Red Earth and Pouring Rain

Vikram Chandra, Author Little Brown and Company $24.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-316-13276-3
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.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/1995
Release date: 08/01/1995
Paperback - 560 pages - 978-0-316-13293-0
Open Ebook - 978-0-316-09286-9
Paperback - 617 pages - 978-0-571-23449-3
Open Ebook - 337 pages - 978-0-316-16877-9
Hardcover - 617 pages - 978-0-571-20308-6
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