A State of Freedom
What happens when one attempts to exchange the life one is given for something better? Can we transform the possibilities we are born into?
A State of Freedom prises open the central, defining events of our century-displacement and migration-but not as you imagine them. Five characters, in very different circumstances from a domestic cook in Mumbai to a vagrant and his dancing bear, and a girl who escapes terror in her home village for a new life in the city-find out the meanings of dislocation, and the desire for more.
Moving between the reality of this world and the shadow of another, this novel of multiple narratives-formally daring, fierce but full of pity-delivers a devastating and haunting exploration of the unquenchable human urge to strive for a different life.Searing and uncanny in equal measureBrutally honest . . . Mukherjee captures the hypocrisy we all subscribe to in our comfortable livesA pleasure to read[Neel Mukherjee] writes with great empathy, revealing a Bengali sensibility-the way he describes rural Bengal is reminiscent of images from great Bengali cinema-but he is also an English novelist, with a Dickensian anger towards poverty and inequality. Like Dickens, however, he describes the horror, and does not sermonize it. . . an extraordinary account of the tenacious will to survive . . . He seeds his tales with images of unexpected beautyA powerful, memorable treatment of a theme too often reduced to uninvolving didacticismThe beauty of Mukherjee's prose sucks the reader into an alternative worldMercilessly observant, he does not spare the reader but leavens scenes of savagery, squalor and despair with moments of rainbow vividness, all the more striking for the muddy, cacophonous backdrop from which they are brought forth . . . In a significant and porous work, Mukherjee gives congruence and visibility to these fractured, hidden livesHe does what good novelists should, which is to hold up a mirror to society and remind people that what passes for normal is often barbaric. His quiet observation is effective-and damningSet in contemporary India, technically daring, deeply compassionate, it's a powerful, pertinent novel about migration and social injusticeNarrated with the precise realism that we have come to expect of Neel Mukherjee's novels . . . A State of Freedom resonates with intricate and disturbing echoes . . . Mukherjee has created an India that is always graspable and always elusiveIn Mukherjee's hands familiar fare is elevated by his empathy for the poor and the journalistic efforts he undertakes to understand them . . . his best work yet . . . This bleak and entirely justified vision of modern India is what binds together Mukherjee's stories and indeed his oeuvreA brilliant novel, deeply compassionate and painterlyBrilliant . . . I couldn't put it down . . . everything about it rang true . . . so gripping, so thrillingA splendidly rich and affirmative novelAn especially searing account of state oppression and Communist terror . . . everything is held together by Mukherjee's wonderfully inventive prose styleAn exceptional portrait of modern India-and one of the best novels this yearA State of Freedom's artfully handled piecing together of story fragments is held in tension by a counterforce of textual disintegrationAn extraordinary, compassionate, complex, hard-hitting wonder of a book. It is in a class of its ownNeel Mukherjee's breathtaking A State of Freedom is that rarest, most wonderful of things: a book both literarily dextrous, full of unforgettable scenes, images, language, and characters, as well as a furious, unsparing, clear-eyed study of how a society's gross inequities of money and power demean and deform the human condition. The most astonishing and brilliant novel I have read in a long, long timeFans of Neel Mukherjee expect that his books will be exceptional and once again he has produced just that. A State of Freedom is formally audacious, vividly observed, and deeply imagined. Unsentimental yet full of heart, grimly real yet mysteriously dreamlike, with characters who continue to live their complicated lives long after you've turned the last page. Just a beautiful, beautiful piece of workA State of Freedom is an extraordinary achievement. Subtle and multi-layered, it's a study of the brutality of social divisions, written with tremendous tenderness; a work that insists on the dignity of figures obliged to lead undignified lives. A powerful, troubling novel. The moment I finished it, I began it againThis is a great hymn to poor, scabby humanity?a devastating portrait of poverty and the inhumanity of the rich to the poor. A masterpiece!Exquisitely written, cleverly structured, powerfully resonant to the very last line . . . A profoundly intelligent and empathetic novel of privilege and poverty, advancement and entrapmentSimply gorgeous . . . A State of Freedom is a marvel of a book, shocking and beautiful, and it proves that Mukherjee is one of the most original and talented authors working todaMany of the sections are sprinkled with otherworldly moments and spectral figures, so that these narratives read almost like ghost stories, while others are rooted firmly in the achingly realistic, unequal, and unjust soil of modern day IndiaWithout announcing his experimental intent too loudly, Mukherjee rips the meat of the novel (imagery, incident, social insight, feeling, mood) from the bones (narrative and character development in the usual sense) and feeds his readers only the richest pieces . . . Mukherjee looks straight at the ugliest parts of an unequal society and uses what he finds to construct something beautifulUnsentimental, vivid, unsparing. Above all, there is compassion here . . . A calm, compelling, unshrinking portrait of humanity in transition; both disturbing and dazzlingA compassionate, deeply felt tribute to India's forgotten people who strive to triumph over subjugation. With its mixture of prose styles and narrative voices, Mukherjee's novel is a literary achievement