Synopses & Reviews
A confessed member of India's thugee cult, Amir Ali claims to have participated in over seventy robberies and murders by age fourteen. A shocking tale, and completely fabricated for the benefit of British army officer William T. Meadows. An amateur anthropologist, Captain Meadows is eager to bring this intriguing young man to London, there to make him a phrenological case study. And Ali is looking to escape his Bihari village, where a property dispute ended in tragedy for his family.
In London at the dawn of the Victorian era, pitfalls await Ali. His love affair with scullery maid Jenny must be hidden from disapproving eyes. When Jenny's aunt is beheaded by a killer preying on London's marginalized--the poor, opium addicts, immigrants and prostitutes--Ali is drawn ever further into the heart of a hostile city. To allay the suspicions of London policeman Major Grayper and bring the true murderer to justice, he comes to rely on a group of fellow immigrants led by a streetwise Punjabi woman known as Qui Hy.
Brought to life with an abundance of voices and perspectives, and ranging from skull-lined mansions to the murky tunnels concealing a spectral subterranean people, The Thing about Thugs is a feat of imagination to rival Wilkie Collins, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, or Michael Chabon. Shortlisted for the 2010 Man Asian Literary Prize, this Victorian role-reversal is a sly take on the post-colonial novel and marks the new arrival of a compelling Indian voice to North America.
"In his American debut a Victorian mystery pastiche Khair is as comfortable rendering late-1830s London as he is Phansa, 'a wretched little town' in India, some hundred years later. The focus is Amir Ali, ostensibly a reformed member of the fearsome Indian 'cult of Thugee' living in 19th-century London, and subject of Capt. William T. Meadows's phrenological study, Notes on a Thug: Character and Circumstances. Alternating between Notes on a Thug which comprises Amir's confabulated depravities and letters from Amir to his beloved, Jenny, the unnamed narrator tells the story based on snippets found in his grandfather's library in Phansa. When a series of brutal beheadings scandalizes London, suspicion quickly falls on the well-known 'thug.' Relying on his own wits and a group of fellow Indians, Amir must prove his innocence and bring the real perpetrators to justice. Although Khair shows a deft hand with a wide variety of genres, the mystery is finally overwhelmed by the overt postcolonial critique, and the predictable story sags under its weight. Agent: Matt Bialer, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A complex, thoughtful novel...Khair takes two large, mainly invisible cultural narratives...and blends them in powerful and enlightening ways...A fascinating and emotionally moving novel for fans of literary fiction." -- Library Journal
"Authentic and deeply thought-provoking. Readers who enjoy Collins and Dickens will recognize their influence on Khair and revel in his creation." -- Booklist, STARRED
"Intertwining science and heartbreak, the old world and the new, Dasgupta's debut novel Solo highlights a century of social revolution through the powerful story of a 100-year-old blind man. Though Solo tells the story of [Ulrich's] bleak life, it ultimately speaks of tragedy on a broader scale - that of the human condition."
-The Daily Beast
"Ulrich is a textured study in human failure and the wreckage of communism."
-The New York Times
"Dasgupta is a deeply empathetic serious writer... The last section of Solo brims with superb descriptions of folk music and the drunken tale of men and women who are brought together, then driven apart by the fall of Communism."
-The New York Times Book Review
"SOLO is a wonder--an exploration of memory, a window on a country and region mysterious to the West even in the twentieth century, a keen study of human love and failure."
- Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian Solo is "bold, enigmatic, and thought-provoking. ... a richly imagined world... Lucid prose and a narrative scheme both demanding and inchoate reveal a writer beginning to deploy his considerable powers. "
-Publishers Weekly, starred "Intricate and imaginative, a remarkable novel of music and science, politics and passion, that bridges history and modern times. [...] Graceful and unpredictable, a daring and exceptional achievement."
-Kirkus Reviews, starred "A novel of exceptional, astonishing strangeness, Solo confirms Rana Dasgupta as the most unexpected and original Indian writer of his generation."
