Book Review: The Lovers- A Novel by Amitava Kumar

  • ISBN: 978-9386021007
  • Genre: Fiction 
  • Publishers: Aleph Book Company
  • Price: Rs. 599/-  ( I got the book for review from the publisher)
The Lovers is about a man in search of a love story. This man, our narrator, is Kailash—a new immigrant, eager to shine. His friends teasingly call him Kalashnikov and sometimes AK-47, even AK. In his account of his years at a university in New York, AK takes us through the bittersweet arc of youth and love. There is discovery and disappointment. There are the brilliant women, Jennifer and Nina and Cai Yan. There is the political texture of campus life and the charismatic professor overseeing these young men and women, Ehsaan Ali (modelled on the real-life Eqbal Ahmad) manifest in AK’s first years and first loves is the wild enthusiasm of youth, its idealism, chaotic desires and confusions.

A decidedly modern novel that melds story and reportage, anecdote and annotation, picture and text, fragment and essay, The Lovers reminds us of the works of John Berger and Teju Cole. Funny, meditative, and shot through with waves of longing, the book explores feelings of discomfort about cultural misunderstandings and the lack of clarity between men and women. At heart though, it is an investigation of love—‘love despite, or in spite of; love beyond and across dividing lines’.

Behind the Book

About the Author
Amitava Kumar is the author of A Matter of Rats: A Short Biography of Patna; Home Products, which was shortlisted for the Crossword Prize; and A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb, which the New York Times described as a ‘perceptive and soulful...meditation on the global war on terror and its cultural and human repercussions’, and received the Page Turner Award. Kumar’s writing has appeared in Caravan, Harper’s, The Guardian, New Yorker, Vanity Fair and the New York Times. His essay ‘Pyre’, first published in Granta, was selected by Jonathan Franzen for Best American Essays 2016. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2016. Kumar is Professor of English at Vassar College.

Me thinks

The first feeling I got on holding this book was that of melancholy after looking at the cover, and that feeling continued throughout the book. The Lovers comes across as a deadly combination of what we want and what we don't have in our relationships. Man has reached the moon and yet unfortunately relationships continue to be a complex, unconquered territory where one tends to tread with caution. Social media might have given us a plethora of options to communicate, however we still remain challenged when it comes to communicating with loved ones. This book deals with such chaos and confusion very beautifully. 

The most admirable thing about this book has to be the honesty in it. The honesty that reflects not only in words and descriptions but also in the characters and the plot line as well. They all are flawed and neither of them are striving to be perfect, just the way real life has become in today's times. On a lighter note it would be appropriate to call it an honest account of the chaotic life in love.

Through the main protagonist Kailash's story the author takes us into the never ending maze of love and longing, soon bringing us to a point of no return. It is overwhelming to see what all a person goes through in the name of love, not to forget that fortunately unfortunately neither of the parties involved are at fault here. It is a simple miscommunication or hitherto the complete lack of it at work that creates such scenarios. I enjoyed the humorous tone the author has adopted while narrating a few scenes drawing attention to the fact that the situations, more often than not , are laughable but we tend to take them seriously leading to serious implications. My favourite portions have to be the ones where the author has talked about the banal in a manner that they seem to be the most extraordinary. These were the pages I hung onto the most for they tugged my heart, urging me to keep finding the extraordinary in the most ordinary.

Overall, one story that made me rethink, re-analyze and most importantly re-assess life. I would recommend it to all who enjoy reading love stories which are poignant, deep, melancholic and metaphorical.

Foodie Verdict

This book is like Banarasi Sewai - Brimming with nostalgia and goodness of love , sprinkled with liberal doses of memories

Source: Evergreen Recipes