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In turn-of-the-millennium India, a penniless would-be writer halts work on his novel only to feed his ceaseless desire for his beautiful wife. Then a chance occurrence moves the lovers to a sprawling old house in a mist-shrouded spur of the lower Himalayas, where a set of diaries written by a glamorous American adventuress is uncovered during renovations. Her words irresistibly draw the writer away from his beloved, thrusting him through the hole of history into another world and time, revealing dark secrets and overturning all certainties.
Inventive, playful, heartbreaking, brimming with ideas and memorable characters, "The Alchemy of Desire" is a major literary work by one of the most significant new voices of a generation.
Late at night, in a dingy apartment hidden in a side street of a nondescript foreign city, a man tries to write out his story before daybreak. He doesn't believe he'll live to see daylight, and he's driven to tell the world the story of his killers while there's still time. Until he escaped, the man himself was one of those killers, known only as 'X470.' He was a Wafadar, one of a brotherhood of trained, ninja-like assassins indoctrinated with the task of protecting the commune, an anonymous collective hidden in a valley of the Himalayas - where all the inhabitants wear masks to heighten the perception of equality. Among the Wafadar, every vestige of individualism has been effaced. Even to sing is to provoke violent punishment. They serve only perfection and equality - and Aum, their mystic progenitor. X470 has killed, too, attesting to his fealty. But now, he is a Dagadaar - a traitor.
Quick-paced and inventive, brimming with ideas and memorable characters, The Alchemy of Desire celebrates the chaotic spirit of India at a time of great change. It also offers, in searing, lucid prose, a deeply sensual and moving account of the complex chemistry between sex, ambition and love. This is a major novel by one of the most significant new voices of his generation. 'A bold and weighty first novel . . . sex is practically a character in its own right here, endlessly examined in all its luscious, experimental glory . . . A memorable and impressive debut' Sunday Times `Throughout, it reveals Tejpal's eye for characterisation and description' Guardian `The passion in the novel is deeply organic to the characters and the narrative. As an attempt to compel readers to look at desire without the crippling impulse of shame and hypocrisy, it works beautifully' Independent `Throughout the novel, Tejpal's sensuous language produces moments of breathtaking beauty, and he displays a poet's joy in catching the feel, odour and appearance of the living world' Big Issue
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