In the hands of the right writer, it could also present a cogent view of history, one that is not skewed to appease modern acrimonies.
Published: 27th October 2022 06:28 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th October 2022 06:28 AM   |  A+A-
CHENNAI: The late, great Toni Morrison is often quoted from a 1981 speech in which she said: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” This has inspired many — including myself at certain moments, in the thick of or on the cusp of a manuscript — but it’s also not the entire truth. One does not only want to make books.

One also wants to consume them, complete and undiscovered, as a reader.As though my TBR pile isn’t taller than I am by many (many) times over, as a reader I also sometimes get a craving to enjoy a book that doesn’t yet exist in the English language yet — at least to the best of my keyword search skills.
Here, then, is a whimsical, short and not at all comprehensive list of novels that I hope to someday read — which is to say, I hope they get written, and beautifully. Ana Mendieta (1948-1985) has long fascinated me, and when I heard of a new podcast around her demise — believed by many to have been a murder — I hankered to read a novel about her. There isn’t one yet, but Helen Molesworth’s Death of an Artist podcast on Pushkin both satisfied some of that, as well as spurred more interest. It’s a thought-provoking and candid take into ethics in the art world.
Reaching much further back by several millennia, consider the earliest writer recorded by name: Enheduanna, a Sumerian poet and priestess devoted to the goddess Inanna, from the 23rd century BCE. Her hymns have survived, and even had the privilege of many translations. But she has yet to be the star of her own story. 
Another writer was Lili‘uokalani, the first and last queen regnant of the Hawai’i, who was overthrown by the USA at the turn of the 20th century with the intent of annexing the islands. Lili‘uokalani composed many songs noted for their sentimental quality, whether towards a lover or towards the land. There are sources aplenty for an author who wants to research her life.
Speaking of monarchs, Razia Sultana of the Delhi Sultanate, who ruled for less than four short years (1236 to 1240) would make for an incredible protagonist. As the only woman to hold power from that throne, her story would find echoes even in contemporary India, highlighting continued gender inequity. In the hands of the right writer, it could also present a cogent view of history, one that is not skewed to appease modern acrimonies.
Finally: one more from the subcontinent, but not from the pages of history. I love mythological fiction that offers fresh takes on known characters and elevates lesser-known ones as central protagonists. The Naga princess Ulupi, who married Arjuna of the Mahabharata, would be a stunning sutradhar: serpent-tailed, subaqueous, subversive in surprising ways.
I don’t want to write any of these novels myself because I want to experience them as a reader, a pleasure that is distinct from the pleasure of creation. I’d be delighted if these literary fantasies of mine inspire some or several, and would love to read what they conjure.
Sharanya Manivannan
The columnist is a writer and illustrator
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