Indien Raj Kamal Jha The Blue Bedspread

ISBN 13: 9780330373869

The Blue Bedspread

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9780330373869: The Blue Bedspread

In a house on a Calcutta street, lit by the half-light of a yellow street lamp, lies a baby, one day old, wrapped in its hospital towel. In the next room sits a man, all alone, writing. Who is this man, at once frightened and determined? What is he writing? Where has the baby come from and where will it go? Tonight, these questions will be answered when the man unravels the dark secrets he has carried all his life. `A ghostly, elliptical piece of prose of quite magical quality, which tells the story of one man's reconciliation with his past . . . It is undeniably powerful' Edward Marriott, Evening Standard `Enchanting . . . Jha is not afraid to risk emotion, but he never falls into the trap of sentimentality. That is, in itself, a considerable achievement' Andrew Biswell, Daily Telegraph `Jha has a real knack for narrative, alternating urgency and delay to the point where his virtuoso handling of the story becomes almost tricksy . . . He is a remarkable writer' Phil Baker, Sunday Times `A powerful, haunting and sometimes shocking novel that deserves to be read at one sitting and then re-read' Cormac Kinsella, Irish Times `This is an incantatory, audacious book, notable for great moments of poignancy' Baret Magarian, Guardian Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award Winner of the Best First Book Commonwealth Writers' Award for the Eurasia region

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Review:

The Blue Bedspread has earned Raj Kamal Jha endless comparisons to Raymond Carver. And his first novel does tell a Carver-esque tale, in which poverty-stricken family members love and torment one another in the privacy of their home. Father drinks; mother is an absence; sister and brother find solace in each other. In addition, his voice is that unsettling combination--affectless and passionate--that characterizes the best of Carver's writing. These are writers who state plainly the difficult things people do to one another.

But while Carver gave us the dead reaches of the American West, Jha's novel is set in Calcutta. And it's thrilling to read about India in this new voice that is cool, concise, and beautifully observed, as opposed to the florid, expressive writing that has come to typify this nation. Jha has chosen a neat narrative device for his tale. An unnamed man receives a call in the night. His beloved but estranged sister has died in childbirth. The baby's adoptive parents are due the next day to take the infant away. All night long, this lonely man stays up writing the history of his family, the history of the dead baby's mother.

The revelations--abuse, incest--would be shocking if they weren't written with such careful tenderness. The man writes about how his sister finally left their childhood home: "In a way, it was essential that one of us should leave never to return. It saved both of us the discomfort and the pain of sitting together as adults and talking about everything except those nights on the blue bedspread, that July night on the blue bedspread, moments that were key to our survival and yet better left untouched and unsaid." Jha even throws in a little redemption for these sad characters, and we're all grateful for the relief. --Claire Dederer

From the Inside Flap:

hone call awakens a man to inform him that his sister has died in childbirth. He is told he must keep the orphaned baby girl overnight, until her new, adopting parents can collect her. Over the course of that hot night in Calcutta, the man hurriedly writes stories to the baby sleeping on a blue bedspread in the next room: stories of the family she was born into, stories of the mother she will never know. Painting half-remembered scenes, he flits between past and present, recounting tales of the shared childhood of a boy and his sister who muffled their fears in the blueness of that very same bedspread. As the hours pass, the man gradually divulges a layered and transfixing confession of the darkest of family secrets.

Described by John Fowles as "remarkable, almost a coming-of-age of the Indian novel," this powerful, penetrating debut by a young New Delhi journalist has already been recognized as an international literary event. In prose that is breathtaking and precise, Raj Kama

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