Maybe it’s indicative of the year we’ve had, but my favourite fiction of 2020 was almost universally harrowing, sometimes outright devastating. The endings of several still haunt me weeks and months later. I’ll never forget the final pages of Leah Swann’s “Sheerwater,” or the coda to Aravind Adiga’s “Amnesty,” or the epilogue to Sophie Laguna’s “Infinite Splendours;” never mind the total gut-wrenching experience of Tiffany McDaniel’s “Betty.” This was the year I demanded books that shook me to my core, that shredded me emotionally, or at the very least induced the smallest cut.Continue reading
Amnesty | Aravind Adiga | Pan Macmillan AU | February 2020 | RRP $30.00 | 9781509879045
“There is a buzz, a reflexive retinal buzz, whenever a man or woman born in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh sees another from his or her part of the world in Sydney — a tribal pinprick, an instinct always reciprocal, like the instantaneous recognition of homosexuals in a repressed society. Because even if both of you believe that one brown man holds no special significance for another in Sydney — a city and civilisation built on the principle of the exclusion of men and women who were not white, and which fully outgrew that principle only a generation ago — which is to say, even if you want to stay icebox or indifferent in the presence of the other brown man, you are helpless.”
Booker Prize-winning author Aravind Adiga returns with the story of a day in the life of Dhananjaya ‘Danny’ Rajaratnam, an illegal Sri Lankan immigrant, who unwittingly becomes embroiled in a murder, and must decide whether coming forward with information that would aid the police investigation is worth the risk of deportation. As he evaluates the morality and consequences of either decision, we learn of Danny’s past, and his daily struggles to survive as a cleaner in Sydney; living in a grocery storeroom under the thumb of its tyrannical owner; wracked by the fear of the authorities who want him expelled; and the desperate measures he must go to in order to assimilate into Australian society.
What makes Amnesty propulsive, powerful and unsettling in equal measure is Adiga’s ability to render this tale apolitically. The novel neither berates nor bolsters Australia’s immigration policy, merely spotlights a singular human story that so often gets lost amidst the debate, framed around a young man’s quest to negotiate the blurred line between justice and responsibility. It’s a story of dreams; those already shattered, those for the future, and the cost of making them a reality.
This timely novel depicts the struggles faced by immigrants — legal and illegal — with heartbreaking specificity; the constant fear of being discovered by immigration officers alongside the desire to acclimate to a society that doesn’t want you. It’s one of best, and most bittersweet novels I’ve read in some time; as a reader, you are burdened by the knowledge that whatever Danny chooses to do, the ramifications will be ruinous. Sober and erudite, Amnesty is another tour-de-force from a brilliant writer whose literary powers show no signs of abating.
A magnificent coming-of-age novel about two young boys from Mumbai, raised by their tyrannical father to be the number one and number two batsmen in the world, that tackles the weighty themes of corruption, class, sexuality and religion with extraordinary elegance.
When Selection Day opens, seven-year-old Manju is overshadowed by the supreme cricketing prowess of his brother Radha, but still a tantalising prospect for a prestigious gatekeeper named Tommy Sir, who brings both boys to the attention of a venture capitalist, which suits their father; he is determined to maximise the commercial potential of his sons. Readers familiar with the real-life story of cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli — the former a cricketing legend, the latter retired at 24 — might think they know where the story is headed, but Adiga is far too an intelligent writer than that to simply emulate history. As Manju and Radha get older, they begin to rebel against their father’s strict rules, and cavort with the temptations of youth, which threaten to derail their journey towards stardom. And just when you think the narrative is going to zig, it zags; and it feels right, and true.
Honestly, one of the best books I’ve read this year, or any year.
Format: Paperback / softback
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publish Date: 10-Aug-2017
Country of Publication: United Kingdom