherjee’s approach aims to make complex medical knowledge accessible to the general public, highlighting the revolutionary  advancements in biological research and innovation.

(Compiled by Dese Gowda and Archita Raghu)

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