27 July, 2021

A Slipshod Savant

Chanakya returns, but unlike Twain’s Yankee, is baffled, wooden and without much agency

A Slipshod Savant

Timeri Murari’s novels are always surprises: he picks subjects which have nothing in common with each other exc­ept, perhaps, a penchant for politics. His last, The Taliban Cricket Club, was well executed. This one is a disappointment.

The novel has an interesting premise. Chanakya is reborn for the first time since the Mauryan era, and again bec­omes an advisor to a ruler of a state, but in democratic India. However, it’s not explained how he alone of all the countless souls so reborn should remember his previous life, and indeed, he seems to be more there than here. Modern technol­ogy, democracy, food, fashions, films are all a wonder to him. It’s as if he moved straight here from there, like Twain’s Connecticut Yankee to Arthur’s court.

Strangely enough, I was reading the Twain novel just before I got this one. Twain’s hero is more interested in tec­h­nology, and of course has the advantage of having moved back in time;  but he has a good deal to say about politics and in favour of democracy....

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