The big releases of 2020

The cover of the book, "A Long Petal of the Sea".

A Long Petal of the Sea

Isabel Allende


336 pages, Rs 550

Isabel Allende’s new novel is billed as a 20th century Latin American War and Peace. It recalls September 3, 1939, the day Great Britain and France declared war on Nazi Germany, following the annexation of Poland. The same day, a ship chartered by Pablo Neruda brought refugees fleeing conflict in Europe home to Chile, the “long petal of sea and wine and snow” that he had sung of in ‘Cuándo de Chile’ (“Oh Chile, largo pétalo/ de mar y vino y nieve...”). The world had pried opened Pandora’s box, and against that backdrop, Allende traces the fortunes of her characters as they become involved in the violence of the Pinochet era. And, finally, as in the myth of Pandora, hope remains.

Breakfast with Evil

Ashis Nandy

Oxford University Press

Details awaited

As voters in more and more countries bet against enlightened self-interest, the intersection of politics and psychology is now a coign of vantage for understanding the world and its discontents. For decades, the work of political psychologist Ashis Nandy has served as a Swiss Army knife for dissecting societies which choose to behave irrationally, and the timing of the release of his new collection could not be more appropriate. OUP’s compilation assembles near-ephemera like his lectures, interviews and publications in newspapers and journals. Mapping a lifetime of work, it will reflect a world eternally in pursuit of utopia, discarding old anxieties in favour of new fears.

Manto and I

Nandita Das

Aleph Books

Details awaited

Ever since the flourishing market in film script publishing died down, behind the scenes accounts of productions have become relatively rare. But in 2020, Nandita Das will take viewers and reviewers into the green room and the cutting room, and reveal the process that went into the making of Manto (2018). It was an immersive process that lasted six years, and it will be interesting to see not just the gears of a production turning behind the scenes, but also the political and emotional responses that travelling with Manto evoked. “I knew Manto and I were going to travel together through this a very personal journey,” writes Das. “I believe, together, the images and words will tell you a story you haven’t seen on the screen.”

Witnesses of Remembrance

Kunwar Narain

Westland Books

Details awaited

Often regarded as the foremost writer of contemporary Hindi poetry, Kunwar Narain had a huge fan following because of the deceptive simplicity of his diction. Like some other poets of his generation, he was also a translator, and had worked on Cavafy, Borges, Mallarmé and Paul Valery. Winner of the Jnanpith Award, the Sahitya Akademi award and the Padma Bhushan. Widely travelled, richly influenced, he had published eight volumes of poetry and two epic poems. This is the second volume of his work to appear in translation (by his son Apurva Narain), and the first since his death in 2017.

The Apology

Eve Ensler


128 pages, Rs 499

The author of The Vagina Monologues (1996) offers an unusual perspective on abuse. While the focus has been on punishment, which is presumed to constitute closure, Ensler suggests that the process remains incomplete in the absence of an apology. This is the atonement that she had expected of her father, who had abused her in childhood. Denied an apology, she has constructed the one that she had expected in this book, which is told from the perspective of her father. Past wrongs — not only abuse, but the gamut of human iniquity — frequently play on in the minds of victims in the form of imaginary conversations with former oppressors. Ensler has turned her own conversation into literature, and suggests that only after an apology are victims free to move on.

Chats with the Dead

Shehan Karunatilaka

Penguin Hamish Hamilton

400 pages

Rs 599

A decade after his DSC Prize-winning novel Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Matthew, Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka is back with his second novel, Chats with the Dead, to be published in January. A dark comedy set in 1989, one of the most turbulent periods of Sri Lanka’s near three decades of civil war, it is the story of war photographer Maali Almeida, who has to solve what appears to be a classic murder mystery — his own.

SEBASTIAN & SONS: A Brief History of Mrdangam


TM Krishna

Westland Books

Details awaited

In this non-fiction book, Magsaysay award-winning Carnatic vocalist TM Krishna turns his attention to the makers of the mrdangam, the percussion instrument that plays a pivotal role in Carnatic music. Through interviews and reportage, Krishna examines the impact of caste
and economic disparity on the community and how these resulted in marginalising their immense contribution to Carnatic music.

Law, Justice, Society: The Selected Works of Upendra Baxi (4 volumes)

Oxford University Press

Details awaited

A comprehensive look at the contributions of one of India’s leading legal scholars, these four volumes bring together Baxi’s writings and lectures (barring his monographs) on human rights, constitutionalism, law and its social impact. The essays will be accompanied by a critical introduction by an expert in the field. Each volume will also have an interview with Baxi, to set into context the themes expounded. The volumes are expected to be published in May.