16 June, 2021

Stringed Instruments

A love story of implacable opposites, riven by puppets and plagues

Prashant Panjiar
Stringed Instruments
For a writer with such a distinctive authorial voice, I can’t help feeling that Allan Sealy ought to have written more. One travelogue (From Yukon to Yukatan) and three novels doesn’t seem enough, especially when one of the novels is Hero—which we can cross off as a failed experiment —and another is The Trotter-Nama, an epic that so extravagantly over-reaches itself that it somehow cancels itself out. That leaves us with The Everest Hotel, the book which in 1998 brought this most self-effacing of ‘Indian Writers in English’ to international recognition with its being shortlisted for the Booker Prize. The understated precision of the words with which Sealy carefully crafted this novel immediately established him as "up there" with Amitav Ghosh and perhaps one or two others—in a different class than most of the iwe rabble. And it is this stylistic skill which illuminates his latest novel also.

At the heart is a love story between Lev, an un- or at least under-employed research scientist from St Petersburg, and Maya, an Indian woman...

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