Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
Pages: 184
Publication Date: January 10, 2017

SamskaraA Rite for a Dead Man

by U.R. Ananthamurthy, Translated by A. K. Ramanujan

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Samskara is one of the acknowledged masterpieces of modern world literature, a book to set beside Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North. It begins when Naranappa, an inhabitant of a small south Indian town and a renegade Brahmin who has scandalously flouted the rules of caste and purity for years, eating meat, drinking alcohol, marrying beneath him, mocking God, unexpectedly falls ill and dies. The question of whether he should be buried as a Brahmin divides the other Brahmins in the village. For an answer they turn to Praneshacharyah, the most devout and respected member of their community, an ascetic who also tends religiously to his invalid wife.

Praneshacharyah finds himself unable to provide the answer, though an answer is urgently needed since as he wonders and the villagers wait and the body festers, more and more people are falling sick and dying. But when Praneshacharyah goes to the temple to seek a sign from God, he discovers something else entirely—unless that something else is also God.

Samskara is a tale of existential suspense, a life-and-death encounter between the sacred and the profane, the pure and the impure, the ascetic and the erotic.

U.R. Ananthamurthy, translated by A. K. Ramanujan


[Samskara] takes us closer to the Indian idea of the self.
—V. S. Naipul

Samskara is an effective tale of a community choked by unsustainable tradition. Ananthamurthy offers fine portraits of a variety of characters as they struggle between natural urges and societal expectations, and has crafted an impressive story here.
—M. A. Orthofer, The Complete Review

Ananthamurthy’s ability to turn the world on the most unexpected pivot gives [Samskara] an enduring human dimension.
—María Helga Guðmundsdóttir, The Quarterly Conversation

[A] richly allegorical tale...a springboard for even broader questions concerning...religious experience and the inherent tension between works and grace.
—William Waldron, Education About Asia