- Salman Rushdie "The sedimentary structure—layering stories of opportunity and oppression—makes Solo a double pleasure: readers can enjoy Dasguptas imagination but must also confront problems of celebrity and commerce. Part historical fiction, part heartbreak, part pop culture; think Aleksandar Hemon."
- Library Journal "With an intriguing bifurcated storytelling device, this is a novel of dazzling ideas and emotion in which Dasgupta comes to astonishingly beautiful and original conclusions about love, loss, and aging, and his protagonist realizes 'There is far more to us than what we live.'"
"Utterly unforgettable in its humanity."
- The Guardian (UK)
"This gloriously eccentric adventure through a century of Bulgarian history is so much fun to read you'll hardly realise how much you're learning . . . Dasgupta colourfully weaves Ulrich's passions for art, science and his best friend's sister through the two world wars (did you know that, although forced to join the fascist bloc, Tsar Boris III refused to hand over Bulgaria's Jews to Hitler?), the fall of the Bulgarian royal family and the rise of communism. . . . weird, wonderful and warmly wise stuff."
- The Daily Mail (UK)
"Bearing in mind that Dasgupta is a British-Asian author writing about a 100-year-old, blind Bulgarian born at the dawn of the 20th century, it is perhaps unsurprising to learn that one of the most notable features of his often beguiling novel is its quivering air of otherness. Confined to his decrepit Sofia home, the hero, Ulrich, begins a soaring flight of the imagination that explores both his past and his country's. . . For as long as the spell remains unbroken, it is worth every second."
- The Sunday Times (UK)
"What a delight to find a novelist unfazed by the 21st century ... This is an important work."
-The Australian "Solo is a nuanced and virtuoso performance."
- Scotland on Sunday
A subversive, darkly comic novel of a young Indian man's misadventures in Victorian London as the city is gripped by a series of gruesome murders. Shortlisted for the 2010 Man Asian Literary Prize, this sly update of the Gothic novel marks the new arrival of a compelling Indian voice in North America.
A subversive, macabre novel of a young Indian man’s misadventures in Victorian London as the city is racked by a series of murders
In a small Bihari village, Captain William T. Meadows finds just the man to further his phrenological research back home: Amir Ali, confessed member of the infamous Thugee cult. With tales of a murderous youth redeemed, Ali gains passage to England, his villainously shaped skull there to be studied. Only Ali knows just how embroidered his story is, so when a killer begins depriving London’s underclass of their heads, suspicion naturally falls on the “thug.” With help from fellow immigrants led by a shrewd Punjabi woman, Ali journeys deep into a hostile city in an attempt to save himself and end the gruesome murders.
Ranging from skull-lined mansions to underground tunnels a ghostly people call home, The Thing about Thugs is a feat of imagination to rival Wilkie Collins or Michael Chabon. Short-listed for the 2010 Man Asian Literary Prize, this sly Victorian role reversal marks the arrival of a compelling new Indian novelist to North America.
A kaleidoscopic novel about the life and daydreams of Ulrich, a one hundred-year-old man from Bulgaria.
With an imaginative audacity and lyrical brilliance that puts him in the company of David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon, Rana Dasgupta paints a portrait of a century though the story of a hundred-year-old blind Bulgarian man in a first novel that announces the arrival of an exhilarating new voice in fiction.
In the first movement of Solo we meet Ulrich, the son of a railroad engineer, who has two great passions: the violin and chemistry. Denied the first by his father, he leaves for the Berlin of Einstein and Fritz Haber to study the latter. His studies are cut short when his fathers fortune evaporates, and he must return to Sofia to look after his parents. He never leaves Bulgaria again. Except in his daydreams—and it is those dreams we enter in the volatile second half of the book. In a radical leap from past to present, from life lived to life imagined, Dasgupta follows Ulrichs fantasy children, born of communism but making their way into a post-communist world of celebrity and violence.
Intertwining science and heartbreak, the old world and the new, the real and imagined, Solo is a virtuoso work.
“Utterly unforgettable in its humanity.” —The Guardian
About the Author
Tabish Khair is an award-winning poet, journalist, critic, educator and novelist. A citizen of India, he lives in Denmark and teaches literature at Aarhus University.