Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307270221, 352pp.
Publication Date: August 25, 2009
The award-winning author of A New World now gives us an incantatory novel—at once plaintive and comic—about the powerful undercurrent of cultural and familial tradition in a society enthralled with the future.
Bombay in the 1980s: Shyam Lal is a highly regarded voice teacher, trained by his father in the classical idiom but happily engaged in teaching the more popular songs to well-to-do women, whose modern way of life he covets. Sixteen-year-old Nirmalya Sengupta is the romantically rebellious scion of an affluent family who wants only to study Indian classical music. With a little push from Nirmalya’s mother (Shyam’s prize pupil), Shyam agrees to accept Nirmalya as his student, entering into a relationship that will have unexpected and lasting consequences in both their lives. As the novel unfolds, we see how their two families come to challenge and change each other, and how student and teacher slowly mesh their differing visions of the world, and what place music holds in it.
With exquisite sensuous detail, with quiet humor, generosity, and unsentimental poignancy, The Immortals gives us a luminous portrait of the spiritual and emotional force of a revered Indian tradition, of two fundamentally different but intricately intertwined families, and of a society choosing between the old and the new.
“Amit Chaudhuri is one of India’s most distinctive literary figures. While lesser writers obsess over the heat and dust, he charts the by-ways of the Indian soul . . . The Immortals is a memorable work–capacious, multi-faceted but intimate, it is Indian to the core but universal in its implications . . . [It is a] superb new novel . . . Handled with great sensitivity and wit . . . Masterful.”
“The Immortals is an important novel . . . There is a filigreed, Jamesian quality to Chaudhuri’s work, an urbanity and aesthetic style not often associated with Indian fiction . . . In Chaudhuri, we get an intense moral and psychological realism, a honed treatment of the fleeting specificities of everyday life.”
–Times Literary Supplement
“An entertaining, engaging read . . . Chaudhuri is a master of social comedy . . . And what a cast of humankind is conjured up.”
–Sunday Business Post (Ireland)
“Chaudhuri’s particular art lies in rendering beauty from normality. His characters linger in the mind; and his prose, with its exactness and elegance, its exquisite delineation of memory and emotion, has a strange, mesmerising grace.”
“A graceful tale by a writer whose fiction is as beautiful as a classical ballet . . . There are so many reasons for liking this delicate human comedy of a novel . . . It is as if we are unofficial tourists being given an unofficial eye hole to look through . . . [This is] a book that not only brings India to life, it considers all life and all endings.”
“The lyrical quality of Chaudhuri’s writing is striking. The imagery is vivid, the humour deliciously oblique . . . The great strength of the novel is the truthfulness of the emotional landscape . . . It invites honourable comparison with Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks.”
–The Times (London)