19 December 2018


The Making of Modern Urdu Literary Culture
in Colonial South Asia

In late-nineteenth-century South Asia, the arrival of print fostered a dynamic and interactive literary culture. There, within the pages of Urdu-language periodicals and newspapers, readers found a public sphere that not only catered to their interests but encouraged their reactions to featured content. Cosmopolitan Dreams brings this culture to light, showing how literature became a site in which modern daily life could be portrayed and satirized, the protocols of modernity challenged, and new futures imagined.

Drawing on never-before-translated Urdu fiction and prose and focusing on the novel and satire, Jennifer Dubrow shows that modern Urdu literature was defined by its practice of self-critique and parody. Urdu writers resisted the cultural models offered by colonialism, creating instead a global community of imagination in which literary models could freely circulate and be readapted, mixed, and drawn upon to develop alternative lines of thinking. Highlighting the participation of readers and writers from diverse social and religious backgrounds, the book reveals an Urdu cosmopolis where lively debates thrived in newspapers, literary journals, and letters to the editor.

Arguing against current understandings of Urdu as an exclusively Muslim language, Dubrow demonstrates that in the late nineteenth century Urdu was a cosmopolitan language spoken by a transregional, transnational community that eschewed identities of religion, caste, and class.
The Urdu cosmopolis pictured here was soon fractured by the forces of nationalism and communalism. Even so, Dubrow establishes the persistence of Urdu cosmopolitanism into the present and shows that Urdu’s strong tradition as a language of secular, critical modernity continues to flourish in film, television, and online.

Cosmopolitan Dreams plunges us into the rich world of nineteenth-century Urdu journalism, of sketches and dialogues, witty prose, satirical poetry, and serialized novels that happily crossed all kinds of genre boundaries. In lively depictions and often biting characterizations, sharp pens tackled the new conditions, aspirations, and challenges of colonial modernity. Nothing was spared and every kind of sanctimonious or pompous behavior was ridiculed. Urdu readers from all over India responded enthusiastically. Treading knowledgeably but lightly through a vast archive, and alternating between close readings and broader vistas, Cosmopolitan Dreams is a delight to read and will hopefully send readers scouting for those magazines in old libraries and online repositories” Francesca Orsini, SOAS, University of London

“Dubrow judiciously leads us into the Urdu cosmopolis, a fascinating crisscrossing of times, languages, religions, and technologies. Readers will be struck by the brilliant theoretical insights aligned with careful empirical evidence mined from the treasures of periodicals, satires, and novels. This work will certainly inspire us to rethink South Asian language politics, gender, colonialism, and resistance in exciting new ways.”
S. Akbar Hyder, University of Texas at Austin

Jennifer Dubrow is assistant professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Washington.

HB | Rs 795

18 December 2018


The Indian Beginnings of a European Genre

edited by Baidik Bhattacharya & Sambudha Sen

This volume looks at the early Indian novel in a comparative frame, in the light of new conceptual approaches and research. It looks at novels written in various Indian languages as well as English.
This is not a chronological or comprehensive history of the Indian novel, but a book about the connections between the novel in India as an emerging genre in relation to discourses such as political writing, visual culture, popular print genres, law and ethnography.
A wide-ranging examination of the early Indian novel of the kind to be found here has not been attempted before. This volume breaks new ground in the scholarship on the novel both in India and Europe. It will contribute to discussions on cultural modernity, the emergence of public spheres, and the history of expressive resources and literary languages in modern India.

Baidik Bhattacharya is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Delhi. He is the author of Postcolonial Writing in the Era of World Literature: Texts, Territories, Globalizations (2018), and co-editor of The Postcolonial Gramsci (2012). His essays have appeared in Critical Inquiry, New Literary History, Boundary 2, Interventions, and Postcolonial Studies among other places. He serves on the editorial board of the journal Postcolonial Studies.

Sambudha Sen is Professor of English, Shiv Nadar University, Uttar Pradesh. He has published essays on the print and visual culture of Victorian England in Representations, Victorian Studies, English Literary History, and Nineteenth Century Literature. He is the author of Dickens’s Novels in the Age of Improvement (Manohar, 2003), and London: Radical Culture and the Making of the Dickensian Aesthetic (Ohio State University Press, 2013). He is currently researching the ways in which contagion was understood in nineteenth-century England, especially in relation to the poor. He is also beginning a project on the development of English literary prose in India.

