My new December column is up on Bookslut. There’s so much more to say about this book, and I will have write more in the coming days, but for now, here is an excerpt:
I read War and Peace a number of years ago in Allahabad, India, in March or April, when the temperatures begin to soar. Our roof-top apartment, so delightfully airy during other months, slowly transformed into an oven. This was how we learned why no landlord in India lives in the top floor of their house if they can avoid it. Frequent power outages exacerbate the situation, and by mid-day each day, the best course of action was to lie in the dark as immobile as possible and read. Napoleon’s ill-advised campaign into Russia, the arrival of winter and the freeze-out of the French army provided a cooling balm to my imagination, if not my body.
I was reading War and Peace so that I might be able to continue to say, with confidence, that the Hindi novel Jhootha Sach, which means “False truth,” was “the War and Peace of Hindi literature.” It was a claim that was often thrown around, and one that I had carelessly made myself. Reading one book to find out if it can be used as an exemplar of another one has already read is ostensibly going about things backwards. But I had a particular motivation: Jhootha Sach was untranslated and I wanted to make the case that this fact was a tragedy for literature lovers around the world. Just imagine if War and Peace was sitting around in Russia, untranslated, and no non-Russian readers were able to access it? How culturally impoverished we would be if that were the case, even those of us who had never bothered to read it because of its notorious heft?
Read the whole column here.