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It is not often that an author and his editor strike up a relationship that survives forty years of epistolary exchanges and intellectual sparring. The strangely enduring and occasionally fractious friendship that developed between the famously outspoken historian Ramachandra Guha and his reticent editor Rukun Advani is the subject of his new literary memoir.
It started in Delhi in the early 1980s, when Guha was an unpublished PhD scholar, and Advani a greenhorn editor with the Oxford University Press. It blossomed through the 1990s, when Guha grew into a pioneering historian of the environment and of cricket, while also writing his biography of Verrier Elwin. Over these years, Advani was Guha’s most constant confidant, his most reliable reader. He encouraged him to craft and refine the literary style for which Guha became internationally known.
Four decades later, though he no longer publishes his books, Advani remains Guha’s most trusted literary adviser. Yet they also disagree ferociously on politics, human nature, and the nature of their commitment to India. They usually make up – because it just wouldn’t do to allow such an odd relationship to die.
Built around letters and emails between an outgoing and occasionally combative scholar and a reclusive editor prone to private outbursts of savage sarcasm, Ramachandra Guha discusses his new book, The Cooking of Books: A Literary Memoir.
A Q&A with the author will follow.
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Ramachandra Guha’s many books include an environmental history, The Unquiet Woods; a history of his country, India After Gandhi; and a biography of Mahatma Gandhi, both volumes of which were chosen by the New York Times as a Notable Book of the Year. Having previously taught at Stanford, the Indian Institute of Science, and the London School of Economics, he is currently Distinguished University Professor at Krea University.
Guha’s awards include the Leopold-Hidy Prize of the American Society of Environmental History, the Howard Milton Award of the British Society for Sports History, and the Fukuoka Prize for contributions to Asian culture. He is the recipient of an honorary doctorate in the humanities from Yale University.