HB | Rs 795

27 September 2018


This book locates essential aspects of the material, mental, and spiritual world of western Himalayan peasant society.

In this large and difficult region, human enterprise and mountainous terrain long existed in a precarious balance. Natural adversity occasionally disrupted this balance.

Small peasant communities lived here in scattered environmental niches and tenaciously extracted from their harsh surroundings a rudimentary but sustainable livelihood. Family organisation, social custom, and religious practices were adapted to their purposes.

The communities were integral constituents of larger political institutions, the state being one such. This laboriously created life-world was enlivened by myth, folklore, legend, and religious tradition.

When colonial rule was established in the region during the eighteenth century, it transformed the peasant’s relationship with his natural surroundings. Old political allegiances were weakened. Yet, resilient customary hierarchies retained their influence through religio-cultural practices. These are some of the many themes of Himalayan history offered in this book.

Indian historians have mainly studied riverine belts and life in the plains. Sophisticated mountain histories are relatively rare. This book, by one of India’s most reputed historians of the Himalaya, is essential for a more complete understanding of Indian history.

Chetan Singh, former Professor of History at Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla, has been researching and writing on the history and culture of the western Himalaya for more than two decades. He was Director, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, from 2013 to 2016. His publications include Natural Premises: Ecology and Peasant Life in the Western Himalaya, 1800–1950 (1998), and Region and Empire: Panjab in the Seventeenth Century (1991).

  1. Introduction
  2. Defining Spaces, Constructing Identity: Regional History and the Himalaya
  3. Defining Community: A Historical Study of Territory and Transformation in the Western Himalaya
  4. Geography, Religion and Hegemony: Constructing the State in the Western Himalaya
  5. Nature, Religion and Politics: Case Studies of Keonthal and Kumharsain
  6. The Dum: Community Consciousness, Peasant Resistance or Political Intrigue?
  7. The Place of Myth, Legend and Folklore in Himalayan Society
  8. Strategy of Interdependence: Gaddi, Peasant and State
  9. Between Two Worlds: The Trader Pastoralists of Kinnaur
  10. Migration and Trade in Mountain Societies: A Comparative Study of Historical Processes in Upper Dauphine (Alps) and Kulu–Kinnaur (Himalaya)
  11. Pastoralism and the Making of Colonial Modernity in Kulu, 1850-1952
  12. Diverse Forms of Polyandry and Customary Rights of Inheritance and Landownership in the Western Himalaya
  13. Thresholds in the Wilderness: Identities, Interests and Modernity in Western Himalayan Borderlands
  14. Riverbank to Hilltop: Pre-Colonial Towns and the Impact of British Rule on Urban Growth
  15. Bibliography

Series: Hedgehog and Fox
HB/ Rs 895/ copublished with Ashoka University

06 September 2018


Remembering Ravi Dayal (1937–2006)

Rukun Advani

Had he been alive, Ravi Dayal would have turned seventy on 6th September 2007. Keeping in mind Mark Antony’s opinion—‘the evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interr’ed with their bones’—as well as the fact that good books live a long time whereas their publishers are soon forgotten, it seems worthwhile to briefly recall the most significant figure in Indian publishing after Independence.

The first thing that struck anyone on meeting Dayal was how articulate he was, and the polish with which he spoke. Dayal’s articulation and polish were aspects of his charisma, and both were central to the attractiveness of his aristocratic personality. When hearing him speak I felt extremely envious, because his mind seemed a reservoir of perfectly formed sentences that he could summon at will. This made his diffidence as a public speaker seem quite odd, but I think the reason he disliked such occasions was that, like the great editors of the old world, he was reluctant to be the focus of attention. An essential element in his worldview, which made him different from many editors in our time now, was that he wanted all the attention to fall on his authors. In Dayal’s world, claiming credit for editorial work was a form of bad manners, an appaling deficiency in publishing civility. The editor was, in his view, a backstage person who made a book well structured and readable, but also someone who took no credit for it, never mind if he had virtually coauthored it.

