I'm so pleased to have come across this first edition of Attia Hosain's wonderful 1961 novel about personal and political loyalties among Lucknow's Muslim elite a generation earlier amid the rise of the Muslim League. I found it in the Bloomsbury Oxfam Books - a happy hunting ground for me. The dust jacket design is by Sally Bodington.
This is in part an autobiographical novel - it's about a young woman's coming of age, breaking free from the constraints of family and tradition. I was given a copy by the late Ram Advani when I first visited his Lucknow bookshop twenty-five years ago. I read it, enjoyed it, learnt from it - the writing is as elegant as the now lost culture it depicted.
Cecil Day Lewis was Attia Hosain's editor at Chatto & Windus, and Virago has republished Sunlight on a Broken Column in their modern classics series. The title, by the way, is taken from a line in a T.S. Eliot poem.
While in Lucknow at the end of last month, I called on Ram Advani, who has been selling books on Hazratganj for sixty years or more. Ram himself is now 95 - and still spends six hours or so a day at the shop, and still plays a few holes of golf.
I can't say how greatly I admire Ram, and I'm very proud to call him a friend. It's more than twenty years since I first visited his excellent shop - and came away with a gift from Ram, Attia Hossain's Lucknow novel, Sunlight on a Broken Column.
This visit was my daughter's first to Ram Advani, Booksellers (she took the photo). And she too has been blessed by Ram's generous spirit - she now has a wonderful photographic record of Hazratganj, including recollections by Ram and others.
In these troubled times, there is something hugely reassuring about the enduring presence of such intellectual landmarks as Ram Advani's bookshop.
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