By: Karan Mahajan
Location: FIC MAH
Genre: Fiction set in India
I kind of accidentally got this book- I was reviewing it and hit the purchase button. I am OK with that because
it is set in a place I have wandered, the Delhi Markets.
Those places are crowded. I have actually ridden a push bike in them in the old city of Delhi at Chowdrik Chow. It was insane, people, carts, goats, bikes, scooters, people with merchandise on their heads, cows, more people, more scooters, narrow lanes, more people, shops, noise- horns, bells and much chatter and yelling.
Imagine being in those narrow lanes with the daily carnage of the Old Delhi ways and a bomb going off. It is a recipe for complete devastation. This is what this book is about- two brothers die, one brother lives.
The story follows the life of the living-
Mansoor survives, bearing the physical and psychological effects of the bomb. After a brief stint at university in America, Mansoor returns to Delhi, where his life becomes entangled with the mysterious and charismatic Ayub, a fearless young activist whose own allegiances and beliefs are more malleable than Mansoor could imagine.
Woven among the story is the gripping tale of Shockie, a Kashmiri bomb maker who has forsaken his own life for the independence of his homeland.
"In this brief and surreal novel - the author's second - Karan Mahajan probes the illogic driving catastrophist terrorism, and the damage done to three families over the course 15 years. The book confounds expectations by not attempting to delve into those choosing violence through a path of devoutness. In fact, Islam is only present in the book in order to demonstrate how residents of Delhi and India at large make assumptions about Muslim citizens, the sort of assumptions that drive the BJP, current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and indeed a large percentage of Hindu citizens throughout India.
The book does not reach any uplifting or satisfying moral conclusions, nor does it plunge the reader into despair. It creates a networked, bottoms-up view of how violence against the innocent can be justified in the minds of operationalists - some with agendas, but many without a clear idea of how they become monsters. And ultimately, that is what makes this novel scarier than any run of the mill political mystery could be."
"A work of staggering compassion"- Joshua Cohen
"Gripping, timely and moving"- Geoff Dyer
"A stereoscopic view of reality in dark contemporary times"- Rachel Kishner
"Hilarious and also devastating"- Elizabeth McCracken
"Unusually wise, tender and generous"- Jim Crace