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Mandira Nayar
Mandira Nayar

BOOKS

Life after death for Khushwant Singh

Life after death for Khushwant Singh

Not even Death has been able to stop Khushwant Singh. The grand old man of letters died two years ago, but has publishers still clamouring for his books. Going strong in his afterlife, Singh has had two more books out in the past few months.

So, what is the secret? “Khushwant Singh's writing has a timeless quality to it,” says Pujitha S. Krishnan, editor Aleph Book Company. The publishing house, which brought out one of Singh's last books, has added another post his death, Me, The Jokerman. Edited by his daughter Mala Dayal and dedicated to his granddaughter Naina—the only one who could bully him—it has selected articles he wrote in magazines and newspapers. But the book, which is, of course, compiled by his daughter, also has his diary from 1984—the year of Indira Gandhi's assassination and the Sikh riots.

Personal, witty and evocative, the book brings out the side of a man who was often locked in his image of, as the title suggests, the writer of joke books. “Many of these pieces, some over 30 years old, deal with issues that are still current and describe the state of affairs today,” says Krishnan.

And she is not wrong. The newest publishing house on the block, Juggernaut, has also jumped on to the Khushwant bandwagon and published We Indians. The book, which had gone out of print for over a decade, is still relevant today—especially at a time when India is coming to grips with a new nationalist identity. Written in 1982, the book went into 15 reprints till it literally went into obscurity.

“His sharp, often biting, observations about our follies and foibles, our penchant for humbug and hypocrisy and sycophancy, will make you laugh and groan at the same time. As always, he tells us the timeless truths about ourselves, and that is one reason why he continues to appeal to successive generations of readers,” writes Nandini Mehta of Juggernaut on why they reprinted the book.

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