"Love. Madness. Hope. Infinite joy" are, according to a character in an excerpt from Arundhati Roy's first novel (The God of Small Things, p. 412) included in this fascinating anthology, "the four things that were possible in human nature." All four are present in abundance in the 34 works (two memoirs, the rest stories or novel excerpts) gathered here. In a lively, terse introduction, Rushdie notes that the pieces represent 50 years of work by four generations of Indian writers, and that they are as various as "the huge crowd of a country" they hail from—"that vast, metamorphic, continent-sized culture that feels, to Indians and visitors alike, like a nonstop assault on the senses, the emotions, the imagination, and the spirit." Indeed, the most immediate impression is of extraordinary variety: The works here range from Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's cool, somber "In the Mountains" to Bapsi Sidhwa's nightmarish record of the destruction of a Muslim village in "Ranna's Story," and from the complex realism of Rohinton Mistry's "The Collectors" to the impressionistic tongue-in-cheek narrative "The Trotter-Name," by I. Allan Sealy. The stories do share, though, a clear, persistent desire to locate an identity for India, as well as the struggle to reflect in written language the sheer zest of India's many tongues. An eye-opening anthology, and the best introduction to the large body of distinctive fiction being generated by Indian writers.
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