Author: Tarun J Tejpal
Publisher: Harper Collins
On page 447 of this complex, dark, exhilarating novel, a brutal killing takes place. An aspirant hit man murders a wealthy contractor in the scruffy northern Indian city of Jhansi in a local variant of the drive-by: burying a hammer in his head while zipping past on a decrepit scooter. The man dies instantly. His security guards look at the corpse, disconsolate because they are now out of work.
Their reaction, so carefully observed and so convincing to anyone who lives in the country, is the sort of detail that makes Tarun J Tejpal’s The Story of My Assassins stand out from among the thousands of titles published on India every year. Most works on India by foreigners, with a few notable exceptions, are tired retreads of the old “wow, isn’t India whimsically exotic/poor/dirty/booming” variety. Many by Indians, at least in English, are either earnest, grimly written depictions of inequality and dearth or light-hearted romps through the social mores of the middle class. Tejpal, a co-founder of campaigning Indian magazine Tehelka, avoids cliches to render the tragedy, comedy, colour and violence of modern India better than anything else I have read in my three years as correspondent here.
Based partly on real events, the book describes the back stories of the men charged with a plot to kill the narrator, like Tejpal a senior journalist. Interwoven with the progress of the trial – and the narrator’s affair with a strong-willed younger social activist who energetically organises the defence of his supposed assassins – the events that brought them to the courtroom are slowly uncovered. The role of Pakistani intelligence may fail to convince entirely but the sex, corruption, brutality and chicanery of contemporary Indian politics, all told with the eye of a journalist but with the verve of a novelist, does.
Source of book review: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/nov/23/story-assassins-tarun-tejpal-review
Available with: Arun Sharma