99 collects in a single volume the finest pieces Khushwant Singh published over the course of a long and prodigiously creative life. The essays, extracts, stories and poems (one for each year of his life) have been chosen for their excellence or because they represent an aspect of the author’s versatility and range. Some of the selections are well known. Others have never been published in book form.
The book is divided into fifteen sections and showcases his exceptional achievement as a writer. Family Matters contains extracts from his autobiography and some personal narratives; My Beloved Country has some extraordinary writing about India; The Sikhs comprises excerpts from his books A History of the Sikhs and Ranjit Singh, and essays on the community and translations of the Sikh hymns; The Uses and Abuses of Religion features his articles on the dangers of communalism, and a sublime meditation on religion; Khushwant Singh’s accounts of Pakistan and Pakistanis (including one of the most dazzling examples of journalism in our time, ‘The Hanging of Bhutto’) are included in Passage to Pakistan; he wrote interestingly about famous people all his life, and twelve of his profiles feature in Singular People; a self-taught naturalist, he was passionate about the world of nature—The Ferocity & Flamboyance of Nature has writings on this theme; All About Sex contains some entertaining ruminations on sex, one of the subjects that he was most associated with in the popular imagination. As with sex, so with humour—a few of his funniest jokes find a place in A Merry Heart. Enthusiasms, Rants & Soliloquies has a fair representation of his electrifying polemics on a variety of subjects. A wise and honest man, his most insightful pieces on life, dealing with adversity, ageing and death find a place in How to Live, How to Die. As a novelist, he was superlative—selections from the six novels he published are to be found in The Novels; Portrait of a Lady and Other Stories features the eponymous story along with a few others; a great admirer of writers in Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi, he translated many of their works, some of which can be found in Exchange of Lunatics: Fiction in Translation and A Passion for Poetry.
Published on the anniversary of Khushwant Singh’s birth, this is the definitive anthology of the work of one of our greatest and most entertaining writers—it will offer the reader page after page of thought-provoking pleasure.