By Amit Chaudhuri
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307270221, 352pp.)
Publication Date: August 25, 2009
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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 the author of several award-winning novels and is an internationally acclaimed musician and essayist. Freedom Song: Three Novels received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction. He is a contributor to the London Review of Books, Granta, and The Times Literary Supplement. He is currently Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of East Anglia.