What they said about

‘At last - a new and brilliantly original novel from India.’
— V S Naipaul

‘The Alchemy of Desire puts Tarun in the front rank of Indian novelists. I am inclined to agree with Naipaul: his book is a masterpiece.’
— Khushwant Singh

‘One of the most attractive Indian writers in English of his generation, he writes with a great deal of raw energy, inventively employing images which are at once sad, haunting, horrendously comic and beautiful.’
— Times Literary Supplement


India Unedited

Tejpal rewrites the idea of victimhood in a country where the deceptions of power know no bounds - S. Prasannarajan

Elsewhere in the opening pages of Tarun Tejpal’s new novel, the narrator’s friend, whose sexual energy is only matched by her social angst, reads out these verses from an Oxford anthology of English poetry: About suffering they were never wrong. /The Old Masters: how well they understood/Its human position; how it takes place/While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along. It is her postcoital Auden moment, though she prefers to call the poet by his first name Wystan. That sets her apart from the rest of us who come and go talking of Michelangelo—or reciting Eliot, or quoting Shakespeare. She is telling his “phalloo-foolish” friend, the “peashooter” suffering from “the illusion of normalcy”, that “the worst horrors take place around us while we go happily about our everyday lives”. In The Story of My Assassins, we hardly hear the gunshot that shatters the idyll of normalcy and sets the pace of this novel, but we see through the cracks the horrors from where it originates. It is a world where life is nasty, brutal, dispensable. Where power is measured by violence and fear. Where India is a story devoid of the moral certainties that propel those who live by, well, Wystan Hugh. In the pages of Tejpal, it is a story masterly told.

It begins in Lutyens’ Delhi, where the narrator, an investigative journalist with a struggling magazine, wakes up one morning to the news of an assassination attempt on himself. Till now, he has been in a universe of rhythmic familiarity, populated by his family of unbearable banality; his editor and business partner who has the inspirational aura of a newsroom Lincoln; his friend who combines sex and sociology; his guru, “doctor of souls and physician of the practical”; and his surreal financiers whose driveways are marked by big-breasted mermaids. Suddenly, protected by the state, he becomes part of a larger story with national consequences. He is the victim, the target, and his fate inseparable from the geopolitical destiny of his country. In the courtroom, he comes face to face with his assassins, five of them—Chaaku, Kabir M, Kaaliya, Chini, and Hathoda Tyagi, the leader who is an embodiment of “courage, loyalty and asceticism”. The novel takes wing when Tejpal rewrites the idea of victimhood in an India where the subterranean deceptions of power know no bounds. As the narrative alternates between the dusklands of the killers and the urban make-them are shaped to deadly perfection by the conspiracy of ancestry and the attitudes of a society that shows no mercy. They are more than the artists of knife and hammer; they are antiheroes of detached action, immortalised by police files. Their stories provide some of the finest set pieces in the novel, ranging from ritual maiming to overpowering a King Cobra in the jungles of the North-east to video nights beyond the platforms of New Delhi railway station. Tejpal is not picnicking in the proverbial Other India; he is not romanticising the essential savagery of the Indian countryside either. And he is too smart a storyteller to succumb to the temptations of biography, even though the narrator is a journalist and the magazine is desperately looking for a backer. The Story of My Assassins is an argument with power, a counter-narrative from someone who has been chosen by the state to sustain a lie. Four years ago, Tejpal wrote in his first novel, The Alchemy of Desire: “You had to find your words. You had to find your story.” The words here make the story of India a lot more interesting.


India Unedited
Tejpal rewrites the idea of victimhood in a country where the deceptions of power know no bounds
- S. Prasannarajan
The Ripper of Accepted Notions
In his second novel, Tarun Tejpal brings together the India that lives in the cities and one that survives in villages. Pillage, violence and torture link his two Indias.
- Binoo K. John
A Big-theme Novel on the Violence of our Times
- Suresh Menon