Monday, October 03, 2005

Love and Longing in 1225 Pages

Vikram Chandra, the acclaimed author of Love and Longing in Bombay, Red Earth and Pouring Rain, and co-author with Suketu Mehta of the Bollywood film Mission Kashmir, has apparently been at the center of a vicious bidding war for publishing rights over his next novel, which according to his website is due to be released in the fall of 2006.

An untitled, 1,225-page epic set in India and billed as a combination of "The Godfather" and a Victorian Gothic novel will be released next year by HarperCollins after a bidding war involving six publishers. "It's an extraordinarily compelling page turner that also happens to be a major work of literature," HarperCollins publisher Jonathan Burnham told The Associated Press on Monday. A source close to the negotiations, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the deal was worth $1 million.
(It could be closer to 1.3 million.)

This novel, according to the AP story has been in the works for the past seven years. The officialy yet-to-be-titled novel centers on organized crime in modern Bombay and takes on "religion, politics, money, corruption, idealism, family, loyalty, and betrayal. All things near and dear to Mumbai.

I know, I know, another book on the Mumbai underworld. But I must admit, I am secretly very excited for this to come out for two reasons: I think there is still a lot to be written about the underworld, and it has been too long since I have read some good South Asian fiction.

Chandra's latest novel ranks among the longest fiction works in recent years, although a book published last summer, Paul Anderson's historical novel "Hunger's Brides," topped it at 1,300-plus pages. Fear not, South Asian fiction, much like Bollywood, can keep people holding on, even for thousands of pages as witnessed by the popularity of Vikram Seth's "A Suitable Boy," which is among the 1,000-page novels that have made the best seller lists.

Chandra used to teach an English class at GW when I was in undergrad there, and he gave a special presentation of Mission Kashmir to some students in 1999 or 2000. In the question and answer session that followed Chandra hinted that he was working on a novel about the Mumbai underworld with some friends that he collaborated on the film (Mission Kashmir) with (Suketu Mehta) . I had forgotten about this until Maximum City was published, at which point I thought this was the work Chandra was referring to. I guess not. From this story, it also seems like he and Mehta are no longer such good friends. Perhaps the effect of Maximum City?


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