Kalyan Ray Eastwords

ISBN 13: 9780143031901

Eastwords

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9780143031901: Eastwords

Irreverent and witty, Eastwords is a powerful novel that spans ages and continents. East meets West in its cast, both real and imagined, that includes Shakespeare (the Bardshah) and Siraj-ud-Daulah, Oberon and Titania, Robert Clive and Vasco da Gama, Caliban, Puck and Prospero. Deliciously tinged with magical realism, the story comes alive with characters who take on new incarnations as the plot progresses.

The reader is witness to the reinvention of Shakespeare on Indian shores as Puck metamorphoses, and the beautiful Sukumari refashions herself as the witch Sycorax. Even the august Shakespeare and Sheikh Piru, the narrator, perform a shape-shifting dance in this fabulous monsoon-tormented narrative, and we soon discover what happens to Ariel in his new-found freedom, and whether Prospero lives on...

Ray's intoxicating prose is rife with literary allusions as Sheikh Piru leads us through the story, sharing asides, regrets and private jokes with the reader. Sheikh Piru is at once omniscient and involved, both hapless participant and detached observer, in the great tradition of Vyas himself, who was both the narrator of and a character in the Mahabharata.

Drawn from a variety of sources ranging from ancient Hindu mythology to the literature of Renaissance England, Eastwords is a literary coup d'etat that sets the colonizers and the colonized against a richly dramatic backdrop. Pulsating with tropical intensity and encompassing treachery as well as abiding love, grace as well as redemption, this novel is a rollicking read.

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About the Author:

Kalyan Ray's family was uprooted from the Ganges delta (now Bangladesh) through a combination of natural disasters, political upheaval and poverty. He grew up in Calcutta, was educated in India and the US, and now lives in both countries.

Among some jobs Ray has held are those of taxi driver in Calcutta, nurse's assistant at the psychiatric wing of Strong Memorial Hospital in upstate New York, professor of literature in New Jersey, and visiting professor of Comparative Theology at Trinity College in the Philippines.

Review:

Delightfully audacious...a rare example of literary cross-dressing. --Kunal Basu, author of The Opium Clerk and The Miniaturist

Eastwords is a brilliant--and at times brilliantly flawed--work, that brings two of Shakespeare's greatest works, and references to some more, on a level, dovetails them into a seamless timeframe, transforms the characters into more ancient and more mythical ones than what they have been, and generally, orientalizes their content, raising million dollar post-colonial questions like 'Why did they come from their cold western coasts with incomplete maps, cannons, desperation and Christianity to the East?' along the way that would indeed be the envy of question setters of a PC 101 undergrad course. As the title suggests, Eastwords almost rivals the 'Punpundit'--who else?--'Bill Babu' (these are some of the terms of endearment addressed to Shakespeare) with its seemingly endless parades of puns. So endless, indeed, that it seems Eastwords should have fared better with a name like Feastwords. If Willybaba were alive today, he'd probably be turning green with jealousy or pink with merriment. The possibility lies either way. For, Kalyan Ray's novel is both an edifice that stands on its own solid foundation, and an echoing chamber where once words release their echoes, the repetition becomes endless, and after a while, indistinct. --Syed Manzoorul Islam, Professor of English at Dhaka University, review for The Daily Star

Would Caliban have been more at home in the mangrove forests of the Sunderbans than on the island in The Tempest? Or was Puck a 'pakhi' before he morphed into a fairy in A Midsummer Night's Dream? The first few pages of Kalyan Ray's debut novel Eastwords give a glimpse of an enticing land and a fascinating narrative. Here, Shakespeare pops up on Indian shores and hobnobs with our own Sheikh Piru, straight from the pages of Parashuram's Ulot Puran. --'Sheikh meets Shakespeare', The Telegraph, January 16, 2005

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