In fact, because he possessed an unmatched level of scholarship, Dayal coauthored and ghost-wrote more books than he edited, and he may well have rewritten more books and authors than any editor in the history of Indian publishing. This was in fact where his heart lay, and he was pretty mulish about it, as he was about many things, such as never being driven to office by a chauffeur. He never allowed his headship of OUP India to get in the way of his editorial work. In this sense, as someone who did not revel in the power of the top job but in the power of his pen, he was completely singular. Some months back I met the head of the University of California Press, a woman called Lynne Withey who, like Ravi Dayal, was earlier the history editor of her press. I asked her if she still edited books, and she said of course she didn’t, she had too much else on her plate heading the Berkeley press. It struck me even more clearly then how different Ravi Dayal had been. Over all the years that he was OUP India’s CEO, he never stopped being its chief editor. He delegated finance and admin to the extent possible, managing a 300-people company while also blue pencilling his way through each script he’d taken on. He refused an airconditioner in his room because it would have made the organization inegalitarian in a way he considered unacceptable. This was the sort of Gandhian trait that earned him huge respect, and which made his organization congenial and unhierarchical. It created a sort of ‘Dayal Bagh’ in which everyone grumbled about low salaries but where everyone stuck it out because the bidi-smoking boss at least looked like he was in the same boat as the bidi-smoking chaprasis.  No one cultivated unglamorous socialist fellow feeling with as much perverseness as Dayal.  Most people who worked with him secretly hoped he would one day see the light of capitalist hedonism. But he never did.

Various other virtues place Ravi Dayal within a publishing ethos that has passed. Editors today specialize. They either acquisition or manage, and the actual editing of scripts is either farmed out or seen as a low-end occupation to be handled by assistant editors. In Ravi Dayal’s conception, these specializations were the product of a corporate ethos, whereas he wanted his publishing house to be in many ways the antithesis of a corporation. The German sociologist Tönnies’s distinction between a community of craftspeople and an industrial corporation is relevant when remembering Dayal. The crafts community is distinguished by a lack of specialization, by the ability in a worker to turn his hand to every aspect of his trade, and by an ethos of trust rather than contracts. The publishing house that Dayal created was like a gharana, a community of people engaged in a craft that they had to learn every aspect of, most specially copyediting which, in his view, was the most difficult and vital part of any publisher’s job.  By giving everyone a long rope and encouraging them to outgrow their specializations, he created a rare sort of commitment among personnel on low salaries. People stayed on in his organization far longer than personnel on very high salaries do today. In this, Dayal’s uncorporate management style was unusual and effective. It showed a fundamental instinct for what attracts people to publishing, what makes them stay there, and what makes a publishing organization tick.
Five employees of OUP India in the 1960s. Ravi Dayal second from left, Girish Karnad third from left. 

Dayal’s world was a necktie-free zone. I’ve seen a picture of Ravi Dayal in a necktie when he was fresh out of Oxford, but over the years I knew him he was allergic to neckties. It was his way of keeping a distance from his white bosses in the West, as well as a symbol of keeping his own work ethos and personnel free of the restrictions of a corporation. His sartorial preferences, like his fierce nationalism, were anti-modern and Nehruvian. Given the size of Indian publishing, it may seem disproportionate to connect Dayal with Nehru, but the analogy makes sense to people who were a part of publishing in the 1970s and 1980s, when Dayal was the Colossus  in that small world. Like Nehru, he was an Oxbridge-trained aristocrat who spoke English with cultivation and polish, and like Nehru he could out-aristocrat any of the Brit white sahibs who in those days thought they were still masters of the universe. If Nehru was the last Englishman to rule India and create a new country by distancing England, Dayal was the last Englishman to rule Indian publishing by wresting a wholly new autonomy and authority for desi publishing. Not wholly perhaps, but in substantial measure, it was Dayal who created Indian academic publishing by local academics in history, sociology, politics, economics, and literature, as well as—in the words of Ashis Nandy—being the man who gave Indian writers and authors, for the first time, a self-respect and confidence in their own abilities that they had never before possessed.

