The young writer Manu S Pillai descended into the literary scene strongly with his work, ‘The Ivory Throne: Chronicles of the House of Travancore’ and soon became a famous author. The book that explores the mazes of Travancore’s history is both entertaining and insightful. In a chat with Neeelima Parvathi by Onmanorama he talks about books, reading, and writers.
What book are you reading right now?
I am currently reading an upcoming English translation of the ‘Tejo-Tungabhadra’ by Kannada writer Vasudhendra. It is a fascinating work of historical fiction, set in Portugal and Vijayanagara 500 years ago.
When or where do you like to read?
Well, my job involves a lot of daily reading, so I read mostly on my desk. But for leisure I read differently: usually lying on the floor bare.
Who is your favorite writer of all time? And what work?
This is difficult to answer, because there are many. As I work in history, let me name a wonderful writer of narrative history whose books contributed to my own interest in the subject: the late Abraham Eraly, and his series beginning with ‘Gem in the Lotus’.
That book that made you laugh or cry
I was very moved by Manoranjan Byapari’s ‘Chandal Jeebon’, translated from Bengali into English as ‘The Runaway Boy’.
What is that book you left unfinished?
Haha there are, but it would be rude to put names.
What’s the next book on your list?
An intellectual biography of BN Rau called “Rules and Politics” by Arvind Elangovan. Rau was one of the key people involved in drafting the Indian constitution.
If you could recommend a book for young people, what would it be?
There is not a single book. Read widely, read all kinds of books without judging and it will leave you enriched. For parents looking to encourage children, I recommend Khyrunnisa’s ‘Butterfingers’ series.