Title: The Impressionist
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated, New York, NY, U.S.A.
Publication Date: 2002
Binding: Hard Cover
Book Condition: Fine
Dust Jacket Condition: Fine
Edition: First Edition.
FINE/FINE unread copy protected by Archival Brodart cover. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 000510
Synopsis: Fathered, through circuitous circumstances, by an Englishman, Pran Nath Razdan, the boy who will become the Impressionist, was passed off by his Indian mother as the child of her husband, a wealthy man of high caste. Growing up spoiled in a life of luxury just down river from the Taj Mahal, at fifteen the news of Pran's true parentage is revealed to his father and he is tossed out into the street--a pariah and an outcast. Thus begins an extraordinary, near-mythical journey of a young man who must reinvent himself to survive--not once, but many times.
Imprisoned by a brothel and dressed in women's clothes, his sensuous beauty is exploited as he is made to become Rukhsana, a pawn in a game between colony and empire. To a depraved British Major he becomes Clive, an object of desire taught to be a model English schoolboy. Escaping to Bombay he begins a double life as Robert, dutiful foster child to a Scottish missionary couple and as Pretty Bobby, errand boy and sometime pimp to the tawdry women of the city's most notorious district.
But as political unrest begins to stir, Pran finds himself in the company of a doomed young Englishman-an orphan named Jonathan Bridgeman. Having learned quickly that perception is a ready replacement for reality, Pran soon finds himself on a boat bound for Southampton where, with Bridgeman's passport, he will begin again. First in London, then at Oxford, the Impressionist hones his chameleon-like skills, making himself whoever and whatever he needs to be to obtain what he desires.
From Victorian India to Edwardian London, from an expatriate community of black Americans in Paris to a hopeless expedition to study a lost tribe of Africa, Hari Kunzru's unforgettable novel dazzles with its artistry and wit while it challenges with its insights into what it means to be Indian or English, black or white, and every degree that lies between them.
Review: The antihero of The Impressionist, Hari Kunzru's daringly ambitious first novel, is half English and half Indian. In the Raj of the 1920s, the racial and social divides are enormous, but Pran Nath is able to bridge them, crossing from one side to another in a series of reinventions of his own personality. He begins as the spoiled child of an Indian lawyer, but circumstances thrust him out of his pampered adolescence into the teeming and dangerous life of the streets. After a bewildering period as one of the pawns in Machiavellian political and sexual scheming in the decadent court of a minor Maharajah, he escapes to Bombay. There he is taken up by a half-demented Scottish missionary and his wife, but Pran Nath prefers to slope off to the city's red-light district whenever he can. During a time of riot and bloodshed, the chance of re-creating himself as an English schoolboy destined for public school and Oxford presents itself, and he takes it. But this is not his final transformation.
In certain ways Kunzru is almost too ambitious. There is so much crammed onto the pages of The Impressionist that some of it, almost inevitably, doesn't work as well as it might. However, as the shapeshifting Pran Nath moves from one identity to another, knockabout farce mixes with satire, social comedy with parody. And beneath the comic exuberance and linguistic invention, there is an intelligent and occasionally moving examination of notions of self, identity, and what it means to belong to a class or society. --Nick Rennison, Amazon.co.uk
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