Young writer Manu S Pillai descended on the literary scene with a bang with his work, 'The Ivory Throne: Chronicles of the House of Travancore' and soon became a celebrated author. The book that explores the labyrinths of Travancore history is both entertaining and insightful. In a chat with Neelima Parvathi for Onmanorama he talks of books, reading and writers.
What book are you reading right now?
I am currently reading a forthcoming English translation of Kannada writer Vasudhendra's 'Tejo-Tungabhadra'. 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 work entails a lot of reading daily, so I read mostly at my desk. But for leisure I read differently: usually lying down on the bare floor.
Who is your favourite writer of all time? And which work?
This is tough to answer, because there are so many. Since 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 starting with 'Gem in the Lotus'.
Which is that one 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'.
Which is that one book you put down without finishing?
Haha there are some but it would be rude to name names.
Which is the next book in your list?
An intellectual biography of B.N. Rau called 'Norms and Politics' by Arvind Elangovan. Rau was one of the key individuals involved in drafting the Indian constitution.
If you could recommend one book for the youth, which one would it be?
There is no one book. Read widely, read all kinds of books without judgement, and it will leave you enriched. For parents looking to encourage children, I recommend Khyrunnisa's 'Butterfingers' series.