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Half the Night is Gone Hardcover – 30 Jun 2018
Hardcover, 30 Jun 2018
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About the Author
Amitabha Bagchi is the author of three novels. The first, Above Average, was a bestseller. His second novel, the Householder, was published to critical acclaim and the third, This Place, was shortlisted for the Raymond Crossword Book Award 2014. Bagchi lives in New Delhi with his wife and son.
From the Publisher
Half The Night Is Gone by Amitabha Bagchi (Juggernaut Books)
A Dazzling Novel that Explores the Legacies that Fathers Bequeath their Sons
Fatherhood and familial inheritances ring deep in Amitabha Bagchi’s fourth novel Half the Night is Gone. Lala Motichand, a wealthy Delhi-based merchant is the lord of his palatial haveli in early 20th century India, served by a small army of servants, particularly Mange Ram, a former wrestler and his personal servant. Motichand’s relationship with his three sons is strained. He expects his oldest son and heir, the England-educated Dinanath, to take over the mantle of his business. He has a tenuous hold on the spiritually inclined Diwanchand. Meanwhile he keeps a close watch on his third son, the illegitimate Makhan Lal, a schoolteacher wrapped up in the revolutionary fervour of Marx and Bhagat Singh.
Motichand and his scions are all characters, however, in the pages of ageing Hindi novelist Vishwanath. Dealing with the recent death of his own son, Vishwanath’s letters provide a sharp contrast to the historical fiction penned by him. The celebrated writer uses his fiction to navigate the unbroken threads binding fathers and sons through a nostalgic reconstruction of India’s feudal past.
Amitabha Bagchi was born in 1974 in Delhi. He is the author of three novels. The first, Above Average, was his bestseller. His second novel, The Householder, was published to critical acclaim and the third, This Place, was shortlisted for the Raymond Crossword Book Award 2014. He picked up the notion that telling stories was something worth doing when his father told stories at the dining table – of encounters with amusing or important people, or interesting things he had come across in his travels. “His tellings were always laced with a kind delight in the world.” Bagchi is also a computer science professor in New Delhi. His day job throws up complex and engaging problems that he thinks is very useful to have when you need to think away from a writing project, which is often. The writing, in turn, acts as an escape route that allows him to put knotty research problems on the backburner.
A colleague once asked him: “One of these is a hobby, the Computer Science or the writing. Which one?” So I told him, honestly, that I didn’t know. They are both hobbies, and they are both my job. Bagchi lives in Delhi.
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The most exciting trail of this book is that how it relates the ‘individualism’ with ‘institutionalism.’ How their ‘big things’ affect our ‘small things’ and how our ‘small things’ eventually become their ‘big things.’ For instance, Vishwanath's political standing had immense relevance with ‘who we are today.’ His ideological war against left radicalism and romanticism with Gandhianism is raw and palatable to every second Indian of that generation. I loved the way how his political ideology gets intervened with his personal sorrow. How we, the broken ones-- individual, always try to make sense of our suffering from institutionalism.
Another subplot that intrigued me the most was ‘toxic masculinity’ (I did not use the word ‘patriarchy,’ here J ). Mange Ram and Lala Chand were classic victims of the male-ego grid system in Indian society. They were so distanced from their selves that they could not even make sense of their own grief. I loved the instances in the book where they were shown entirely oblivious to their own vulnerabilities. Another common, but rarely discussed trait, I see in typical north-Indians males.
But what I loved the most is the structure of the book. To be very honest, I was a bit scared before picking up this book—three generations intervened, religious sub-text, a changing country, and a sorrowing novelist. Before reading, I thought am I ready to take this journey? However, while reading, not for a moment, I felt that I was bombarded with loose ends or unnecessary sub-plots. The structure of this book is inspirational and aspirational at so many levels. The epistolary treatment of the book (mainly the interjections of the letters) made this magnum opus a subtle tale of existence that can be consumed and enjoyed by amateur readers as well.
After all, when I read the epilogue’s last line (… his second peda of the day is waiting for him) I reconnected to the title of the book ‘Half the Night is gone’—the melancholy of the ‘gone’ and the hopefulness of the other ‘half’ that is left.
Vishwanath is a celebrated Hindi novelist, Sahitya Academy Award winner & his debut novel has been adopted as a tv show, but between all this as he loses his only son to an accident & between all the internal emotional turmoil he is going through, he writes another story. This story is set in pre independence era where we follow the life & household of Lala Motichand. A wealthy merchant with 3 sons, Dinanath being the eldest he understands his responsibilities & is keen to help his father expand their business, then there’s Diwanchand who is more interested in poetry & Tulsidas’ work & lastly there’s his illegitimate son Makhan Lal who is made a schoolteacher by his father in order keep him under his supervision so that he doesn’t cause him any trouble. It also follows the story of their servant Mange Ram & his son Parsadi. Get this book to enter into a whirlwind of emotions ready to sweep you away to the lives of Vishwanath & his characters,
Being the first book by the author that I got to read, I had no expectations or clue of his style of writing but I liked the idea of a story inside another story. All the characters whether from Vishwanath’s world or the characters he wrote about were so real that any reader would instantly be reminded of some incident or person from their lives & that according to me is a hard thing to achieve. The stories have been interwoven as Vishwanath has mirrored some parts of his life into his story making a full circle. I don’t think I have read any book which has made me cautious about the words I choose to describe it, as it is so beautifully written that it would be dishonoring the author’s work if I mistakenly choose a less perfect word for it. The story, its pace, the characters, the emotions everything is near to perfect if not perfect. The language is a bit difficult but most masterpieces are like that, the title is beautiful & its relevance can be unearthed once you’ve read the book & the cover is breathtaking.