Monday, March 31, 2008

Reviewing The Review

Last Saturday's guardian review exceeded its usual quota of literary-appetite whetting. Three reviews in particular caught my eye. Firstly, the gushing praise lavished on Salman 'I actually look like the Devil' Rushdie's latest offering, a piece of historical fiction uniting the Medici clan, Machiavelli and Emperor Akbar!

Secondly, the bizarrely entertaining autobiography of Narendra Singh Sarela, former heir to the tiny princedom of Sarila in Central India.
This vibrant tale of growing up in princely India is unlike almost any other memoir in that it is so totally without personal points of reference for the reader. You never get that flash of recognition: oh yes, as a child I used to ritually behead a goat just like that! Or: how like the elephant I had as a pram when I was little! When Narendra Singh, heir to the tiny princedom of Sarila in central India, was first asked his name by a schoolteacher, he did not know how to answer: no one had ever needed to ask who he was before.
And finally, Asne Seierstad's The Angel of Grozny, an account of her clandestine return(s) to Chechnya to bring to our attention the plight of the Chechen people, in particular its forgotten orphans. The Digressive Mind and I managed to get to her recent reading at the ICA and were quite frankly completely underwhelmed by her lack of knowledge of the area and its people and her seemingly unashamed wish to capitalise on people's misfortunes. In fact, we were captivated by the person she was in conversation with - Tony Wood, deputy editor at New Left Review - and we ended up walking away with his book Chechnya: The Case for Independence!

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