May 2023: To Be Read

Aleph Book Company

Here is May 2023’s line-up of releases by Aleph Book Company. From historian Romila Thapar’s essays and reflections to Ruskin Bond’s timeless literary genius, there’s something for all.

The Future in the Past: Essays and Reflections

Romila Thapar

The Future in the Past brings together essays by Romila Thapar on issues and ideas that have preoccupied her throughout her career. These are subjects that surfaced frequently in discussions over the last six decades as they do even more so at present. Among them are the use and misuse of history, the myths surrounding the coming of the Aryans, religious fundamentalism in the study of society, the overt and the insidious attempts by right-wing elements to pervert Indian culture, variants of the Ramayana, the importance of museums, why dissent is important to democracy, the role of the public intellectual, and much more. Central to the arguments in these essays (versions of which first appeared in Seminar magazine) is an analysis of how the past permeates the present and influences the future.


Romila Thapar is Emeritus Professor of History at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has been General President of the Indian History Congress. She is a Fellow of the British Academy and the American Philosophical Society and holds an Honorary D.Lit. each from Calcutta University, Oxford University, and the University of Chicago. She is an Honorary Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and SOAS, London. In 2008 Professor Thapar was awarded the prestigious Kluge Prize of the US Library of Congress, which honours lifetime achievement in studies such as history that are not covered by the Nobel Prize.

The Essential U. R. Ananthamurthy

Edited by N. Manu Chakravarthy and Chandan Gowda

U. R. Ananthamurthy (1932–2014), writer, teacher, literary critic, and public intellectual, was born in Shivamogga district in Karnataka. In 1965, his debut novel, Samskara, took the literary world by storm with its unflinching portrayal of the rigid orthodoxy in Brahmin society. Since then, it has become a landmark novel of the modernist, or Navya, movement of the 1950s and 1960s in Kannada literature. In a career that spanned more than five decades, Ananthamurthy wrote five novels, several collections of short stories, poetry, and essays, a play, and an autobiography. He received the Jnanpith Award, India’s highest literary honour, in 1994, and was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize in 2013.

The Essential U. R. Ananthamurthy is a five-part compendium of select fictional and non-fictional works, poetry, and autobiographical writings from one of India’s most illustrious and outspoken writers. The section ‘Novels’ portrays characters in conflict with tradition, idealism, and modernity in a rapidly changing independent India through excerpts from powerful novels such as Samskara, Bharathipura, Avasthe, and Bhava. ‘Poetry’ presents five evocative poems on the themes of power and politics. ‘Short Stories’ highlights the chief themes that preoccupied Ananthamurthy—the constraints of the traditional order, the cultural dominance of the West, the sinister workings of power, and the creativity of political dissent. ‘Essays and Speeches’ captures the range and depth of Ananthamurthy’s democratic imagination through his writings on cultural identity and literature, community and creativity, linguistic and nationalist politics, and on figures such as Mahatma Gandhi and Ram Manohar Lohia. And, the final section, ‘Memoirs’, gathers Ananthamurthy’s memories of family, friendships, work, and travel from the different phases of his life.

The Essential U. R. Ananthamurthy offers a rich glimpse into the mind of one of modern India’s most profound writers and thinkers and demonstrates why Ananthamurthy’s works will endure for generations to come.


N. Manu Chakravarthy is a visiting professor of film and culture theory at several universities and film institutes. He won Swarna Kamal, the best film critic award, at the 58th National Film Awards in 2010 and the Karnataka Sahitya Akademi award for his book Madhyama Marga in 2014. In 2022, he presided as the chairman of the jury for the K. R. Mohanan Endowment Award at the International Film Festival, Kerala. He has recently completed a study of U. R. Ananthamurthy for the Sahitya Akademi.

Chandan Gowda is Ramakrishna Hegde Chair Professor of Decentralization Studies at the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru. He has translated U. R. Ananthamurthy’s novella, Bara, and edited Theatres of Democracy: Selected Essays of Shiv Visvanathan, The Way I See It: A Gauri Lankesh Reader, and A Life in the World, a book of autobiographical interviews with Ananthamurthy. At present, he is co-translating and editing The Greatest Kannada Short Stories Ever Told. He is a columnist with Deccan Herald.

Vivekananda The Philosopher of Freedom

Govind Krishnan V.

