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Freedom Song: Three Novels

Chaudhuri, Amit

262 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0375404279 / ISBN 13: 9780375404276
Published by Knopf, New York, 1999
Condition: Very Good Hardcover
From Monroe Street Books (Middlebury, VT, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

434 pages, three novels. Very clean and tight copy. Record # 456222. Bookseller Inventory # 456222

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Freedom Song: Three Novels

Publisher: Knopf, New York

Publication Date: 1999

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Very Good

Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good

About this title

Synopsis:

What most immediately galvanizes the reader of Freedom Song is the elegance and idiosyncrasy of Amit Chaudhuri's writing. In the words of Salman Rushdie: "[His] languorous, elliptical, beautiful prose is impressively impossible to place in any category at all." And it is this quality of ineffability that gives Chaudhuri's words the power they have to reveal--slowly, quietly, with a richness of sensual detail and subtle humor--the significance of the ordinary moments of life.

A boy spends a summer and a winter with his parents in a Bombay high-rise, and spends other summers in Calcutta immersed in the more traditional life of his uncle's extended family . . . A young man at Oxford, whose memories of home in Bombay bring both comfort and melancholy, faces a choice between "clinging to my Indianness, or letting it go, between being nostalgic or looking toward the future". . . The members of a Calcutta family are occupied with the task of finding the right woman for the twenty-eight-year-old son who would rather occupy himself with politics . . .

In these three short novels--Freedom Song, Afternoon Raag, and A Strange and Sublime Address ("The best portrait of India today I've read," wrote Margaret Drabble)--Chaudhuri illuminates the surprisingly nuanced intimate worlds of middle-class Indian men, women, and children. The novels brim with the author's stunning evocations of place and time, and his radiant descriptions and subtle explorations of the expected and surprising events of daily life; the effects of family connectedness and separation; the desires and demands of youth and age; the things and events that confirm "how mysterious the world [is] at every moment"; the hidden complexities of a fully lived inner life. From these elements Amit Chaudhuri shapes mesmerizing narratives, uncovering the remarkable in what might otherwise seem merely quotidian.

Freedom Song is the work of a writer--published here for the first time in the United States--possessed of an extraordinary gift.

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

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