An Atlas of Impossible Longing

3.72 avg rating
( 2,225 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9781847247643: An Atlas of Impossible Longing

Beginning in 1907 with the founding of a factory in Songarh, a small provincial town where narrow attitudes prevail, the story is of three generations of an Indian family, brilliantly told, in which a sensitive and intelligent foundling boy orphan who is casteless and without religion and Bakul, the motherless granddaughter of the house, grow up together. The boy, Mukunda, spends his time as a servant in the house or reading the books of Mrs Barnum, an Anglo-Englishwoman whose life was saved long ago by Bakul's grandmother, by now demented by loneliness. Mrs Barnum gives Mukunda the run of her house, but as he and Bakul grow, they become aware that their intense closeness is becoming something else, and Bakul's father is warned to separate them. He banishes Mukunda to a school in Calcutta. The many strands of this intensely fashioned narrative converge when Mukunda, by now a successful businessman, returns to Songarh years after he has been exiled from the only home he knew, to resolve the family's destiny.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Anuradha Roy won the Economist Crossword Prize, India's premier award for fiction, for her novel The Folded Earth, which was nominated for several other prizes including the Man Asia, the D.S.C., and the Hindu Literary Award. Her first novel, An Atlas of Impossible Longing, has been widely translated and was named one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post and The Seattle Times.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ONE

In the warm glow of fires that lit the clearing at the centre of straw-roofed mud huts, palm-leaf cups of toddy flew from hand to hand. Men in loincloths and women in saris had begun to dance barefoot, kicking up dust. Smoke curled from cooking fires and tobacco. The drums, the monotonous twanging of a stringed instrument, and loud singing obliterated the sounds of the forest.

A man with a thin, frown-creviced face topped by dark hair combed back from his high forehead sat as still as a stone image in their midst, in a chair that still had its arms but had lost its backrest. His long nose struck out, arrow-like, beneath deep-set eyes. He had smoked a pipe all evening and held one polite leaf cup of toddy that he had only pretended to sip. His kurta and dhoti were an austere white, his waistcoat a lawyerly black.

He did not appear to hear the singing. But his eyes were on the dancers: wasn’t that girl in the red sari the one who had come with baskets of wild hibiscus that she had flung carelessly into a corner of his factory floor? And that man who was dancing with his arm around her waist, wasn’t he one of the honey-collectors? It was hard to tell, with their new saris and dhotis, the flowers in their hair, the beads flying out from necks, the firelight. The man leaned forward, trying to tell which of the sweat-gleaming faces he had encountered before in his small workforce.

The brown-suited, toadlike figure sitting on a stool next to him nudged him in the ribs. “Something about these tribal girls, eh, Amulya Babu? Makes long-married men think unholy thoughts! And do you know, they’ll sleep with any number of men they like!” He emptied his cup of toddy into his mouth and licked his lips, saying, “Strong stuff! I should sell it in my shop!”

A bare-chested villager refilled the cup, saying, “Come and dance with us, Cowasjee Sahib! And Amulya Babu, you are not drinking at all! This is the first time people from outside the jungle have come as guests to our harvest festival. And because I insisted. I said, it’s Cowasjee Sahib and Amulya Babu who give us our roti and salt! We must repay them in our humble way!”

A tall, hard-muscled man stood nearby, listening, lips curling with contempt as his relative hovered over the four or five friends Cowasjee had brought with him, radiating obeisance as he refilled their cups. Beyond the pool of firelight, cooking smells, and noise, the forest darkened into shadows. Somewhere, a buffalo let out a mournful, strangled bellow. The drums gathered pace, the girls linked their arms behind each other’s waists, swaying to the rhythm, and the men began to sing:

A young girl with a waist so slender that

I can put my finger around it,

Is going down to the well for water.

With swaying hips she goes.

My life yearns with desire.

My bed is painted red.

Red are my blankets.

For these four months of rain and happiness

Stay, stay with me.

Without you I cannot eat,

Without you I cannot drink.

I’ll find no joy in anything.

So stay, stay, for the months of rain,

And for happiness with me.

One of the girls in the line of dancers separated herself from her partners. She had noticed Amulya’s preoccupied expression, wondered how a man could remain unmoved by the music, not drink their wine. She came forward with a smile, her beads and bangles jingling, her bare shoulders gleaming in the firelight, orange sari wrapped tight over her young body. The toddy made her head spin a little when she bent down to Amulya. As he tried to scramble away, she stroked his cheek and said, “Poor babuji, are you too pining for someone?” She leaned closer and whispered into his ear, “Won’t you come and dance? It wipes sorrows away.”

Amulya looked up beyond her childish face, framed by curling hair which smelled of a strong, sweet oil, at the flamboyant purple flower pinned into her bun. It had a ring of lighter petals within the purple ones, and a pincushion of stamens. Passiflora, of course. Yes, certainly Passiflora. But what species?

Despite the haze of alcohol that made her eyes slide from thing to thing, the girl noticed that the man’s gaze was not on her face, but on the flower. She unpinned it and held it out to him. A deep dimple pierced her cheek. The drums rolled again, a fresh song started, and she tripped back to her friends with a laugh, looking once over her shoulder.

