A State of Freedom
Longlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature
What happens when we attempt to exchange the life we are given for something better?
Five people, in very different circumstances, from a domestic cook in Mumbai, to a vagrant and his dancing bear, and a girl who escapes terror in her home village for a new life in the city, find out the meanings of dislocation, and the desire for more.
Set in contemporary India and moving between the reality of this world and the shadow of another, this novel delivers a devastating and haunting exploration of the unquenchable human urge to strive for a different life.
Mukherjee... homes in on the restless, the disinherited, the socially trapped... Mercilessly observant, he does not spare the reader but leavens scenes of savagery, squalor and despair with moments of rainbow vividness, all the more striking for the muddy, cacophonous backdrop from which they are brought forth... In a significant and porous work, Mukherjee gives congruence and visibility to these fractured, hidden lives -- Catherine Taylor * New Statesman * The beauty of Mukherjee's prose sucks the reader into an alternative world, where misery, deprivation and the struggle to exist another day are normal -- John Harding * Daily Mail * Neel Mukherjee shows himself to be one of those contemporary authors who invites readers to make connections between seemingly disparate story strands... Combined with Mukherjee's rich realisation of the novel's individual elements, this indeterminacy makes A State of Freedom a powerful, memorable treatment of a theme too often reduced to uninvolving didacticism -- Adam Lively * Sunday Times * an extraordinary account of the tenacious will to survive... He seeds his tales with images of unexpected beauty... Freedom here is relative, complicated, fissured and often won at another's expense -- Siobhain Murphy * The Times * This is a great hymn to poor, scabby humanity-a devastating portrait of poverty and the inhumanity of the rich to the poor. A masterpiece! -- Edmund White A State of Freedom is a novel like no other -- its prose is so rich, unequivocally precise and graceful that it allows Mukherjee to illustrate the most horrific of experiences with stunning compassion. A State of Freedom is more than a novel-it is an immersive experience. He writes like a painter, his language is his palette, one reminiscent of the late Howard Hodgkin's. Mukherjee brings to life the variation of India's cities and towns in a dense multi-layered world where modern life, by accident or intention, tears at traditions that are centuries old. Throughout we are reminded of how little power many have over their lives and of emotional and financial economies so fragile that something as small as a single egg can carry great weight. -- A.M. Homes A State of Freedom is an extraordinary achievement. Subtle and multi-layered, it's a study of the brutality of social divisions, written with tremendous tenderness; a work that insists on the dignity of figures obliged to lead undignified lives. A powerful, troubling novel. The moment I finished it, I began it again. -- Sarah Waters Fans of Neel Mukherjee expect that his books will be exceptional and once again he has produced just that. A State of Freedom is formally audacious, vividly observed, and deeply imagined. Unsentimental yet full of heart, grimly real yet mysteriously dreamlike, with characters who continue to live their complicated lives long after you've turned the last page. Just a beautiful, beautiful piece of work. -- Karen Joy Fowler Neel Mukherjee's breathtaking A State of Freedom is that rarest, most wonderful of things: a book both literarily dextrous, full of unforgettable scenes, images, language, and characters, as well as a furious, unsparing, clear-eyed study of how a society's gross inequities of money and power demean and deform the human condition. The most astonishing and brilliant novel I have read in a long, long time. -- Hanya Yanagihara An extraordinary, compassionate, complex, hard-hitting wonder of a book. It is in a class of its own. -- Rose Tremain
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