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I recommend Basharat Manzil, by Bhopal-based Hindi writer Manzoor Ahtesham. Set in pre-Independence Old Delhi, this novel spans three generations from 1857-1947: part family saga, part exploration of India’s political past, the book delves deeply into Muslim cultural and religious traditions and Indian nationalist politics. Historical figures are integrated in the narrative, but it’s the portrayal of the family conflict—unequal brothers separated by views, lifestyles, and alliances at odds with each other—and the outstandingly wrought female inhabitants of Basharat Manzil (the eponymous residence) that make the work so fulfilling. Readers of Indian literature in English will not be unfamiliar with some of this territory, but Ahtesham’s loving prose, artfully rendered in English, will add a very different and important voice to the pre-Partition literary landscape of broken dreams, doomed love, and devastating loss.
Jason Grunebaum is the recipient of a PEN Translation Fund Grant to translate Uday Prakash’s Hindi novella The Girl with the Golden Parasol.
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