‘Midnight’s Furies,’ by Nisid Hajari

12TASEER-master675Aatish Taseer at The New York Times:

Few books need more urgently to be written than a definitive oral history of the 1947 partition of India. The partition, even by the standards of a bloody century, was hideous; it left between one and two million people dead and displaced 15 million others; it caused the dismemberment of a syncretic society and led to the largest forced migration in the history of humanity. The generation that lived through that terrible time is on its way out, taking its unrecorded memories.

In “Midnight’s Furies,” a fast-moving and highly readable account of the violence that accompanied the partition, Nisid Hajari sets himself a more modest task: How did two nations with so much in common end up such inveterate enemies so quickly?

Hajari answers this question with a dramatization of the violent year that preceded partition. The dramatis personae are introduced, as per conventions established by Richard Attenborough’s “Gandhi.” There is the “famously handsome” Jawaharlal Nehru with his “high, aristocratic cheekbones and eyes that were deep pools — irresistible to his many female admirers”; there is the “mystical, septuagenarian” Mahatma Gandhi; there is the monocled, slightly sinister Mohammad Ali Jinnah, “cheekbones jutted out of his cadaverous face like the edges of a diamond”; and, lastly, there is Lord Louis Mountbatten, “tall and tanned,” the “Hollywood version of a British prince.”

more here.