Information about the author.
From the age of eleven, Karsan has been told that one day he will succeed his father as guardian of the Shrine of the Wanderer: as the highest spiritual authority in their region, he will be God’s representative to the multitudes who come to the shrine for penance and worship. But Karsan’s longings are simpler: to play cricket with his friends, to discover more of the exciting world he reads about in the newspapers his friend Raja Singh, a truck driver, brings him from all over India.
Half on a whim, Karsan applies to study at Harvard, but when he is unexpectedly offered a scholarship there he must try to meld his family’s wishes with his own yearnings. Two years immersed in the intellectual and sexual ferment of America splits him further, until finally Karsan abdicates his successorship to the eight hundred-year-old throne.
But even as Karsan succeeds in his “ordinary” life—marrying and having a son, becoming a professor in suburban British…[more]
It would take many lifetimes, it was said to me during my first visit, to see all of India. The desperation must have shown on my face to absorb and digest all I possibly could. This was not something I had articulated or resolved; and yet I recall an anxiety as I travelled the length and breadth of the country, senses raw to every new experience, that even in the distraction of a blink I might miss something profoundly significant.
I was not born in India, nor were my parents; that might explain much in my expectation of that visit. Yet how many people go to the homeland of their grandparents with such a heartload of expectation and momentousness; such a desire to find themselves in everything they see? Is it only India that clings thus, to those who’ve forsaken it; is this why Indians in a foreign land seem always so desperate to seek each other out? What was India to me? …[more]
Born in colonial Kenya, Vikram Lall comes of age at the same moment as the colony, which in 1953 is celebrating the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II even as the Mau Mau independence movement is challenging British rule. But while Kenya is being torn apart by idealism, doubt and violent political upheaval, Vic and his sister Deepa begin to search for their place in the world. Neither colonists nor African, neither white nor black, the Indian brother and sister find themselves somewhere in between in their band of playmates: Bill and Annie, British children, and Njoroge, an African boy. These are the friendships that will haunt the rest of their lives.
We follow Vic from a changing Africa in the fifties, to the sixties—a time of immense promise. But when that hope is betrayed by the corruption and fear of the seventies and eighties, Vic finds himself drawn into the Kenyatta government’s orbit…[more]
Like the novels of Nadine Gordimer, J.M. Coetzee, and Ben Okri, The Book of Secrets concerns Africa—in this case, the Asian community of East Africa, a rich nexus of English, Arab, Indian, and African cultures.
The novel begins in 1988 when the 1913 diary of Alfred Corbin, a British colonial administrator, is found in an East African shopkeeper’s backroom. The diary—and the secrets it both reveals and conceals—enflames the curiosity of retired schoolteacher Pius Fernandes. Pius’s obsessive pursuit of history leads him on an investigative journey through his own past and a nation’s.
Vasanji brings to vivid life the landscapes, the towns, and the cities of East Africa from the days of the Great War, through independence, all the way to the close of the eighties. Rich in detail and character, pathos and humor, and evocative of time and place, The Book of Secrets juxtaposes different cultures and generations and tells us something fresh about the nature of storytelling.