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Best Literature

Inuit village of Ikkatteq at Sermilik Fjord, Greenland.Inuit village of Ikkatteq at Sermilik Fjord, Greenland. Photograph: Patrick Pleul/Corbis

I recommend a neglected (albeit highly idiosyncratic) non-fiction classic, An African in Greenland by Tété-Michel Kpomassie (translated from French by James Kirkup). You will learn something about Togo and much more about Greenland in the 1960s. Kpomassie writes engagingly about the clash of two non-western cultures without descending into tedious academese; he simply goes to Greenland and bluntly but charmingly describes what he experiences. It is also funny, in parts unintentionally, as when the author criticises the Greenlanders for their promiscuity while freely partaking of it.
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Ascension Cathedral, Almaty, Kazakhstan.India

Related: A day in Colaba, Mumbai: city guide

Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra for a sense of modern, ambitious and often brutal India. The arc of the story is so vast, taking in modern day Mumbai, the 1993 riots, partition and the Sino-India war of 1962, all providing a backdrop for a cops and robbers story of real depth.Khan al Khalili bazaar in Cairo, Egypt Ganesh Gaitonde, the “hero”, is loosely based on Chhota Rajan, the (Hindu) gangster who left his Muslim bosses to set up a powerful rival outfit.

Kazakhstan

Ascension Cathedral, Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Photograph: Alamy

The Dead Lake by Hamid Ismailov, translated by Andrew Bromfield, and published as a Peirene Press novella. I read it travelling by train from Almaty to the Chinese border, discovering as I read that the story was set in that same, isolated area of the country. Ismailov evokes the (almost unchanged) landscape and a particularly brutal period of his country’s history with ferocious intensity. I read it in one sitting with my heart in my mouth.

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Source: www.theguardian.com
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