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Afternoon Raag

Afternoon Raag

by Amit Chaudhuri, introduction by James Wood

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Afternoon Raag is a book of branching and overlapping stories, a book that like memory moves unpredictably in time. In it, a nameless first-person narrator looks back at his student days in Oxford, a period of loneliness and discovery when his affections were torn between two women, and to the summer vacations that took him from England to Bombay, where his parents lived, and later to Calcutta, where he was born. Descriptions of Oxford’s green lawns and drab dorms, of friends and classes and the relentless drizzle, sit beside Bombay street scenes and recollections of the teacher, now dead, from whom the narrator and his mother learned music. Afternoon Raag is a book about the uncertainty of youth and the strange inevitability of growing up. Its images are wonderfully vivid; its rhythms elastic and entrancing. Throughout it is haunted by the spirit of the music teacher, the master singer who gives shape to the elusive and annihilating passage of time. Amit Chaudhuri

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681378046
Pages: 192
Publication Date:

Praise

Those who are always acclaiming the 'poetic prose' of Ondaatje would do well to study Chaudhuri's language.
—James Wood, The Guardian

Amit Chaudhuri has, like Proust, perfected the art of the moment. . . . [His novels] were masterpieces of intimate observation: their narratives slight, their manner rich and lyrical. In Afternoon Raag, a student at Oxford . . . stood poised between two worlds; should he cling to his ‘Indianness’ and the richness of childhood memory, or should he let that world slide away from him and embrace his future?
—Hilary Mantel, The New York Review of Books

Chaudhuri has only one of the novelist’s qualifications, but he has it in abundance . . . he is in love with life, and with people, and he can communicate this love directly and unsentimentally. Nothing is too small or too boring for him: he defamiliarises the everyday, reinvigorates the ordinary, and makes the humdrum seem exciting.
—Jonathan Coe, London Review of Books

Nothing at all seems to happen, in the most beautifully modulated way.
—Anne Enright, The Guardian, Anne Enright's Top 10 Slim Volumes

Like Van Gogh, he can invest the bed and chairs of an exile's room with a radiant life of their own...He's a sublime impressionist.
—Boyd Tonkin, New Statesman

Chaudhuri's idea of the novel as a collection of poetic musings is also displayed in his sensitivity to minute detail and his ability to transform the quotidian and the seemingly insignificant into the matter of intense reflection.
Times Literary Supplement

As much an extended prose poem as a novel, this is the account of a young Bengali man studying at Oxford and caught in a complicated love triangle. . . . Intensely moving, superbly written, this is a novel about belonging; of new worlds and old homes.
—Abir Mukherjee, The Guardian

[Chaudhuri's] very measured, almost poetic prose, which evokes more than it narrates, and the austere economy of his novels, which are one fourth the size of an average Indian novel, make him distinctive: here is a painter not of large and garish Indian murals, but of portraits in miniature of everyday life.
—Pankaj Mishra, The New York Review of Books

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