“Hey, Amulya Babu, the girl likes you!” Cowasjee cried, slapping Amulya’s thigh. “You can turn down food and drink, but how can you turn down a lusting woman? Go on, dance with her! That’s the done thing in these parts!”

Amulya stood up from his chair and moved away from Cowasjee’s hand. “I have to leave now,” he said, his tone peremptory. In his left hand he clutched the purple flower. With the other he felt about for his umbrella.

Amulya understood he was an anomaly. When still new in the town adjoining the jungle, he had tried to make himself part of local society by going to a few parties. Songarh’s local rich, they too had hopes of him, as a metropolitan dandy perhaps, laden with tales and gossip from the big city, conversant with its fashions, bright with repartee, a tonic for their jaded, small-town appetites. He had had many eager invitations.

After the first few parties, at which he refused offers of whisky and pink gins, and then waited, not talking very much, for dinner to be served and the evening to end, he had realised that perhaps his being there was not serving any purpose. Was he really becoming a bona fide local by attending these parties when his presence emanated obligation?

Today – these festivities at the village whose people were his workforce – he had thought it would be different. He had, for a change, wanted to come. He had only ever seen tribal people at work – what were they like at play, what were their homes like? The opportunity had seemed too good to miss; but Cowasjee, in whom the bare-shouldered village girls seemed to unleash more than his usual loutishness, had ensured that this evening was like all the others.

Amulya looked around for someone to thank, but everywhere people sat on their haunches drinking, or they danced, enclosed in worlds of private rapture. The drums had speeded up, the twanging could scarcely keep pace. Where was his umbrella? And his office bag? Was his tonga waiting for him as instructed? Was anyone sober enough to light his way to the tonga?

“Oh sit, sit, Amulya Babu,” Cowasjee said, tugging Amulya’s sleeve. “You can’t go without eating, they’ll be sure their food was too humble for you, they’ll feel insulted. The night is young and we have stories to swap! Have you heard this one?” Cowasjee cackled in anticipation of his punchline.

Amulya sat again, annoyed and reluctant, barely able to summon up a strained smile to the yodelled laughs that accompanied the ensuing discussion about why a woman’s two holes smelled different despite being geographically proximate. “Just like the difference between Darjeeling tea and Assam!” one of Cowasjee’s friends shrieked. “Both in the hills of eastern India, but their aromas worlds apart!” The third said, “You bugger! More like the difference between the stink of a sewage nullah and a water drain!” They nudged each other and pointed at the girls dancing by the fire. “She’s for you,” giggled one. “How ’bout taking her home and confirming the Assam–Darjeeling hypothesis?”

The tall, muscular villager stepped out from the shadows, one fist clenched around a long bamboo pole. In two rapid strides, he and his weapon were towering over them. Cowasjee shrank back on his stool. The obsequious middleman noticed the threat and scurried out from a corner. He said something over his shoulder to the drummer, then to a woman tending a cooking pot. The drums fell suddenly quiet. Confused, the dancers stopped mid-stride. The woman called out, “We will eat now, before the chickens run out from the rice!”

The stringed instrument played on, its performer too rapt to pause. The man with the bamboo pole stepped aside, not taking his expressionless eyes off Cowasjee.

* * *

Far away, Kananbala heard the faint sound of drums, like a pulse in the night. Another night of waiting. At nine-thirty the neighbour’s car. Slamming doors. Shouts to the watchman. Ten. The whir of the clock gathering its energies for the long spell of gongs to come. The creaking of trees. A single crow, confused by moonlight. The wind banging a door. Ten-thirty. The owls calling, one to the other, the foxes further away. Then the faint clop of hooves. Closer, the clop of hooves together now with the sound of wheels on tarmac, whip on hide. A tongawallah cursing. Amulya saying, “That’s it, no further.” His voice too loud.

Kananbala dropped her age-softened copy of the Ramayana and went to the window. She could see her husband hunching to release himself from the shelter of the tonga, too tall for its low bonnet. She turned away and returned to the bed, picking up her Ramayana again. When Amulya entered the room and looked around for his slippers, she did not tell him she had put them under the table. When he asked her, “Have you eaten?” she pretended to be immersed in her book. When he said, “Are the children asleep?” she replied, “Of course. It’s so late.”

“They only served dinner at ten. They wouldn’t let me leave without eating, what do you expect me to do?”

“Nothing,” Kananbala said, “I know ...” Something caught her eye and she stopped.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace

1.

Anuradha Roy
Published by Quercus Publishing, United Kingdom (2009)
ISBN 10: 1847247644 ISBN 13: 9781847247643
New Paperback Quantity Available: 10
Seller:
The Book Depository
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Quercus Publishing, United Kingdom, 2009. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Beginning in 1907 with the founding of a factory in Songarh, a small provincial town where narrow attitudes prevail, the story is of three generations of an Indian family, brilliantly told, in which a sensitive and intelligent foundling boy orphan who is casteless and without religion and Bakul, the motherless granddaughter of the house, grow up together. The boy, Mukunda, spends his time as a servant in the house or reading the books of Mrs Barnum, an Anglo-Englishwoman whose life was saved long ago by Bakul s grandmother, by now demented by loneliness. Mrs Barnum gives Mukunda the run of her house, but as he and Bakul grow, they become aware that their intense closeness is becoming something else, and Bakul s father is warned to separate them. He banishes Mukunda to a school in Calcutta. The many strands of this intensely fashioned narrative converge when Mukunda, by now a successful businessman, returns to Songarh years after he has been exiled from the only home he knew, to resolve the family s destiny. Bookseller Inventory # AA69781847247643

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
7.62
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

2.

