The Banker, the Visitor, His Wife and Her Lover

Amitava Kumar’s review of “In the Light of What We Know” by Zia Haider Rahman: NYT

ZiaHRahmanAnother month, another bright young star in the firmament of Indian writing.

I didn’t write that sentence. It appeared in these pages almost 14 years ago, in August 2000, opening a review of a debut novel written by a young writer who was an investment banker on Wall Street. When I first read that line, I remember wondering how long it would be before the lights were turned off and the attention of the literary marketplace moved to another patch of the sky.

I had reason to be nervous. At a writers’ festival I had attended in Connecticut earlier that summer, a leading literary agent had told the audience that editors and publishers were turning away from Indian fiction — as well as homeopathy books.

I can’t speak on behalf of homeopathy books, notwithstanding my fond nostalgia for the slim, corked vials on my mother’s night stand during my childhood years, bearing poetic names like Belladonna, Arnica and Pulsatilla. But books in English with their origins in the Indian subcontinent are an entirely different matter. Since the year 2000, there has continued to be a lot of planetary motion in these skies.

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