A State of Freedom - Neel Mukherjee

Staff Pick

Mukherjee’s powerful novel starts with a man returning to his homeland, only to discover that he feels like a “tourist in his own country.” This jarring experience turns nightmarish when his efforts to heal his son’s “disconnection” from Indian culture by showing him the Taj Mahal backfire in a strange and inexplicable way. Brief and surreal, this opening section is the gateway to a deeper view of today’s India, as Mukherjee takes the piece’s seemingly isolated details and expands on them in the following four narratives. A man and his dancing bear focus a blunt look at economic servitude, the man struggling to support his large family with the bear’s “dances,” which are symptoms of the animal’s suffering. Meanwhile, the man’s brother, hoping for a share in the country’s building boom, instead contracts a lung disease from the materials he works with. In another narrative line, a Bombay-born, London-based designer returns to do research for a book on regional Indian foods. He transgresses traditional caste-lines by visiting his parents’ servants homes, where he feels both morally superior to his class-bound father and disturbed by what he sees—as well as by how easily he turns people’s lives into “a different kind of tourism.” As Mukherjee takes us through urban slums and rural villages, he shows us communities galvanized by poverty and superstition, places where suspected thieves have their hands cut off, eight-year-old girls are taken out of school to work as maids (and kept prisoner by being forbidden to go out), and people can’t afford the bus fare to the nearest hospital—a day’s journey away. But with his lyrical, compassionate prose, Mukherjee also shows us a great resilience and faith in a better future, whether at home or in some distant land.

A State of Freedom Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393292909
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - January 2nd, 2018

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