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Book Title: Sacred Games|
The author of the book: Vikram Chandra
ISBN 13: 9780571231195
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 643 KB
Edition: Faber and Faber
Date of issue: 2006
City - Country: No data
Loaded: 1146 times
Reader ratings: 6.9
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Sacred Games is a novel as big, ambitious, multi-layered, contradictory, funny, sad, scary, violent, tender, complex, and irresistible as India itself. Steep yourself in this story, enjoy the delicious masala Chandra has created, and you will have an idea of how the country manages to hang together despite age-old hatreds, hundreds of dialects, different religious practices, the caste system, and corruption everywhere. The Game keeps it afloat.
There are more than a half-dozen subplots to be enjoyed, but the main events take place between Inspector Sartaj Singh, a Sikh member of the Mumbai police force, and Ganesh Gaitonde, the most wanted gangster in India. It is no accident that Ganesh is named for the Hindu god of success, the elephant god much revered by Hindus everywhere. By the world's standards he has made a huge success of his life: he has everything he wants. But soon after the novel begins he is holed up in a bomb shelter from which there is no escape, and Sartaj is right outside the door. Ganesh and Sartaj trade barbs, discuss the meaning of good and evil, hold desultory conversations alternating with heated exchanges, and, finally, Singh bulldozes the building to the ground. He finds Ganesh dead of a gunshot wound, and an unknown woman dead in the bunker along with him.
How did it come to this? Of course, Singh has wanted to capture this prize for years, but why now and why in this way? The chapters that follow tell both their stories, but especially chronicle Gaitonde's rise to power. He is a clever devil, to be sure, and his tales are as captivating as those of Scheherezade. Like her he spins them out one by one and often saves part of the story for the reader--or Sartaj--to figure out. He is involved in every racket in India, corrupt to the core, but even he is afraid of Swami Shridlar Shukla, his Hindu guru and adviser. In the story Gaitonde shares with Singh and countless other characters, Vikram Chandra has written a fabulous tale of treachery, a thriller, and a tour of the mean streets of India, complete with street slang. --Valerie Ryan
Questions for Vikram Chandra
After writing his first two, critically acclaimed books, Red Earth and Pouring Rain and Love and Longing in Bombay, Vikram Chandra set off on what became, seven years later, an epic story of crime and punishment in modern Mumbai, Sacred Games. Chandra splits his time between Berkeley, where he teaches at the University of California, and Mumbai, the vast city that becomes a character in its own right in Sacred Games. We asked him a few questions about his new book.
Amazon.com: Did you imagine your book would become such an epic when you began it?
Vikram Chandra: No, not at all. When I began, I imagined a conventional crime story which began with a dead body or two, proceeded along a linear path, and ended 300 pages later with a neatly-wrapped solution. But when I began to actually investigate the particular kind of crime that I was interested in, a series of connections revealed themselves. Organized crime is of course connected to politics, both local and national, but if you're interested in political activity in India today--and elsewhere in the world--you are of course going to have to address the role of religion. These realms, in turn, intersect with the workings of the film and television industries. And all of this exists within the context of the "Great Game," the struggle between nation-states for power and dominance; some of the criminal organizations have mutually-beneficial relationships with intelligence agencies. So, I became really interested in this mesh of interlocking lives and organizations and historical forces. I began to trace how ordinary people were thrown about and forced to make choices by events and actors very far away; how disparate lives can cross each other--sometimes unknowingly--and change profoundly as a result. The form of the novel grew from this thematic interest, in an attempt to form a representation of this intricate web. The reader will, I hope, by the end of the novel see how the connections fall together and weave through each other. The individual characters, of course, see only a fragmented, partial version of this whole.
Amazon.com: You interviewed many gangsters, high and low, to research your story. How did you get introductions to them? What did they think of someone writing their life?
Chandra: When I was writing my last book, Love and Longing in Bombay (in which Sartaj Singh first appears), I had contacted some police officers and crime journalists. I stayed in touch with a few of them, and when I began to think seriously about this project I asked them to introduce me to anyone who could tell me something about organized crime. Amongst the people I met in this way were some people from the "underworld," which turns out not to be an underworld at all. It's the same world we live in, inhabited by human beings who are very much like the rest of us, even in their distinctiveness. For the most part, they were as curious about me and what I was doing as I was about them. They're not big novel readers, but they had very certain opinions about representations of their lives they had seen on the big screen: "Such-and-such film got it all wrong"--they would tell me--"don't do that." And, "This was correct, that was not." So I listened, and I hope I got it mostly right.
Amazon.com: For most American readers--like me--your story is full of slang and cultural references that we can't hope to follow. For me that's part of the charm--I feel like I'm immersed in a world I don't fully understand. Were you thinking of a particular audience as you wrote?
