Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Books: Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra

A good review of Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra from the New Yorker - Bombay Noir by Pankaj Mishra. Excerpt:
"Playing the endless games of the Cold War, the characters of John le CarrĂ©’s novels didn’t think much differently, but Chandra is after something bigger. He has spoken in interviews of the possibility of taking the novel beyond the modern Western conceptions that have defined it, such as of the bourgeois individual who seeks self-knowledge and strives to establish his moral worth before his peers in a historically circumscribed society. Chandra believes that many Indians, pulled between tradition and modernity in a chaotically populous and poor country, have a less psychologically inhibited sense of self and a mythic, rather than a historical, sense of their place in the world.
The philosophical ambition of “Sacred Games” owes much to Bollywood films. To Chandra, these seem to capture the flexible nature of non-bourgeois self-perceptions, moving as they do from documentary naturalism to an epic mode of storytelling without getting bogged down in psychological realism. Dropping his characters into the tumult of recent national history, he occasionally seems to adopt a more conventional mode of novel-writing about India. But his stance, unlike Salman Rushdie’s or Rohinton Mistry’s, is of a calm Homeric objectivity, as he tries to realize afresh what seems, after many long novels from the subcontinent, a particularly Indian ambition to retool the novel as an epic form."