Freedom Song

Introduction by Wendy Doniger
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$17.95 US
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On sale May 14, 2024 | 256 Pages | 978-1-68137-806-0
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction, a graceful depiction of middle-class Calcutta, seen through the lives of two interlinked families living in the city during the 1990s.

Freedom Song
is a novel about family life and city life at an uneasy moment in time. Set in Calcutta in 1993, the book begins by introducing us to Khuku, whose husband Shib is a retired executive and whose son has gone to live in America. Khuku’s old friend Mini, a teacher suffering from a bad case of arthritis, is paying a visit, which gives the two women a chance to gossip and reminisce and see the town. Khuku’s brother, Bhola, lives nearby with his wife and two grown children. Everyone is concerned about his son, Bhaskar, who has recently joined the Communist Party. He sells the party newspaper on the streets. He engages in street theater, and while no longer in his first youth, he remains unmarried.

Freedom Song circles around this small upper-middle-class world, with its customs, memories, pleasures, and worries, but also ventures out into the wider world, in which the destruction of the venerable Babri Masjid by Hindu fundamentalists has started a cycle of sectarian violence. A novel of ordinary life, of work and love, shadowed by larger uncertainty, Freedom Song is a transfixing performance, deeply humane and winningly humorous, by one of the subtlest and sharpest writers of our time. A world of insight and feeling emerges from Amit Chaudhuri’s wonderfully expansive sentences, and style is revealed as nothing less than a form of knowledge.
"Chaudhuri writes about India like no one else." —Robert McCrum, Observer

"Amit Chaudhuri evokes the background noises of Calcutta so effectively that even for a reader who has never set foot on the sub-continent there is an eerily realistic effect." —Penelope Lively, Spectator 

"The narrative flits from mind to mind, flashes forward and back, finding a great and casual beauty at the edge of the haphazard." —Adam Mars-Jones, Observer

"Fiction very different from the kind being written by other Indians...Chaudhuri is interested in the life each of us leads that no one else knows about." —Richard Cronin, London Review of Books

"It takes us further 'towards a home in the heart' than Chaudhuri has before. Its final, subtly elegiac section reveals Chaudhuri's overriding concern: the slow unfolding of personal trajectories around the pages of national narrative." —Independent

"Chaudhuri is a poet's novelist, not just in the sensibility but in technique. All this, employing a language that is balletic—slow and artful, and at the same time, arresting and precise." —The Guardian

"Breathtaking sentences, sharp characterizations, comic set pieces and melancholy grace notes." —New York Times Book Review

"This novel is one of the closest and most luminous illustrations of ‘still life’ I have seen in contemporary fiction. Here is a world so ‘still’ that the reader expects it to collapse at any moment from the explosion or from some internal combustion of violence. And it is this gap between the reader’s expectation and the novelist’s refusal to fulfill it that gives Chaudhuri’s narrative both energy and a rare kind of tranquillity." —Sumana Roy, Los Angeles Review of Books

“What makes itself felt most abruptly in Chaudhuri’s fiction is not what happens by way of plot but the change in tone: romance is quickly, repeatedly, unrelentingly deflated.” —Saikat Majumdar, Los Angeles Review of Books
Amit Chaudhuri is Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of East Anglia. He has written several works of fiction, a critical study of the poetry of D.H. Lawrence, and edited The Vintage Book of Modern Indian Literature. Among the many awards he has received are the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction, and the Government of India’s Sahitya Akademi Award. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and is also a musician. View titles by Amit Chaudhuri

About

Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction, a graceful depiction of middle-class Calcutta, seen through the lives of two interlinked families living in the city during the 1990s.

Freedom Song
is a novel about family life and city life at an uneasy moment in time. Set in Calcutta in 1993, the book begins by introducing us to Khuku, whose husband Shib is a retired executive and whose son has gone to live in America. Khuku’s old friend Mini, a teacher suffering from a bad case of arthritis, is paying a visit, which gives the two women a chance to gossip and reminisce and see the town. Khuku’s brother, Bhola, lives nearby with his wife and two grown children. Everyone is concerned about his son, Bhaskar, who has recently joined the Communist Party. He sells the party newspaper on the streets. He engages in street theater, and while no longer in his first youth, he remains unmarried.

Freedom Song circles around this small upper-middle-class world, with its customs, memories, pleasures, and worries, but also ventures out into the wider world, in which the destruction of the venerable Babri Masjid by Hindu fundamentalists has started a cycle of sectarian violence. A novel of ordinary life, of work and love, shadowed by larger uncertainty, Freedom Song is a transfixing performance, deeply humane and winningly humorous, by one of the subtlest and sharpest writers of our time. A world of insight and feeling emerges from Amit Chaudhuri’s wonderfully expansive sentences, and style is revealed as nothing less than a form of knowledge.

Reviews

"Chaudhuri writes about India like no one else." —Robert McCrum, Observer

"Amit Chaudhuri evokes the background noises of Calcutta so effectively that even for a reader who has never set foot on the sub-continent there is an eerily realistic effect." —Penelope Lively, Spectator 

"The narrative flits from mind to mind, flashes forward and back, finding a great and casual beauty at the edge of the haphazard." —Adam Mars-Jones, Observer

"Fiction very different from the kind being written by other Indians...Chaudhuri is interested in the life each of us leads that no one else knows about." —Richard Cronin, London Review of Books

"It takes us further 'towards a home in the heart' than Chaudhuri has before. Its final, subtly elegiac section reveals Chaudhuri's overriding concern: the slow unfolding of personal trajectories around the pages of national narrative." —Independent

"Chaudhuri is a poet's novelist, not just in the sensibility but in technique. All this, employing a language that is balletic—slow and artful, and at the same time, arresting and precise." —The Guardian

"Breathtaking sentences, sharp characterizations, comic set pieces and melancholy grace notes." —New York Times Book Review

"This novel is one of the closest and most luminous illustrations of ‘still life’ I have seen in contemporary fiction. Here is a world so ‘still’ that the reader expects it to collapse at any moment from the explosion or from some internal combustion of violence. And it is this gap between the reader’s expectation and the novelist’s refusal to fulfill it that gives Chaudhuri’s narrative both energy and a rare kind of tranquillity." —Sumana Roy, Los Angeles Review of Books

“What makes itself felt most abruptly in Chaudhuri’s fiction is not what happens by way of plot but the change in tone: romance is quickly, repeatedly, unrelentingly deflated.” —Saikat Majumdar, Los Angeles Review of Books

Author

Amit Chaudhuri is Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of East Anglia. He has written several works of fiction, a critical study of the poetry of D.H. Lawrence, and edited The Vintage Book of Modern Indian Literature. Among the many awards he has received are the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction, and the Government of India’s Sahitya Akademi Award. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and is also a musician. View titles by Amit Chaudhuri