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The Valley of Masks by Tarun J. Tejpal
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The Valley of Masks

by Tarun J. Tejpal

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Sometimes, literary prizes serve a very useful role in publicising books that have escaped attention, and it’s probably true that I would never have come across this remarkable book, The Valley of Masks, had it not been longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2011. It is a confronting work, but I found it intriguing reading with a powerful message for our times.

The Valley of Masks is a parable. It is a passionate warning about the dangers of fundamentalism and warped ideologies espousing ‘purity’. Like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale it depicts a barren society in a dystopian landscape; and in its themes it resembles two of George Orwell’s novels: like Animal Farm it shows how a mask of equality can be a sham; like 1984 it shows the heroic resistance of the individual against homogeneity.

The story begins as the first-person narrator waits for his doom. He knows that they are coming for him, but he is determined to tell his story while he has time. Having spent most of his life in certainty, he now wants to sow doubt … ‘one word, possibly, greater than music or love’…which ‘should forever alternate with faith as day does with night’. (p350)

To read the rest of my review please visit http://anzlitlovers.com/2011/12/10/the-valley-of-masks-by-tarun-j-tejpal-shadow-... (where you can also find reviews of other 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize longlisted books) ( )
1 vote anzlitlovers | Dec 11, 2011 |
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"The harrowing dystopian thriller that was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize Late at night, in a dingy apartment hidden in a side street of a nondescript foreign city, a man tries to write out his story before daybreak. He doesn't believe he'll live to see daylight, and he's driven to tell the world the story of his killers while there's still time. Until he escaped, the man himself was one of those killers, known only as "X470." He was a Wafadar, one of a brotherhood of trained, ninja-like assassins indoctrinated with the task of protecting the commune, an anonymous collective hidden in a valley of the Himalayas--where all the inhabitants wear masks to heighten the perception of equality. Among the Wafadar, every vestige of individualism has been effaced. Even to sing is to provoke violent punishment. They serve only perfection and equality--and Aum, their mystic progenitor. X470 has killed, too, attesting to his fealty. But now, he is a Dagadaar--a traitor--simply because he wanted to take his mask off. The Valley of Masks is an Orwellian parable of 'the tyranny of the idea... when the idea becomes more important than the man.'"--… (more)

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