Chandra: I wanted to use the English that we actually speak in India, the language that I would use to tell this story if I were sitting in a bar in Mumbai talking to a friend. This English would be sprinkled with words from many Indian languages, and we would share a universe of cultural referents and facts that a reader from another country wouldn't recognize instantly. This, of course, is an experience that all of us have in a very various world. I remember reading British children's stories as a kid, and having long discussions with friends about what "crumpets" and "clotted cream" could possibly be. An Indian reader reading a novel about Arizona by an American writer might have no idea what a "pueblo" was, or why you went to a "Circle-K" to get a bottle of milk. But the context tells you something about what is being referred to, and there is a distinct delight in discovering a new world and figuring out its nuances. This is one of the great gifts of reading, that it can transport you into foreign landscapes. It's one of the reasons I read books from other cultures and places, and I hope American readers will share in this pleasure.
Amazon.com: Your book has dozens of characters who could live in books of their own. Aside from your two main figures, the policeman Sartaj Singh and the criminal Ganesh Gaitone, which was your favorite character to write?
Chandra: That would have to be Sartaj's mother, Prabhjot Kaur, as a young girl in pre-Partition India, I think. She's curious, innocent, and passionate; writing that chapter was hard and exhilarating.
Amazon.com: The movies of Bollywood (and Hollywood) are everywhere in your story, and many in your family (and you yourself) have been screenwriters and directors. For someone new to Indian film, what are some of your favorites you'd recommend?
Chandra: A very small sampling from the '50s onwards might be: Pyaasa (Thirst, 1957); Kaagaz ke Phool ("Paper Flowers," 1959); Mughal-e-Azam ("The Great Mughal," 1960); Sholay ("Embers," 1975); Parinda ("Bird," 1989); Satya (1998); Lagaan ("Land Tax," 2001); Lage Raho Munnabha ("Keep at it, Munnabhai," 2006).
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Read information about the authorVikram Chandra was born in New Delhi.
He completed most of his secondary education at Mayo College, a boarding school in Ajmer, Rajasthan. After a short stay at St. Xavier's College in Mumbai, Vikram came to the United States as an undergraduate student.
In 1984, he graduated from Pomona College (in Claremont, near Los Angeles) with a magna cum laude BA in English, with a concentration in creative writing.
He then attended the Film School at Columbia University in New York. In the Columbia library, by chance, he happened upon the autobiography of Colonel James "Sikander" Skinner, a legendary nineteenth century soldier, born of an Indian mother and a British father. This book was to become the inspiration for Vikram's novel, Red Earth and Pouring Rain. He left film school halfway to begin work on the novel.
Red Earth and Pouring Rain was written over several years at the writing programs at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Houston. Vikram worked with John Barth at Johns Hopkins and with Donald Barthelme at the University of Houston; he obtained an MA at Johns Hopkins and an MFA at the University of Houston.
While writing Red Earth and Pouring Rain, Vikram taught literature and writing, and also worked independently as a computer programmer and software and hardware consultant. His clients included oil companies, non-profit organizations, and the Houston Zoo.
Red Earth and Pouring Rain was published in 1995 by Penguin/India in India; by Faber and Faber in the UK; and by Little, Brown in the United States. The book was received with outstanding critical acclaim. It won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book and the David Higham Prize for Fiction.
A collection of short stories, Love and Longing in Bombay, was published in 1997 by Penguin/India in India; by Faber and Faber in the UK; and by Little, Brown in the United States. Love and Longing in Bombay won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book (Eurasia region); was short-listed for the Guardian Fiction Prize; and was included in "Notable Books of 1997" by the New York Times Book Review, in "Best Books of the Year" by the Independent (London), in "Best Books of the Year" by the Guardian (London), and in "The Ten Best Books of 1997" by Outlook magazine (New Delhi). Two of these stories have been formerly published in the Paris Review and The New Yorker. The story "Dharma" was awarded the Discovery Prize by the Paris Review, and was included in Year's Best Fantasy and Horror (St. Martin's Press, 1998).
A novel, Sacred Games, was published in 2006 by Penguin/India in India; and by Faber and Faber in the UK. It will be published in January 2007 in the United States by HarperCollins.
In June 1997, Vikram was featured in the New Yorker photograph of "India's leading novelists." His work has been translated into eleven languages.
He has co-written Mission Kashmir, an Indian feature film starring Sanjay Dutt, Hrithik Roshan, Preity Zinta, and Jackie Shroff, that was released internationally in late October, 2000.
Vikram's mother, Kamna Chandra, is the writer of several Hindi films including Prem Rog and 1942: A Love Story; she has also written plays for All India Radio and Doordarshan. His sister, Tanuja Chandra, is a director and screenwriter, who has directed several films including Sur and Sangharsh. His other sister Anupama Chopra is a film critic and senior correspondent for India Today; she has written Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, a BFI book about the hugely popular 1995 hit. Her first book, Sholay: The Making of a Classic, won the Swarn Kamal, a national award for the best Indian book on cinema in 1995. Vikram's father, Navin Chandra, is a retired executive.
Vikram Chandra currently divides his time between Mumbai and Berkeley, California, where he teaches creative writing at the University of California. He lives with his wife Melanie Abrams, who is also a novelist.
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