In publishing, the greatest privilege and the biggest achievement is to be a listbuilder, to create an enduring list of authors and books that come to be seen as seminal to an area of reading and research. For a publishing list to be respected, it is vital that the list be a discriminating one. The trend today is to publish virtually anything that will sell, and attractive jacket designs alongside media massaging have made all sorts of mediocre stuff look saleable. Succumbing to this form of publishing is argued as being inescapable because it is driven by shareholders clamouring for annual increases in turnover. But in the long run this practice is also responsible for reputed imprints looking diluted.  Ravi Dayal’s achievement, in contrast, was to prove that there is an optimum number of books to publish annually, and if you habitually exceed that number your imprint will decline. Dayal managed this difficult balance of healthy annual turnover increases with enhancing—and later maintaining—the OUP’s brand value. I doubt that anyone else could have managed this so skilfully. His strong personality, his authority, his persuasiveness, and his enviable articulation skills added up to a charisma which made everyone, including his Oxford superiors, accept what he was doing even when they disagreed or had reservations. Through all his fifteen or so years as the first Indian head of OUP India, he refused to publish anything less than first-rate, regardless of its saleability. He was incorruptible and could not be pressurized. He joked that he hated the India International Centre because it was a den of rejected authors keen to stab him both back and front. But the result was that he transformed a textbooks-centred imprint that looked run-of-the-mill before he took charge into one that made his press the undisputed leader in South Asian academic publishing.

Between the 1960s and 1980s India produced many intellectual pioneers in the arts and social sciences, and Ravi Dayal deserves to be remembered alongside his friends and contemporaries Sálim Ali, R.K. Narayan, Girish Karnad, M.N. Srinivas, S. Gopal, Ashis Nandy, Amartya Sen, Romila Thapar, Ranajit Guha, and Irfan Habib. We have historians of literature and social science who provide us with cultural memory filled with such names. We don’t have historians of publishing, so it is easy to forget Dayal’s intellectual and cultural importance within the same scenario. But if a history of modern Indian publishing were to be written, there would be consensus on the fact that discrimination, adherence to high standards, and longevity of tenure made Ravi Dayal the finest publisher of modern India.

Like Bjorn Borg, Dayal took early retirement while right on top in the mid 1980s, giving up a safe income and immense prestige at a young age. Borg went bust, but Dayal went on to pioneer high-class literary fiction publishing. By setting up ‘Ravi Dayal Publisher’ in 1987 he anticipated the arrival of Penguin India, Picador India, Random House. But once these highly capitalized firms had arrived with their heavy marketing artillery to publish fiction and general books in India, it became virtually impossible for a one-man venture such as Dayal’s to remain the dominant force His venture became a delicatessen in the middle of publishing supermarkets: he continued publishing a handful of books annually, usually by authors who valued intelligent feedback and high editorial skills above slick packaging and glamorous marketing.

I’ll conclude on a personal note because, certainly in Ravi Dayal’s case, the personal life of likes and dislikes and feelings was inseparable from his professional activities; to understand some of the affections that made him what he was is an oblique route to understanding the kind of publishing ethos he believed in.

Dayal didn’t have a dog of his own, but he loved dogs. A man’s response to animals often tells you more about him than his response to people, and Dayal’s response to dogs said a great deal about him. Every time he met my dog Biscoot, he would greet her like a long lost friend, he would call her ‘Bitia’ and make a great fuss over her. Only when her tail had ceased wagging would he bother to greet me. To anyone who has ever had a dog, this makes complete sense. It made me connect with Ravi Dayal the person. His disinterested and genuine affection for dogs suggested something that, deep down, was not in the least different from his feeling for books and authors because it showed he never lost sight of small things—the importance of positioning a comma correctly, the necessity of petting a dog sufficiently.

Two other oddly endearing things about him come to mind. The first is that late in life he became addicted to saas-bahu serials. I put this addiction down to the fact that after a lifetime with the sociology of M.N. Srinivas, he was seeking relief in the sociology of Ekta Kapoor. The second was his refusal to drink imported whisky. For some unfathomable reason, he felt it was a betrayal of India to drink what Khushwant Singh has unofficially demonstrated is India’s national drink, Scotch.  Ravi Dayal must have been the only man ever to have lived in Sujan Singh Park who only drank Royal Stag himself, while bestowing Black Label upon his guests as a form of punishment, letting them know all the while that they were traitors to the country. I sometimes wondered if Dayal’s antipathy to Scotch was his form of rebelling against his father-in-law, Khushwant Singh.

My fondest memory of Ravi Dayal is of a small-built man with a large heart whose affections filled his vast mansion in Ranikhet. Here you could hear him sometimes whistling tunefully, sometimes playing the mouth organ. He could play almost any tune you asked him to, from memory. But he was quite snooty about what he played. Once, my wife, tired of his renderings of ‘Carmen’ and the ‘Tannhäuser Overture’ and other lofty stuff, asked him to play ‘Hey Jude’. At this Ravi Dayal raised an eyebrow and said scornfully, ‘What, that beetle?’, and flatly refused to play the song.

