Red Earth and Pouring Rain is Vikram Chandra's stunning first book, 'One of the finest Indian novels of the decade.' (Shashi Tharoor)
Vikram Chandra was born in New Delhi. His first novel, Red Earth and Pouring Rain won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book. Love and Longing in Bombay won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book (Eurasia region) and was shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize. Vikram currently divides his time between Mumbai and Berkeley, where he lives with his wife and teaches at the University of California. His work has been translated into eleven languages.
Setting 18th- and 19th-century Mogul India against the open highways of contemporary America and fusing Indian myth, Hindu gods, magic and mundane reality, this intricate first novel is a magnificent epic that welds the exfoliating storytelling style of A Thousand and One Nights to modernist fictional technique. Abhay, an Indian college student studying in the U.S. but home on vacation in Bombay, shoots a scavenging monkey; the dying creature reveals itself to be the reincarnation of Sanjay Parasher, a fiery, iconoclastic 19th-century poet and freedom-fighter against British rule. To remain alive, the monkey strikes a deal with the gods: he must keep Abhay's family entertained each day by telling stories of his former lives. Around this fanciful premise, Indian novelist Chandra has built a powerful, moving saga that explores colonialism, death and suffering, ephemeral pleasure and the search for the meaning of life. Through the monkey's tales, we learn of Sanjay's lethal estrangement from his best friend, Sikander, an Anglo-Indian warrior who serves the British; of the suicide of Sikander's mother, Janvi, who throws herself on a funeral pyre after her English husband gives away their daughters to missionaries; of Sanjay's avenging showdown in London with Dr. Paul Sarthey, renowned orientalist and murderous imperialist. Abhay also narrates his own sprawling tale about his drive across the U.S. with two alienated fellow students, providing a dramatic contrast between America's throwaway pop culture and India's ancient, venerated ways, bound up with the concepts of dharma (right conduct), karma and reincarnation. This is an astonishing and brilliant debut. (Aug.)
In this debut, an example of magical realism with an Asian American twist, a monkey shot by a young man in Bombay turns out to be the latest reincarnation of a 17th-century poet and adventurer. The gods promise to spare the monkey's life if he tells a story, and his stirring tale of warriors and poets blends with the young man's account of three college students making their way across America.