The Guru of Love: A Novel

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9780618247271: The Guru of Love: A Novel

Writing of Samrat Upadhyay’s debut story collection, critics raved: like a Buddhist Chekhov . . . speak[s] to common truths . . . startlingly good” (San Francisco Chronicle) and subtle and spiritually complex” (New York Times). Upadhyay’s first novel showcases his finest writing and his signature themes. The Guru of Love is a moving and important story important for what it illuminates about the human need to love as well as lust, and for the light it shines on the political situation in Nepal and elsewhere.
Ramchandra is a math teacher earning a low wage and living in a small apartment with his wife and two children. Moonlighting as a tutor, he engages in an illicit affair with one of his tutees, Malati, a beautiful, impoverished young woman who is also a new mother. She provides for him what his wife, who comes from a privileged background, does not: desire, mystery, and a simpler life. Complicating matters are various political concerns and a small city bursting with the conflicts of modernization, a static government, and a changing population. Just as the city must contain its growing needs, so must Ramchandra learn to accommodate both tradition and his very modern desires.
Absolutely absorbing yet deceptively simple, this novel cements Upadhyay’s emerging status as one of our most exciting new writers.

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Review:

Set against a backdrop of prodemocracy unrest in contemporary Katmandu, The Guru of Love tells the story of a lowly tutor who ends up in a most irregular domestic ménage. Ramchandra lives in a shabby apartment house with his well-born wife and their children. He doesn't plan on becoming a cad, but when a beautiful young single mother named Malati becomes his student, he's drawn into a relationship with her. A powerful ambivalence marks his romance with the girl: "He had an urge to walk toward Tangal, knock on Malati's door, and tell her not to come to his house anymore, that he could no longer tutor her. Or perhaps crawl into bed next to her." When Ramchandra's wife Goma finds out about the affair, she has a unique solution--she asks Malati and her baby daughter to move into their apartment. Goma sleeps with the children and instructs the adulterous couple to share the master bedroom. She insists,: "Why don't you two go inside the bedroom, and I'll bring you some food." This license sits uneasily upon Ramchandra, much as democratic liberation sits uneasily upon the old city of Katmandu. The Guru of Love is ultimately a sweet, sad look at an indestructible family. It also gives us, in Ramchandra's wife Goma, a surprising, cunning, and altogether charming heroine. --Claire Dederer

About the Author:

SAMRAT UPADHYAY is the author of Arresting God in Kathmandu, which earned him a Whiting Award, and The Guru of Love, which was a New York Times Notable Book, a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, a finalist for the Kiriyama Prize, and a Book Sense 76 pick. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana, and teaches creative writing and literature at Indiana University.

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