28 August 2018

Out in Paperback: History, Bhakti, and Public Memory

Namdev is a central figure in the cultural history of India, especially within the field of bhakti, a devotional practice that has created publics of memory around the figure of Namdev for over eight centuries. Born in the Marathi-speaking region of the Deccan in the late thirteenth century, Namdev is remembered as a simple, low-caste Hindu tailor whose innovative performances of devotional songs spread his fame widely.

In the modern period, Namdev appears throughout the public spheres of Marathi and Hindi and in India at large, where his identity fluctuates between regional associations and a quiet, pan-Indian, nationalist-secularist profile that champions the poor, oppressed, marginalized, and low caste. Christian Lee Novetzke considers the way social memory coheres around the figure of Namdev from the sixteenth century to the present, examining the practices that situate Namdev’s memory in multiple historical publics. He vividly illustrates how religious communities in India preserve their pasts and, in turn, create their own historical narratives.

“This erudite study is an important contribution to several important issues in contemporary social theory” Sumit Guha, Rutgers University

“Novetzke brings the cultural world of Namdev to life. He breaks new ground in the field of bhakti studies” Eleanor Zelliot, Carleton College

“Novetzke is a skilled and sensitive writer, and he has produced a challenging, erudite, and engaging book that will interest both historians and scholars of religion” William R. Pinch, Wesleyan University.

Christian Lee Novetzke is Professor at the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies in the South Asia Program and Comparative Religion Program.

Read an interview with Christian Lee Novetske here

Paperback/ Rs 695/ BUY

08 August 2018


By the Author of

The Imaginary Institution of India
The Trajectories of the Indian State
The Enchantment of Democracy and India

Sudipta Kaviraj has long been internationally recognized as a political analyst and thinker. In this book he shows that he is also one of the most acute writers on the interconnections of literature and politics. The essays here lie at the intersection of three disciplines: the study of literature, social theory, and intellectual history.

Kaviraj argues that serious reflections on modernity’s predicaments and bafflements lie in literature. Modernity introduced new literary forms—such as the novel and the autobiography—to Indian writers. These became reflections on the nature of modernity. Some of the questions central to modern European social theory also grew into significant themes within Indian literary reflection.

What was the nature of the self—did modernity alter this nature? What was the character of power under conditions of modern history? How is the power of the modern state felt by individuals? How does modern politics affect the personality of a sensitive individual? Is love possible between intensely self-conscious people? How do individuals cope with the transience of affections, the fragility of social ties? Kaviraj’s essays show modern Indian literature as reflections on modern times, particularly of their experiential interior.

SUDIPTA KAVIRAJ is professor of Indian politics and intellectual history at Columbia University. He has also taught for many years at SOAS, London University, and at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He has been a fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford, and a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as at the University of Chicago.

Paperback/ Rs 695

18 June 2018

PUMPKIN FLOWER FRITTERS: Back in gorgeous new clothes


Some of these recipes have fed and delighted Jawaharlal Nehru and Sarojini Naidu. All of them have provided nourishment and comfort to generations of Bengali families. Now for the first time, these time-tested recipes are available in English.

Renuka Devi Choudhurani (1910–1985) was married off at the age of ten into a zamindari family. That was when her culinary education began, mainly from her father-in-law, but also from itinerant bawarchis and specialist cooks. As her interest in good food developed, she took to collecting and recording recipes. Ultimately, she published a two-volume Bengali work containing about 400 vegetarian and 300 fish- and meat-based recipes. From the simplest dal to the most elaborate biryani, her recipes are easy to follow, and produce delicious results.

This book contains a wide-ranging selection from the original Bengali work. It covers all the courses that might normally be served in a Bengali meal: starters, fritters, vegetables, lentils, rice, fish, meat, chutneys, dessert. Renuka Devi’s eloquent autobiographical introduction is also included here. 


29 April 2018


This book shows how Indian cinema’s many origins in the technologies and practices of the nineteenth century continue to play a vital and broad function in the twenty-first.
Mahadevan proposes that there has never been a singular cinema in India; rather, Indian cinema has been a multifaceted phenomenon that was understood, experienced, and present in everyday life in myriad ways.

