The Light at the End of the World

Soho. May 2023. 480p. ISBN 9781641294669. $27. F
In his latest novel (following the International Dublin Literary Award long-listed An Outline of the Republic), Deb expertly compresses two centuries of India’s history—and its future possibilities—into four sections and a coda. “City of Brume” is set in a pollution-ridden near-future, with former journalist Bibi maneuvered into seeking a radical journalist friend long vanished within a Hindu-nationalist security state. “Claustropolis: 1984” concerns an assassin following an operator at the Bhopal chemical plant, while “Paranoir: 1947” links a veterinarian student to a mysterious committee dreaming up a Vedic-inspired aircraft at the time of Partition. In “The Line of Faith: 1859,” British soldiers track a fugitive leader in the wake of Sepoy rebellion and find something else entirely, while Bibi returns in a bittersweet coda that leaves readers wondering whether there is light at the end of the world. Abundantly and realistically detailed, yet spiked with fantastical elements from mysterious cellphone messages to a ticktock army, the four main sections are so rich and so freighted with ideas that each could stand alone as its own novel. Linking them serves to create a strong sense of life in India and a sink-into-it read for lovers of big books.
VERDICT Highly recommended for readers interested in history, politics, and literary fiction.
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