Known by many but understood by few, Swami Vivekananda is a figure shrouded in mystery. However, in recent years there has been a greater tendency to understand, explain, and appropriate the monk and his legacy, especially by the Hindu Right. In Vivekananda: The Philosopher of Freedom, Govind Krishnan V. contests the Hindu Right’s appropriation of Swami Vivekananda, arguably one of the most influential and defining figures of modern Hinduism. He attempts to show the reader that Vivekananda’s religious philosophy, social thought, and ideology are the very antithesis of Hindutva.

Divided into three sections, this book brings into focus multiple facets of Vivekananda’s short but eventful life. ‘Part I: Life, Ideology, and Historical Context’ begins with a short biography of Swami Vivekananda before examining how the RSS and the Sangh have used Hindu symbols, motifs, and issues like Ram Janmabhoomi, and contrasting this usage with Vivekananda’s Hinduism. It then explores Vivekananda’s early understanding of and relationship with Islam and Christianity. The section ends with an examination of the role Western civilization plays in Vivekananda’s and the RSS’s respective world views and the obvious clash between the former’s internationalism and the latter’s nativism. ‘Part II: Hinduism, the Sangh, and the West’ introduces the reader to important features of Vivekananda’s writing and thinking which have become lost to our public memory. It explores Vivekananda’s views on themes relevant to the Hindutva project: Indian civilization, society, and culture; the nature of the caste system and Brahminism; the history of Islam in India; attitudes towards Islam and Christianity; Hindu mythology, belief, and rituals; individual liberty; attitudes towards the West; and so on. Finally, it situates Vivekananda’s public life in the global context during a period of much change in fin de siècle Europe and America. Also surveyed is the cultural and intellectual framework of colonialism within which Vivekananda operated. The last section of the book, ‘Part III: Vivekananda’s Philosophy’, begins with an exposition of Vivekananda’s philosophy of universal religion and his theoretical framework and an explication of his famous assertion that religion should conform to reason as much as science does. The closing part of the book deals with Vivekananda’s position on caste and gender and posits him as an anti-caste and proto-feminist reformer of his time. Cogently argued, Vivekananda: The Philosopher of Freedom pulls back the curtain on Vivekananda’s outlook and shows why the great monk deserves to be reinstated as a liberal thinker in the popular cultural imagination.


Govind Krishnan V. is a long-form journalist based in Bangalore. He has reported from several states in India, focusing on investigative journalism and human rights. In 2014, he received the Red Ink Award for Human Rights reporting. He has written on politics, corruption, science, development, agriculture, religious fundamentalism, and crime. He has worked for Fountain Ink, Sunday Guardian, and the New Indian Express. His work has also appeared in, Firstpost, Deccan Chronicle, and the News Minute. Govind occasionally publishes academic articles on philosophy and English literature. He was shortlisted for the prestigious Einstein Fellowship in 2018 and received the Agha Shahid Ali Award for poetry instituted by Poetry Chain.

The Gold Collection: The Master’s Greatest Stories

Ruskin Bond

The ten stories in The Gold Collection are among the finest ever written by India’s most beloved writer, Ruskin Bond. Some of them, including masterpieces like ‘The Blue Umbrella’, ‘Angry River’, and ‘Panther’s Moon’, were written early in the writer’s career, while others, such as ‘Rhododendrons in the Mist’ and ‘Miracle at Happy Bazaar’, are more recent. All of them remain as golden as they were when they first emerged from the master’s imagination.

A collection that will be treasured by all those who love Ruskin Bond’s fiction.


Ruskin Bond is the author of several bestselling novels and collections of short stories, essays, and poems. These include: The Room on the Roof (winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize); A Flight of Pigeons; The Night Train at Deoli; Time Stops at Shamli; Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra (winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award); Angry River; The Blue Umbrella; Delhi Is Not Far; Rain in the Mountains; Tigers for Dinner; Tales of Fosterganj; A Gathering of Friends; Upon an Old Wall Dreaming; Small Towns, Big Stories; Unhurried Tales; A Gallery of Rascals; Rhododendrons in the Mist; Miracle at Happy Bazaar (winner of the Kalinga Literary Festival Children’s Book of the Year, 2021); It’s a Wonderful Life; The Shadow on the Wall; Song of the Forest; and The Last Tiger.

Ruskin Bond was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1999, a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Delhi government in 2012, and the Padma Bhushan in 2014. He was selected for the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, 2021.

  • The listicle is an information promotional by Aleph Book Company and does not necessarily represent the editorial preferences of Kashmir Observer 

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