Book Review: Fiction/ITHACA by David Davidar, Fourth Estate, An imprint of Harper Collins/2011, 276 pp; Rs499 (Hardback)
David Davidar, is known as an iconic publisher and the author of highly acclaimed works of fiction, like “The House of Blue Mangoes” and “The Solitude of Emperors”, which rose to the final stage of regional Commonwealth Writers prize. Never to forget, he is the man who truly professionalises the publishing business in India besides making a generation of remarkable publishers through his broad vision and trust. Before leaving for the global stint at Penguin, he commissioned the Indian authors like,Amitav Ghosh, Ramchandra Guha, Shashi Tharoor, Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy among the others. But last two years were infact not good for David, where he had to face the unfortunate row which he hardly deserved even in the worst moments. Anyway, he came up and that’s the best news the book lovers could have in the late months of 2011.
In publishing, he tied the knot to marketing astute Rupa Publications with his own publishing venture ALEPH, which is going to be premium publisher for a few writers with amazing standards and stature. This is again something new coming from him and may be it will turn into a trend very soon whose sign are also started being visible little or more. Amidst the rough patches of his career, another breakthrough entered the literary world with third work of fiction from him, ITHACA which opens the inside events of international publishing scene for readers. Though it will be over simplification, if this novel would be termed out as something representative on publishing business but its withstanding the large part of truth and that should be the concluding search here. David knows the essence of letters and its end impact with chronicling the dynamicism side by side. May be, his two earlier novels would be continuing as his reference of writing but ITHACA has proved again David’s integrity as writer and person!
Under unprecedented changes and universal slowdown, prevailing struggle for survival in the publishing industry is catalysed well in the book. The plight of Litmus, an independent publishing firm in the UK seems not pretty distinct from the firm, David himself served in the recent past. The unexpected departure or demise of bestselling authors like Massimo Seppi is not something unheard in the very challenging world of book publishing. Naturally, to surviving the ire, publisher Zachariah Thomas is a restless mortal and his incessant action to save the face of his firm from being submerged into the giant corporation seems completely moving and also aptly reflects the increasing challenges that publishing industry has to face with in present uncertain scenario. Undoubtedly, the principle character Zach personifies the tracts of David while meeting the umpteenth challenges to stand proper and graceful and his quest leads formally to the realities with few puts of surrealism.
Many unexplored concerns related with the global integration of publishing industry are addressed by the author with extraordinary zeal. However, at few places details lacks the convincible temptations, nevertheless in totality nuances becomes quite comprehensible and appealing. David’s arrival in India is timely and his greater involvement with writing and publishing going to be epochmaking. Like the Zach, his challenges have greater weight but ofcourse it would be never so much that would undermine the potential of Indian market and most noticeably the new aspirations in India which were hitherto out of case.
David rose to the crest in publishing through sheer work, where hardly the fancied academic degrees alone worked out. Fortunately, which he didn’t had either but that never stopped him to be top ranked. I grew up reading his novels and writing on the broadsheet literary pages of The Hindu and also in other national/international publication, reading ITHACA was indeed great but now also waiting for his columns in mainstream media, which have been paused for long. Even in modest evaluation, ITHACA stands to be counted among the best fiction of passed year; readers can be delighted reading this special contribution from their publishing scion.
Atul Kumar Thakur