Monday, October 29, 2012

The Assassin's Song by M.G. Vassanji

Karsan Dargawalla did not want to be a god. He spent his boyhood in a village in Gujarat in the 60s and 70s, where he was heir to Pirbaag shrine. He spurned his father's wishes and the expectations of the saint's followers and escaped to America. In M.G. Vassanji's The Assassin's Song, Karsan's story begins in 2002, upon his return to India after decades spent in the U.S. and Canada.

"But now the shrine lies in ruins, a victim of the violence that so gripped our state recently, an orgy of murder and destruction of the kind we euphemistically call 'riots'." "Do we always end up where we really belong? Do I belong here?"

In the year 1260, a wandering sufi mystic was also searching for a home. Nur Fazal asked the king of Gujarat for his permission to stay in the city. "Your kingdom is known far and wide outside Hindustan as a haven of tolerance where differences in belief are not persecuted. There is but one Truth, one Universal Soul, of which we all are manifestations and whose mystery can be approached in diverse ways."

This introspective novel switches back and forth in time, with a focus on Karsan and his family relationships. I listened to the Recorded Books audio [14.25 hours] narrated by Firdous Bamji (who also has performed Daniyal Mueenuddin's work).

Vassanji read from The Magic of Saida at the Vancouver's Writers Fest and now I've added his newest book to my massive TBR pile.

Companion reads: The part set in medieval times draws on the Mahabharata and reminded me of The Palace of Illusions (Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni). One of the first Sufi texts that Karsan encountered as a boy was The Conference of Birds (which has been beautifully adapted by Peter Sis.)

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