12 June, 2021

Modes Of Inversion

The value of Visvanathan’s essays lie in their playfully fresh insights

Photograph by Jitender Gupta
Modes Of Inversion

People with strong views can be followed, they can be admired, but beyond a point, they cannot be read. Once you know where they stand, it becomes easy to predict what they will say, and reading them say the things over and over again can bec­ome tedious, even if you happen to agree. With Shiv Visvanathan, however, there is no such fear, for every journey with him comes with a destination unknown. In his world, everything is important, but nothing is quite as it seems. Shiv translates every language into another, most often serving to lay bare the hidden structure of things, and sometimes rendering it in ano­ther form of code. Visvanathan can sometimes exasperate you, but never bore you.

He has a style one can recognise, a few trademark shuffle-phrases that destabilise your sense of certitude, but he does not come from any fixed place. He is a scholar without a school, an overseer of the world without a fixed vantage point. Theatres of Democracy is a collection of essays that tries and captures a flavour of his prodigious output, and succeeds above all as...

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