sbcltr recommends the book for its attempt at non-linear story telling that blends the personal with the political
“Oh, he loves her: just as the English loved India and Africa and Ireland; it is the love that is the problem, people treat their lovers badly.”— Zadie Smith, White Teeth
Before you read the novel, you get to the epitaph and with this simple quote, Kumar sets into motion the entire tone of the novel. You know then, that this is going to be a book about love but it will also be about betrayal. About that seldom acknowledged aspect of love that we all seem to know, experience and yet vehemently deny— that when it comes to love, we all behave badly.
The Lovers, is the story of Kailash or AK47 or AK (the same initials as the author) as his American friends call him. AK takes us through his last two decades in the United States of America. What makes his narration different is how seamlessly he amalgamates his personal story with the political story of the places around him. His personal relationships are described with honesty, peppered with a sense of homelessness in a strange land, nostalgia and an ever overpowering desire to consume everything new. It is obviously also the story of an immigrant.
It is hard to not read this book and feel slightly voyeuristic, as if the reader is getting too deep a glimpse into somebody’s world. Like all good books, you can count on it to give you a layered narrative that weaves back and forth between the personal and political, past and present, history and myths. The theme of homelessness runs through it and defines Kailash becoming one of the most poignant aspects of the novel.
Another key component used for philosophising, politics is the character of Ehsan Ali—AK’s mentor and professor (modelled after Kumar’s own professor Eqbal Ahmed). Who is often deployed in the novel as a device to bring AK back in to reality, at times when he seems too consumed in his relationships between Jennifer, Nina and Cai Yan.
At the heart of it, it is an “investigation of love. Love despite, or in spite of; a love beyond and across dividing lines”.
If you love beautiful prose, this one is for you.
Published by Aleph Book Company. 599 Pages. You can buy the book here