Employing methods of media archaeology, close textual analysis, archival research, and cultural theory, he digs into the history of photography, print media, practices of piracy and showmanship, and contemporary everyday imaginations of the cinema to provide an understanding of how the cinema came to be such a dominant cultural force in India. The result is an innovative account of Indian cinema’s “many origins.”

“a rich study of a wide array of primary materials and an important intervention about how we might try to imagine writing the many histories of cinema . . . provides us with new lenses through which we can reconstruct the past and begin to understand the present . . . at a historical moment when the state is aggressively promoting narrow ideas of cultural nationalism, Mahadevan’s book is a powerful reminder that what we tend to take for granted as ‘national’ cultural practices actually emerged through the traffic and circulation of images and material infrastructures across India, Britain and Europe. For all this and more, Mahadevan’s engaging and elegantly written book should be on every cinema student’s reading list”

“Through its brilliant excavation of the media ecology in which cinema made itself at home in early twentieth century India, this book makes a major contribution to both film studies and to the cultural history of Indian modernity, and widens our understanding of how to do film history and media archaeology” MANISHITA DASS

“This book asks us to look at the emergence of cinema at key historical junctures and through certain persistent lines of connection with the contemporary. Exploring the relationship amongst photography, print culture, the circulation of media commodities and the formation of early cinema, Sudhir Mahadevan undertakes a work of archaeology which argues that older media configurations never quite go away. The result is a stimulating series of provocations challenging linear histories and and opening up multiple archives to engage film and media experience”

“a work of great theoretical sophistication and rigorous historical scholarship. A revisionist and definitive treatment of early Indian film, the book shows how prevailing attitudes toward technology, photography, empire, commodity, and mass culture made the cinema a socially and culturally distinct form in India. Drawing on a wealth of primary research, A Very Old Machine fills many gaps. Anyone who wants to know how Indian cinema became Indian will need to consult this book” JAMES MORRISON

SUDHIR MAHADEVAN is Associate Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature, Cinema and Media, at the University of Washington.

15 January 2018

Get the Smell Right by Rukun Advani

When the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014, the apprehension in academic publishers' minds that sales of liberal and Left books might suffer was offset by the assumption that the economy would flourish and keep them happy. Also, since no one in the new regime was likely to be interested in looking at anything written too long after the Vedas and the Golden Age of Sanskrit, there did not seem much cause for worry. In any case, the Congress had never failed to cave in when the crunch came to choosing between freedom of expression and mob violence, so the general situation seemed well described by the French cynicism of plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

But what did create chaos for publishers, as much as for everyone else, was demonetization. Once people decide against buying everything seen as inessential, roughly the first thing they stop buying in India is books. With sales plummeting, most publishers and booksellers in the business of selling general books had to look around for alternative earning methods. Some supplemented bookselling with renting out bookshop space for talks and events, some switched desperately to editorial and design services. My own attempt was to try and find out if translation rights could be sold abroad for some of the academic books I had published. The Chinese and the Japanese had bought rights for some of Partha Chatterjee's learned tomes. Why not try selling many more such to them as well as to the Europeans? In this effort I was not very successful, but my attempt did yield some quite interesting information about the whole business of publishing translations.

The key question to ask when trying to sell translation rights, I discovered, was: "What precisely is there within a book that will persuade a publisher abroad to buy translation rights?" Scholarly books, it became clear, do not travel unless the body of ideas they contain is quite path-breaking. Only four scholars that I'd published struck a chord in foreign presses, and the reason seemed to be that each of them was identified with one particular Grand Idea. Ranajit Guha was seen as Subaltern Studies. Partha Chatterjee was seen as Political Society (as against Civil Society). Ashis Nandy was known as the Intimate Enemy. And the historian, Sanjay Subrahmanyam, was connected with his notion of Connected Histories. The conclusion I came to was that in order to sell an academic author into a foreign language, the publisher needs to be able to show the buyer a Grand Idea couched within a simple mnemonic, such as Subaltern Studies, Political Society, Intimate Enemy, or Connected Histories. When no such short phrase is available, the possibilities dim.

When I put my key question to Christopher MacLehose - a friend famous for publishing world literature in English translation (Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy being among his best-known acquisitions) - he answered in an intriguing way: "The answer to your question could be 'the smell of egg in a drop of blood falling from a kitchen ceiling'."

Read the rest here in The Telegraph