Books by M.G. Vassanji

Released: March 6, 2013

"An ambitious, passionate work about racial identity, deracination and the unsolvable mysteries of the human heart."
Vassanji (The Assassin's Song, 2007, etc.) employs dense yet splintered prose to mirror the dense yet splintered identity of his multicultural/multiethnic protagonist, a successful Canadian doctor who was born in Tanzania to an African mother and Indian father. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 24, 2007

"Another fine, though imperfect novel from an intelligent and inventive storyteller."
An ambitious young man travels far from his homeland, family and a burdensome ancestral obligation in the native Indian (now Canadian) author's lyrical sixth novel. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 19, 2004

"A bleak but affecting portrait of loss by a master writer (Amerika, 2001, etc.) come fully into his own. (N.B.: This is Vassanji's fifth novel and second Giller Prize winner.)"
Born and raised in East Africa, Indian Vassanji describes in spare but resonant prose the depressing realities of post-colonial Africa in telling the story of a man whose life is blighted by the times. Read full book review >
AMRIIKA by M.G. Vassanji
Released: May 14, 2001

"Vassanji is a gifted writer who has produced and will again produce better work."
This earnest and intelligent novel, the fourth from the Indian-born author (now resident in Canada) of The Book of Secrets (1996), sedulously charts an Asian-African immigrant's experience of three decades of recent American history. Arriving in the US from East Africa (Dar es Salaam) in 1968, Ramji is drawn into campus radicalism, the orbits of several charismatic men and otherwise fascinating women, and eventually contented marriage and fatherhood—until a chance meeting many years later with a vibrant younger woman (from Zanzibar) reawakens passions he thought he had put aside. It's an overly familiar story, further hampered by the fact that several of the vividly drawn secondary characters (especially Darcy, a wily African journalist and media celebrity) are so much more interesting than its pallid, and really quite generic protagonist. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 19, 1996

In a novel that won Canada's distinguished Giller Prize, East Africanborn Vassanji (No New Land, p. 102) details a languorous pursuit of secrets hinted at in an old diary—a diary that becomes in the end a search for meaning in the investigator's own life. A product of the Asian settlements in East Africa from Kenya to South Africa, Vassanji is not only telling a story but recalling a way of life that has almost disappeared as Asians have increasingly left Africa. The tale begins in 1988, when Pius Fernandes, a retired schoolteacher of Indian birth, is handed an old diary by a former student. In it he finds not only a pastime but reminders of his own failures as a shy bachelor to accept love and friendship. The diary, found in a deserted storeroom, belonged to Sir Alfred Corbin, a British colonial officer who was sent in 1913 to administer an area in Kenya, near what was then German East Africa. Fernandes reads the diary, talks to those who knew some of the people referred to, and offers excerpts, possible interpretations of events, as well as accounts of his own life. In his entries, Corbin records impressions of the new country and of his relations with Asian shopkeepers and local Africans, but he seems—as Fernandes will later be—most obsessed with Mariamu, a beautiful Indian woman who becomes his servant. Mariamu is accused of being possessed; she is not a virgin when she marries Pipa, a merchant and later a spy; and Ali, the son she soon gives birth to, is suspiciously fair. The truth of Corbin's relationship with Mariamu is further complicated by Pipa's ambiguous espionage during the 191418 war. Ali, who immigrates to Britain, eventually meets Corbin; but Fernandes, failing to learn what the truth of Ali's parentage might be, accepts the fact that perhaps we can never know the past except incompletely, ``as incompletely as we know ourselves.'' Gracefully evocative of a distant time and place, but too coolly and carefully crafted to be fully absorbing. Read full book review >
NO NEW LAND by M.G. Vassanji
Released: March 22, 1995

An intimate portrait of the Indian community in Toronto from Vassanji (Uhuru Street, not reviewed). Nurdin Lalani is an East African of Indian descent who achieves an unimpressive but respectable equilibrium in Africa as a traveling shoe-salesman. But when African independence and nationalization movements of the 1970s make the situation in his hometown of Dar untenable, Nurdin immigrates to Canada with his wife, Zera, and their two young children, Fatima and Hanif. Life in Toronto is difficult for Nurdin. While Zera gets work immediately, and the children easily adapt to Canadian culture, Nurdin himself is jobless and rootless, both intrigued and intimidated by his unfamiliar surroundings. He's also placed in the awkward position of being supported by his wife and feels that he is not respected by his children. (Fatima tells her teachers that her father is a doctor, rather than an attendant, at the Ontario Addiction Centre, where he finally finds work.) Nurdin's solace and escape is in the strong Indian community that has somehow managed to replicate its East African lifestyle in Toronto, albeit modified. Gulshan Bai, for example, who had cooked for the residents of Dar over coal and wood fires with the help of numerous servants, continues to cook, but alone, in her apartment. Vassanji writes that ``it is not unusual to find coming down in an elevator a well-dressed young couple looking stiffly in front, holding...the local version of a bundle that a Gujarati peasant might carry: a plastic bag around several plastic containers.'' Best, here, are the author's descriptions of a transplanted people clinging to their past. The plot, loosely woven around Nurdin's being accused of molesting a woman, is secondary. Clear-eyed, sympathetic, and absorbing. Read full book review >