Matthew Arnold, a Victorian poet and a critic hailed critics and criticism as essential to the growth of a creative artists. According to Arnold an artist needs the aid of a critic to boost their creativity. As also he stressed that criticism is a form of an art and crucial to the literary world. And he equates critical writing to creative writing.  After being in the profession of book reviewing for the past 5 years (and movie reviews before that) I can’t agree more with him on this. But I state this theory by Arnold vis-à-vis My country in literature by Chandrahas Choudhury, a book that comprises of reviews by the author on many books from the decades gone by. This book is spread across 62 chapters with a resounding conclusion and a strapping preface.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that I was literally sucked into this book right from page one. Even the preface enticed me much. I had to get up one too many times while reading this book, and there were ample distractions around and yet I found myself drawn to this book. I was so invested and drinking from it that it felt like I was drowning in these saccharin words, and that it would truly quell my thrist. Instead this book whetted my appetite for the literature even more. It gave me a perspective. I learnt from it the art of book reviewing.

The chapters are basically author’s reflections/ essays/ reviews of the books that he has read. But what you read is author’s keen observations, his eye for details. He analyses every nuance, every bent in every word, the themes, the writing style, the syntax penned by the renowned authors.

The book discusses many gems of Indian literature. It is interesting and  insightful to read about author’s thoughts on these books.  What I also see in the author’s writing is his unapologetic love for literature and his profession.

To read this book cover to cover in a single sitting is a task. It is literary and literally heavy. So I let the words sink in into me bit by bit. I will go back to it soon. This book needs to be devoured patiently.

Last word – My country in literature by Chandrahas Choudhury is a gift from one reader to another and one book reviewer to another. It is a treasure trove and a must read, especially, for every literature lover and aspiring book reviewers. 

Publisher – Simon & Schuster India

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