Anita Desai is the author, most recently, of The Artist of Disappearance, a collection of three novellas. (October 2015)


The Real India

A shrine to the Hindu goddess Kali on the banks of the Ganges River, Calcutta, 1987; photograph by Raghu Rai

The Lives of Others

by Neel Mukherjee
Such is the power of the image of Mahatma Gandhi as a saint of iconolatry, emaciated, half-naked, bent over a walking stick as he leads India’s masses to freedom from imperial power without ever raising a gun or a hand or even his voice, that the impression of India’s freedom …

Dining Out and In Calcutta

A café at one of Calcutta’s new shopping malls, 2006

Calcutta: Two Years in the City

by Amit Chaudhuri
I was twenty when my family gave up our home in Old Delhi and moved to Bengal in the late 1950s. I thought Calcutta the first metropolis I had set eyes on. Delhi, although the capital since 1912, in the 1950s was still little more than a cluster of villages …

A Different Gandhi

Gandhi in South Africa, recuperating from a severe beating by Pathans on the day he went to register under the ‘Black Act’ as an Indian living in the Transvaal, 1908; photograph by Joseph Doke, Gandhi’s first biographer

Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India

by Joseph Lelyveld
Even in his lifetime the legend of Mahatma Gandhi had grown to such proportions that the man himself can be said to have disappeared into a dust storm. Joseph Lelyveld’s new biography sets out to find him. Lelyveld’s argument is that it was South Africa, where Gandhi arrived as a twenty- three-year-old law clerk in 1893, that made him the visionary and leader of legend. Lelyveld is not the first or only historian to have pointed out such a progression but he brings to it an intimate knowledge based on his years as a foreign correspondent in both South Africa and India.

In Love with Andhra

David Shulman near a temple to Sarasvati, the Hindu goddess of arts and learning, on the banks of the Godavari River in Basara, Andhra Pradesh, India, 2006

Spring, Heat, Rains: A South Indian Diary

by David Shulman
What is it that makes someone brought up in one culture, one environment, travel to the one most unlike it and embrace it as his own? Could there be a world more different from the farmlands of Iowa than the delta of the Godavari River in Andhra Pradesh in south-central …

Elektra in Tehran

Azar Nafisi as a teenager, Tehran, early 1960s; photographs from Nafisi’s memoir, Things I’ve Been Silent About

Things I've Been Silent About: Memories

by Azar Nafisi
An ominous title. Opening the new book by the author of the phenomenally successful and greatly loved Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003), one wonders if it will contain further revelations about the revolution in Iran that she survived, and even triumphed over, by her passion—and her ability to convey that …

What If?

A Tranquil Star: Unpublished Stories

by Primo Levi, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein and Alessandra Bastagli
“Playful” is probably the last adjective one would think to use for the oeuvre of the Primo Levi who wrote Survival in Auschwitz, describing the ordeal he lived through but never left behind. And yet, on reading the latest collection of his stories to be translated into English, A Tranquil …

Pilgrim’s Progress

Two Lives

by Vikram Seth
In July 1931, a young Indian student named Shanti Seth arrived in Berlin to study dentistry. His eldest brother, Raj, who was a father figure to him, had said, “In our family we have an engineer, an accountant, a judge and a doctor, but no dentist. Why don’t you train …

A Shadow World

Never Let Me Go

by Kazuo Ishiguro
While reading several new novels published this past spring, one is struck by the way that the British novelists who take up the issues of our times prefer to do so not directly but at an angle. There is Ian McEwan, who, in addressing the shock of 9/11 (or 11/9 …