Startlingly inventive

Thats how the blurb on the book describes Githa Hariharan... And having seen this inventiveness from when The Thousand faces of Night, her debut novel hit the stands (and went on to win the Commonwealth Writer's Prize), its very welcome news that a new novel by Githa is to be released next week.

Fugitive Histories from Penguin "exposes the legacy of prejudice that, sometimes insidiously, sometimes perceptibly, continues to affect disparate lives in present-day India.

"Other people's stories. How did they get stuck in her head, how did they become hers?"

Mala's home in Delhi is empty, save for a lifetime of sketches left behind by her late husband Asad and the memories they conjure. Sifting through them on restless afternoons and sleepless nights, Mala summons ghosts from her childhood, relives the heady days of love and optimism when Asad and she robustly defied social conventions to build a life together-and struggles to understand how events far removed could so easily snatch away the certainties they had always taken for granted.

As their story unfolds, others emerge: of Sara, Mala and Asad's daughter, who, unable to commit to a cause that will renew her faith in her parents' ideals and her own, embarks on a search for purpose that brings her from Mumbai to Ahmedabad, the venue of recent carnage. Of Yasmin, whom Sara meets across a lately created 'border', a survivor of mayhem secretly dreaming of college and the miraculous return of her missing brother, Akbar, as she navigates menacing by-lanes to reach her school safely every day. Of innumerable other lives trapped in limbo-some caught in a mesh of memory, anguish and hate, others seeking release in private dreams and valiant hopes.

... Hariharan portrays with remarkable precision the web of human connections that binds as much as it divides."

Not for nothing does she get called an outstanding writer by the likes of Coetzee. In our Indian Writing in English (IWE) section next week.