(This article appeared in Newsweek International in February 2005).
Feb. 21 issue - Q&A By Vikas Swarup
Delhi's latest literary sensation, Swarup is a diplomat who earned a whopping six-figure advance for his first novel. Titled "Q&A," the book recounts the picaresque adventures of Ram Mohammad Thomas, an ignorant orphan who makes off with the jackpot on a quiz show called "Who Wants to Win a Billion?" To explain how he knew the answers, Thomas must tell the story of his life, starting with the Roman Catholic priest who took him in and named him for each of India's major religions. Too cute, perhaps, but "Q&A"—sold in more than 15 countries, with a movie in the works—certainly has its charms.
Angry Wind By Jeffrey Tayler
In an epic overland journey, Tayler, a travel writer, offers himself up as a sounding board for disenfranchised Muslims of central and west Africa. While he listens to their grievances against U.S. foreign policy, their own governments and the merciless landscape, a latent rage and potent despair come sharply into focus. Though Tayler locates the occasional oasis—his time with the nomadic Tuaregs stands out as joyous—he spends more time in Africa's windswept and conflict-ridden badlands. Comparing parts of the continent to Afghanistan, Tayler warns that the West ignores Africa's strife "at [its] own peril."
Beyond the Great Indoors By Inguar Ambjornsen
Elling and Kjell Bjarne, two dysfunctional middle-aged men, meet at a psychiatric hospital and bond over their unhealthy relationships with their parents. After being released, they move into a flat in Oslo and struggle with everyday tasks like shopping and making small talk. But gradually the roommates gain confidence; they buy two kittens, Kjell Bjarne gets a girlfriend and Elling discovers poetry. One of Norway's most popular writers, Ambjornsen—translated here into English for the first time—has a talent for making the men's neuroses accessible and even appealing.