Rakhshanda Jalil is a writer, translator and a critic. Her collection of short stories, Release and Other Stories, was recently published.

What are you reading these days? A biography of the thumri singer, Naina Devi, by her disciple, Vidya Rao.

Which books are on your bedside table? There is always a dog-eared P. G. Wodehouse which I pick up from the middle and read most days. There is a small book of duas which I dip into most nights and books related to whichever (academic) paper I happen to be currently working on; for the past several weeks my bedside table has been overflowing with stuff on Urdu barahmasas.

Which titles are on your bucket list of books? In no particular order: collected works of Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Qurratulain Hyder, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Marquez, The Children of Gebelawi by Naguib Mahfouz and The Portable Dorothy Parker.

What is the one book/author you feel everyone must read? I’d say Jane Austen — for her simple, elegant, polished prose.

What are you planning to reread? Marmaduke Pickthall’s translation of the Quran.

What is the one book you read because you thought it would make you appear smarter? Two books actually — the first Harry Potter book and the first of the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. In both cases, I could not go beyond a few pages. In both cases, I was trying to read them to appear smarter in the eyes of my two teenage daughters. Evidently, I didn’t succeed!

What is the one book you started reading but could not finish? Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy.

What is your favourite childhood book or story? The Nancy Drew series; they were about freedom, fun and fearlessness.



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