Amit Chaudhuri


11 December 2009

Rise and Fall

Three judges (including myself) – gathered together in May this year at a posh Edwardian hotel on Bloomsbury Street to argue over a book prize – would emerge at different times to stroll about the area. All of us had glanced at our neighbour, the Socialist Bookshop, but Jane Smiley, the tallest (in every sense) among us, had noticed an air of quiet celebration in its window-displays. The effects of the crash were still reverberating in the Western world (though India had recovered more quickly than expected); and a new complex of emotions seemed to have surfaced in the bourgeois of almost every political persuasion – a mix of panic; rage; a strange, sweet schadenfreude; a nostalgia for erstwhile simplicity; a sudden premonition of the inevitable. In Calcutta, however (where I’ve been spending most of each year since the turn of the century), socialism had never gone away.