Red Earth and Pouring Rain

[An] ambitious and extraordinary first novel… Red Earth and Pouring Rain is above all a novel about the telling of stories. The effect is rich, heady, many-layered and deliberate… Though Chandra’s stories are told, they are above all written—and written in an incandescent, evocative, breathtaking style that piles clause upon clause, adjective upon adjective, image upon poetic image until the reader is irresistibly swept along in the flow… Red Earth and Pouring Rain is rich in its use of metaphor, but Chandra is no more easily typecast than his protagonists. His prose employs fabulist imagery, magical realism, political satire and the conventions of the Kerouac road novel… And there is myth-making of rare beauty and power… The result is a magnificent tour de force, one of the finest Indian novels of the decade… As Sanjay tells his story, it is broadcast to a growing throng outside Abhay’s house, and is soon retold and translated and resold, with extrapolations and additions. “There are whole new stories in here,” Abhay protests. “It’s not even our story anymore.” But Sanjay points out, “It ceased to be yours the minute you wrote it.” This insight informs every page of Chandra’s splendid novel. The stories he has so vividly brought to life have ceased to be his. They are ours now, and in the exhilaration of discovering them, all of his readers have cause to be profoundly grateful. — Shashi Tharoor, Los Angeles Times (USA).

Red Earth And Pouring Rain [is a] dazzling first novel… Its huge cast includes witches and heroic soldiers of fortune, porn-stars and boys begotten miraculously by the consumption of sticky buns. It has passages of epic grandeur and desolation worthy of Thomas Malory. It has naive magic, mannered conceits and lush fantasies, and plenty of psychologically realistic accounts of family relationships and love, informed by kindly shrewdness. It has jokes and grotesqueries and flights of silliness and it has a handful of episodes in which Chandra is imagining and writing with such originality and intensity as to be not merely drawing on myth but making it. This exuberant diversity is not just a case of the novelist displaying his creative muscles. His form matches his polemical intention. His villains and madmen, who include Alexander of Macedon, Jack the Ripper and the l9th -century Christian missionaries to India, have in common a hectic desire for purity, simplicity, oneness—in other words, for domination. Red Earth And Pouring Rain takes its title from an ancient Tamil poem celebrating the dissolution of differences in the erotic act. The novel—for all its careful substructure of recurring themes and chiming incidents—honours confusion, and it is itself a triumphant demonstration of the creativity of a morass… [Vikram Chandra] belongs… in a tradition of storytellers stretching back in the east to Scheherazade, and in the west to the poets of the medieval romances, a tradition in which the mundane and the fabulous, the bawdy and the sublime are all allowed room. Chandra is a worthy addition to that venerable line. His prose is elegant and various. His imagination is visionary. Above all, his poetic apprehension of history allows him to write on a grand scale, even when telling a monkey’s tale. — Lucy Hughes-Hallett, London Times (UK).

Vikram Chandra
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