The Immortals
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The Immortals

Author: Amit Chaudhuri

The Immortals tells the story of two families bound by music. Shyamji is the son of the acclaimed classical singer Ram Lal. But Shyam Lal is not his father - and knows he never will be. His student, Mallika Sengupta, is a talented singer who has never pushed herself while her son Nirmalya, also Shyamji’s student, believes in suffering for his art and judges Shyam Lal for selling out. Written in haunting, melodic prose, The Immortals is an acutely observed and lyrical novel about the place of art in the modern world.

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Book Reviews

• ‘A command performance. Even in the context of contemporary Indian writing in English, much of which is outstanding, Chaudhuri is the best . . . yet again he has shown that his fiction, which draws on themes of family and time, is as real as it is beautiful’ Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

• ‘A masterwork . . . Seldom has any contemporary author invested such detail in descriptions of place, behavior, and physicality. Chaudhuri is astonishingly precise’ San Francisco Chronicle

• ‘In the gloriously crowded world of modern Indian fiction, Amit Chaudhuri stands out as a master craftsman who, with exquisite wit and grace, can depict a rapidly changing India in a single life and an entire life in a single detail’ Boston Globe

• ‘Amit Chaudhuri is a marvellous miniaturist of prose, bearing aloft an Austenian legacy, inscribing languorous soliloquies on little bits of ivory’ India Today

• ‘This extraordinary novel inhabits a world in which a longing for beauty is intercut with the need for material satisfaction; its characters float between feeling at home and being in transition, in a dispossession that is, as ever, beautifully evoked’ Anjali Joseph, Elle

• ‘The Immortals is a study of ordinariness touched by beauty and tinged with talent . . . Chaudhuri’s particular art lies here, in rendering beauty from normality. His characters linger in the mind; and his prose, with its exactness and elegance, its exquisite delineation of memory and emotion, has a strange, mesmerising grace’ Alice Albinia, Financial Times

• ‘The lyrical quality of his writing is striking. Sentences seem to drift like smoke, swirl and hang in the air . . . The tensions of man’s adolescence are drawn with sensitivity but also an acute sense of the ridiculous . . . It invites honourable comparison with Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks, extending to fewer generations but a wider view of a mercantile culture’ The Times

• ‘[It’s] the wry, knowing authorial tone that makes the book so pleasurable . . . a maestro of intimation . . . he is clearsighted about what is closest to him, and he is candid without being cynical about the class of aspirants who have made India a global economic player. The Immortals confirms his reputation [with] its elegant sentences and dry, discerning portraits’ New York Times

• ‘An important novel . . . There is a filigreed, Jamesian quality to his work, an urbanity and aesthetic style not often associated with Indian fiction . . . He produces a latticed, buzzing India, full of contradictions and oppositions’ Times Literary Supplement

• ‘There are two Indian writers who are quite unlike each other, but whose sentences are immediately identifiable. If just a few words of their prose are read out to you, you will confidently call out their names—one is Rushdie, the other is Chaudhuri . . . [Chaudhuri’s] sentences are musical, perfectly modulated, marked by inflections introduced through a deft use of punctuation . . . It can all be rather quiet sometimes, but only in the way of approaching earthquakes’ Amitava Kumar, National

• ‘Chaudhuri lovingly evokes a fractious, contradictory city caught between tradition and modernization’ New Yorker

• ‘Amit Chaudhuri captures, as no one else can, the delicate, subtle emotions of people who inhabit an India of the past and the privileged—elegant, slow moving, introspective, sensitive to the very threshold of madness . . . In The Immortals, his most beautiful and complex novel, his experience as a well-known musician colors and deepens his brilliant observation of musicians and their audiences, the subtle interplay of genius, money, social status, and family relationships in the intersecting worlds of classical and popular Indian music’ Wendy Doniger

• ‘I cannot speak here of the many-sided pleasure I have got out of reading the book. It’s a truly wonderful novel, and helps me to think about the myriad ways in which classical Indian music makes life so meaningful for me. I know that the book will help my understanding to match the feeling I have for the vocal rendering of raga. Nothing happens in the story in a rush or bustle to precipitate action; yet it generates a low-profile chain of events, that for all its apparent lack of theatricality affects the writing as stillness full of movement and vibrancy. Chaudhuri, who inhabits that world both as a renowned raga artist himself and as a leading Indian author, writes of this telescoped and splintered universe with the loving detachment of a cool, almost Chekhovian ironist’ Ranajit Guha

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Published by

Penguin Books India


20 Oct 2012





Book Format





Indian Subcontinent only


Fiction, Literary Fiction





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