The books shortlisted for the 2013 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature are, minus Our Lady of Alice Bhatti and Narcopolis, all about war. The Bangladesh war, the Afghanistan war and the Opium wars dominate the list. And my simple question is, why so much talk of war?!
War, for writers, is a great temptation. Old Tolstoy could not resist it; he even put the word in the title! But even though War and Peace is a brilliant work, it is Anna Karenina which is considered one of the greatest novels of all time. And there isn't any mention of war in it (unless you count Vronsky’s departure right at the end to fight against the Turks).
I haven’t read all the books that were long-listed but the ones I was rooting for had nothing to do with war and everything to do with ego, loss, family, traditions, values, rebellion, failure, defeat, death and of course, love. Although I have a non-war favorite in the short-list, I want to mention two long-listed books which touched me deeply.
Between Clay and Dust- A novel that exposed me to a new world, the wrestlers’ akhara and the courtesan's crumbling house. It also revealed to me that time and place are, sometimes, inconsequential in the face of emotions, moods and relationships.
Em and the Big Hoom- A story not just about depression, but about love – unconditional, unquestioning, immeasurable love.
‘The enduring problems of life are not political; they’re existential, they’re psychological and there are no answers to them, certainly no satisfying answers’. Woody Allen