cover image Night Theater

Night Theater

Vikram Paralkar. Catapult, $16.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-948226-54-7

Paralkar (The Afflictions) draws on his experience as a physician in this fablelike tale that melds the philosophical with the corporeal. After a near career-ending scandal, an unnamed surgeon in India grudgingly figures he’ll finish his career caring for the rural poor, doing his best with the outmoded equipment and minimal supplies at his disposal. One night, he’s visited by a family—a young boy, his father, and his pregnant mother—asking for his help. As it happens, they’re all dead, the victims of an attack by highwaymen. The family claims to have been visited by an angel who has insisted that this surgeon alone has the skills to return them to life—but there’s only one night to repair their bodies. Accompanied by his devout young assistant, the decidedly a-religious surgeon embarks on the greatest challenge of his career, all the while considering questions about mortality, the afterlife, and the challenges of living an upright life. Paralkar’s novel underscores the arbitrary nature of death, the fact that one can neither prepare for it nor, perhaps, cheat one’s way out of it. Metaphysical conversations contrast with the detailed descriptions of surgery on damaged bodies that no longer either bleed or feel pain. Grotesque, strange, and hopeful in turns, the novel will leave readers marveling at the mysteries of death—and the wonders of life. (Jan.)