Anuradha Roy
Published by MacLehose Press (2009)
ISBN 10: 1847247644 ISBN 13: 9781847247643
New Paperback Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
The Monster Bookshop
(Fleckney, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description MacLehose Press, 2009. Paperback. Book Condition: New. BRAND NEW ** SUPER FAST SHIPPING FROM UK WAREHOUSE ** 30 DAY MONEY BACK GUARANTEE. Bookseller Inventory # mon0000435962

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
5.75
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 1.99
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

3.

Anuradha Roy
Published by Quercus Publishing, United Kingdom (2009)
ISBN 10: 1847247644 ISBN 13: 9781847247643
New Paperback Quantity Available: 10
Seller:
The Book Depository US
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Quercus Publishing, United Kingdom, 2009. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Beginning in 1907 with the founding of a factory in Songarh, a small provincial town where narrow attitudes prevail, the story is of three generations of an Indian family, brilliantly told, in which a sensitive and intelligent foundling boy orphan who is casteless and without religion and Bakul, the motherless granddaughter of the house, grow up together. The boy, Mukunda, spends his time as a servant in the house or reading the books of Mrs Barnum, an Anglo-Englishwoman whose life was saved long ago by Bakul s grandmother, by now demented by loneliness. Mrs Barnum gives Mukunda the run of her house, but as he and Bakul grow, they become aware that their intense closeness is becoming something else, and Bakul s father is warned to separate them. He banishes Mukunda to a school in Calcutta. The many strands of this intensely fashioned narrative converge when Mukunda, by now a successful businessman, returns to Songarh years after he has been exiled from the only home he knew, to resolve the family s destiny. Bookseller Inventory # AA69781847247643

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
8.18
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

4.

Anuradha Roy
Published by MacLehose Press (2009)
ISBN 10: 1847247644 ISBN 13: 9781847247643
New Softcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Rating
[?]

Book Description MacLehose Press, 2009. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # GH9781847247643

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
8.78
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 2.65
From Germany to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

5.

Anuradha Roy
Published by Quercus
ISBN 10: 1847247644 ISBN 13: 9781847247643
New Softcover Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
Kennys Bookstore
(Olney, MD, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Quercus. Book Condition: New. 2009. Paperback. A love story - as beautiful as it is unbearably sad - about two people who choose each other when others have abandoned them. Num Pages: 320 pages. BIC Classification: FA. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 197 x 128 x 21. Weight in Grams: 222. . . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory # V9781847247643

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
11.62
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

6.

Anuradha Roy
Published by Quercus Publishing 2009-03-05, London (2009)
ISBN 10: 1847247644 ISBN 13: 9781847247643
New paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Blackwell's
(Oxford, OX, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Quercus Publishing 2009-03-05, London, 2009. paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # 9781847247643

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
8.79
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 3
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

7.

Anuradha Roy
Published by Quercus (2009)
ISBN 10: 1847247644 ISBN 13: 9781847247643
New Softcover Quantity Available: 2
Rating
[?]

Book Description Quercus, 2009. Book Condition: New. 2009. Paperback. A love story - as beautiful as it is unbearably sad - about two people who choose each other when others have abandoned them. Num Pages: 320 pages. BIC Classification: FA. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 197 x 128 x 21. Weight in Grams: 222. . . . . . . Bookseller Inventory # V9781847247643

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
11.80
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From Ireland to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

8.

Anuradha Roy
Published by MacLehose Press
ISBN 10: 1847247644 ISBN 13: 9781847247643
New Paperback Quantity Available: 5
Seller:
THE SAINT BOOKSTORE
(Southport, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description MacLehose Press. Paperback. Book Condition: New. New copy - Usually dispatched within 2 working days. Bookseller Inventory # B9781847247643

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
5.28
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 6.94
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

9.

Anuradha Roy
ISBN 10: 1847247644 ISBN 13: 9781847247643
New Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
Speedy Hen LLC
(Sunrise, FL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # ST1847247644. Bookseller Inventory # ST1847247644

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
12.63
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

10.

Anuradha Roy
ISBN 10: 1847247644 ISBN 13: 9781847247643
New Paperback Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
Ria Christie Collections
(Uxbridge, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Paperback. Book Condition: New. Not Signed; Beginning in 1907 with the founding of a factory in Songarh, a small provincial town where narrow attitudes prevail, the story is of three generations of an Indian family, brilliantly told, in which a sensitive and intelligent foundling boy orphan who is casteless and without religion and Bakul, the. book. Bookseller Inventory # ria9781847247643_rkm

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
9.26
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 3.87
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

There are more copies of this book

View all search results for this book