Freedom Song: Three Novels

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9780375704000: Freedom Song: Three Novels

"An immensely gifted writer....Crammed with breathtaking sentences, sharp characterizations, comic set pieces, and melancholy grace notes." --The New York Times Book Review

Freedom Song--which collects three of Chaudhuri's novels--celebrates the rhythms of modern India. A boy's visit with relatives conjures the melancholy comforts of family. An Indian student at an English university contemplates the conflicted relationship between an immigrant and his homeland. And the task of marrying off a "problem" son illuminates the complex community of cultures that is modern Calcutta.

Chaudhuri's novels offer simple plots that unfold into dramas of profound emotional resonance. And in prose that has won Chaudhuri comparisons to the master stylists of this century but that emerges as fiercely his own, Freedom Song announces a young writer of extraordinary gifts.

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Review:

Amit Chaudhuri's first book to be published in the United States comprises three short novels and is a masterpiece of the telling detail--in one paragraph he accomplishes what might take other writers entire volumes. Consider, for example, this description of family life in "A Strange and Sublime Address":

Monday morning came like a fever. Chhotomama would be at the dining-table, eating a rapid meal of dal, fish, and rice, trying to avoid chewing as much of it as possible before he rushed to work. Then he would rush upstairs where a pair of polished black shoes would be waiting for him like a long-promised gift. He would spend five minutes persuading his feet to enter the shoes, or the shoes to swallow his feet.... Over and over again he would shout "I'm late!" in the classic manner of the man crying "Fire!" or "Timber!" or "Eureka!" while Saraswati and Mamima scuttled around him like frightened birds.
The plot of "A Strange and Sublime Address" is slight--a young boy spends his summer with relatives in Calcutta--and consists mainly of a series of episodes strung together. But the characters are so lovingly limned and the places so intimately described that not even a one-way ticket to India could rival Chaudhuri's rendering.

He works similar magic on Oxford and Bombay in the second novel, "Afternoon Raag." Again, the story is almost inconsequential: a young Indian student at Oxford must choose between two women. What's really important here, however, are the character's memories of his music teacher back in Bombay; his mother's morning rituals; his father clipping his fingernails onto an old copy of The Times of India. Likewise, in the third novel, "Freedom Song," plot takes a back seat to the delicate workings of familial relationships as two clans attempt to marry off a "problem" relative. What makes these three short novels so satisfying is the fact that the author's remarkable sensibility is more than matched by his literary skillfulness. For readers in love with language, Freedom Song is the answer to a prayer. --Alix Wilber

From the Publisher:

"I don't recall being so overwhelmed by a new, for me, prose writer since I picked up Laurence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet so many years ago. But then Chaudhuri is quite in his own special category and to read him is to offer yourself the unmitigated pleasure of being in the company of the absolutely first rate, to see again the possibilities of the novel as an art form."
--Jim Harrison

"I'm so happy to be introduced to Amit Chaudhuri's fascinating writing. Sentence by sentence, scene by scene, he's a precise, sensual writer with a great gift for storytelling. He moves gracefully between the external world and the interior, giving us glimpses of daily life that are at once radiant and revealing."
--Ann Beattie

"Attended by its watchful, intuitive hand-maiden--the laudable Chaudhuri, in his first U.S. publication--the English idiom emerges new-skinned and crying healthily in the humid air and shuttered rooms of Calcutta and Bombay. Collected in one volume, a primer on Chaudhuri's remarkable sui generis prose, these three modern, post-colonial novels poise their characters delicately between the ebb of the future and the flow of the past."
--Publisher's Weekly (starred review)

"No lover of literature will fail to love these vivid novels by a master of prose."
--Annie Dillard, author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and The Writing Life

"Chaudhuri presents a parade of gorgeous vignettes and tableaus filled with wondrously observed small moments . . . ineffably comic, intrinsically melancholy interactions are rendered with quiet compassion in a tour de force that suggests an Indian Buddenbrooks"I don't recall being so overwhelmed by a new, for me, prose writer since I picked up Laurence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet so many years ago. But then Chaudhuri is quite in his own special category and to read him is to offer yourself the unmitigated pleasure of being in the company of the absolutely first rate, to see again the possibilities of the novel as an art form."
--Jim Harrison

"I'm so happy to be introduced to Amit Chaudhuri's fascinating writing. Sentence by sentence, scene by scene, he's a precise, sensual writer with a great gift for storytelling. He moves gracefully between the external world and the interior, giving us glimpses of daily life that are at once radiant and revealing."
--Ann Beattie

"Attended by its watchful, intuitive hand-maiden--the laudable Chaudhuri, in his first U.S. publication--the English idiom emerges new-skinned and crying healthily in the humid air and shuttered rooms of Calcutta and Bombay. Collected in one volume, a primer on Chaudhuri's remarkable sui generis prose, these three modern, post-colonial novels poise their characters delicately between the ebb of the future and the flow of the past."
--Publisher's Weekly (starred review)

"No lover of literature will fail to love these vivid novels by a master of prose."
--Annie Dillard, author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and The Writing Life

"Chaudhuri presents a parade of gorgeous vignettes and tableaus filled with wondrously observed small moments . . . ineffably comic, intrinsically melancholy interactions are rendered with quiet compassion in a tour de force that suggests an Indian Buddenbrooks in miniature. Some of the most accomplished fiction of the decade."
--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

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