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A New World


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About the Author

Amit Chaudhuri was born in Calcutta in 1962 and brought up in Bombay. A graduate of University College, London, and a Creative Arts Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford, as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, his novels have earned him a Betty Trask Award and Commonwealth Writers, Encore, Guardian Fiction and LA Times Book Prizes. He lives with his wife and daughter in Calcutta.


The still, shadowy languor of a sweltering Calcutta summer spent indoors suffuses this elegant but enervating novel by the author of the much-acclaimed trio of short novels, Freedom Song. Chaudhuri's protagonist, Jayojit Chatterjee, an ambitious professor at a Midwestern college, visits his native India in the wake of an ugly divorce and two abortive attempts to remarry. In Calcutta, he stays with his aging parents, his bluff father, a retired admiral, and his more traditional Bengali mother. The summer-long trip also gives him a chance to connect with his seldom-seen son and travel companion, seven-year-old Bonny, who spends the school year with his mother in California. But rather than focusing on the ravages of Jayojit's inner life and recent past, Chaudhuri avoids them, slipping the occasional flashback into the narrative while concentrating on detailsDa round of table tennis with Bonny, an orange-and-white sari, Jayojit's mother's oily breakfasts. As he demonstrated in Freedom Song, Chaudhuri has an eye for such minutiae, and his prose continues to be as rich and evocative as in his earlier effort. But while Freedom Song strung together a series of vignettes, here Chaudhuri struggles with the task of sustaining the reader's interest over the course of a full-length, albeit short, novel. The reader senses that the novel's heart is buried beneath its layers of description, but its emotional pulse proves elusive. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

"'He has as much of life in each of his books as many of his contemporaries will capture in a career...reading some of these passages, you can be reminded of reading Joyce's Dubliners for the first time, where every sentence can seem a small act of beauty' Tim Adams, Observer"

Exhausted by a year-long struggle to divorce his wife, who is living with another man, Dr. Jayojit Chatterjee travels from the Midwest to India for an extended visit with his parents. Ruby and the Admiral are puzzled by their son's modern American ways but enjoy the enchanting distractions of their adored seven-year-old grandson. Meanwhile, baffled by the ease with which his ex-wife moved from the confines of their arranged marriage to cohabitation with her married gynecologist, economist/author Jayojit cannot break through the enervating heat of Calcutta to continue his writing. Chaudhuri's control of the details of place are exquisite. Wannabe travelers to India could save on airfare by immersing themselves in the language of the disparate cultures tugging Jayojit and his family in too many uncomfortable directions. Recommended for readers satisfied with the mere beauty of words; those looking for things to happen will need to read elsewhere.ÄBeth Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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