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The Assassin's Song by M.G. Vassanji
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The Assassin's Song (edition 2009)

by M.G. Vassanji

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195562,147 (3.53)5
Member:LizzySiddal
Title:The Assassin's Song
Authors:M.G. Vassanji
Info:Canongate Books Ltd (2009), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
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The Assassin's Song by M.G. Vassanji

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Pretty good. Got some insights about India. ( )
  gregory_gwen | Dec 3, 2010 |
Pretty good. Got some insights about India. ( )
  LTFL_JMLS | Dec 3, 2010 |
The Assassin’s Song tells the story of Karsan Dargawalla. Beginning with his childhood in rural India, Karsan becomes aware of his destiny to succeed his father as the spiritual leader of their community and the protector of The Shrine of the Wanderer – servicing all who come there to worship. However, Karsan begins to discover there is a much more exciting world beyond their home and – on a whim – applies and is accepted to study half a world away at Harvard University. What ensues is Karsan’s coming-of-age in a foreign land, but not without the constant tug of his family, his heritage and many tragedies trying to pull him back.

Vassanji’s writing is beautiful – almost lyrical – throughout the novel. However he relies far too much on lyrical verse early in the book and the story evolves very slowly. Near the middle of the story, as Karsan is making his decision to leave his home, the story starts to pick up the pace and becomes a very interesting tale of his coming of age, successes and some rather humorous failures. The really draws us into Karsan’s life and makes the early parts of the story worth reading through. However, just when the story gains momentum, it flounders. Karsan becomes lost, but the story seems to get lost as well, failing to provide the ready much to cling onto. The last third of the book seems to really wander. Karsan’s brother is reintroduced near the end, but nothing about him or his relationship with Karsan is developed and we are left with a lot of new questions that are never answered. In the end, Karsan seems more an uninterested observer of his life rather than a participant in it.

The Assassin’s Song had some interesting moments along the way and Vassanji’s writing is beautiful by its own right, but unless you are looking to immerse yourself in Indian culture, there won’t be much of a story to hold your interest. ( )
  csayban | Jun 23, 2009 |
Karsan is heir to position of saheb, but he feels it is too restrictive and almost impulsively goes to America to study. Essentially he tries to run away from his identity. And this is what I liked about the story -- it examines identity, and asks how much of it do we shape ourselves, and how much are we shaped by our ancestry, our heritage, our family, and our destiny? What does it mean to escape from the familial expectations; can we escape? The answers suggested here are not going to be the right answers for everyone, but it was good to walk with Karsan through his journey.

A confusing start, perhaps because I am so unfamiliar with the Indian and religious terms. But I was able to understand the general idea of the intro and soon picked up on the intertwining stories and the larger narrative. The book gives me an entirely different perspective of India than I have from reading books by Rohinton Mistry. ( )
1 vote LDVoorberg | Nov 28, 2008 |
The tale of individuation has been told and told, but feeding the soil of this novel's garden of narratives is the less often explored, living history of saints and sahebs. "The Assassin's Song" dips into the colorful chronicles of a centuries-old lineage, seemingly in hopes of bringing up some fresh insight on the relevance of history to destiny. But the author unfortunately nurses the pedestrian neuroses of the humble, likable hero and leaves it to the end to toss off a disappointingly crisp nod to the alluring origins of the title's namesake, arguably the book's most interesting character. It's a novel that requires patience, empathy, and curiosity and offers no special facility with language--no delicious poetics or rhythm to inspire the reader's own momentum. And so one is left with the slow growth of an unwitting hero and the gradual decline of one of Southeast Asia's rich religious traditions and most fascinating periods of history into awkward plot devices. Recommended only for India buffs. ( )
  pedalinfaith | Jul 23, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 038566351X, Hardcover)

M.G. Vassanji’s magnificent new novel provides further proof of his unique, wide ranging and profound genius. The Assassin’s Song is a shining study of the conflict between ancient loyalties and modern desires, a conflict that creates turmoil the world over – and it is at once an intimate portrait of one man’s painful struggle to hold the earthly and the spiritual in balance.

In The Assassin’s Song, Karsan Dargawalla tells the story of the medieval Sufi shrine of Pirbaag, and his betrayal of its legacy. But Karsan’s conflicted attempt to settle accounts quickly blossoms into a layered tale that spans centuries: from the mysterious Nur Fazal’s spiritual journeys through thirteenth century India, to his shrine’s eventual destruction in the horrifying "riots" of 2002.

From the age of eleven, Karsan has been told that one day he will succeed his father as guardian of the Shrine of the Wanderer: as the highest spiritual authority in their region, he will be God’s representative to the multitudes who come to the shrine for penance and worship. But Karsan’s longings are simpler: to play cricket with his friends, to discover more of the exciting world he reads about in the newspapers his friend Raja Singh, a truck driver, brings him from all over India.

Half on a whim, Karsan applies to study at Harvard, but when he is unexpectedly offered a scholarship there he must try to meld his family’s wishes with his own yearnings. Two years immersed in the intellectual and sexual ferment of America splits him further, until finally Karsan abdicates his successorship to the eight hundred-year-old throne.

But even as Karsan succeeds in his "ordinary" life – marrying and having a son, becoming a professor in suburban British Columbia – his heritage haunts him in unexpected ways. And after tragedy strikes, both in Canada and Pirbaag, he is drawn back across thirty years of silence and separation to discover what, if anything, is left for him in India.

Both sweeping and intimate, The Assassin’s Song is a great novel in the grandest sense: a book that captures the intricate complexities of the individual conscience even as it grippingly portrays entire civilizations in tumult.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:56:53 -0400)

"In the aftermath of the brutal violence that gripped western India in 2002, Karsan Dargawalla, heir to Pirbaag - the shrine of a mysterious, medieval sufi - begins to tell the story of his family and the shrine now destroyed. His tale opens in the 1960s: young Karsan is next in line after his father to assume lordship of the Shrine of the Wanderer, and take his place as a representative of God to the multitudes who come there. But he longs to be "just ordinary" - to play cricket and be part of the exciting world he reads about in the stacks of newspapers a truck driver brings him from all across India. And when, to his utter amazement, he is accepted at Harvard, he can't resist the opportunity to go finally "into the beating heart of the world."" "Despite his father's epistolary attempts to keep Karsan close to traditional ways, the excitements and discoveries of his new existence in America soon prove more compelling, and after a bitter quarrel he abdicates his successorship to the ancient throne. Yet even as he succeeds in his "ordinary" life - marrying and having a son, becoming a professor in suburban British Columbiahis heritage haunts him in unexpected ways. After tragedy strikes, both in Canada and in Pirbaag, he is drawn back across thirty years of separation and silence to discover what, if anything, is left for him in India." "A story of grand historical sweep and intricate personal drama, an evocation of the physical and emotional landscape of a man caught between the ancient and the modern, between legacy and discovery, between the most daunting filial obligation and the most undeniable personal yearning - The Assassin's Song is a ballad of a life irrevocably changed."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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