From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Winner of the U.K.'s Commonwealth Prize, Dasgupta's second book (after Tokyo Canceled) is bold, enigmatic, and thought-provoking. After his pragmatic father crushes Ulrich's passion for music, he turns to chemistry, a subject that takes him to Berlin, "the capital of world science," during the ebb of the Ottoman Empire. He works alongside researchers on the forefront of discovery and shares the halls with Albert Einstein. But WWI forces him back home to Bulgaria and into a bookkeeping job at a chemical plant, where years of political upheavals leading to communism drive Ulrich into a private world of experimentation that ends decades later when he's blinded in an accident. Yet his mind remains very much alive, and the "second movement" of the book reveals a richly imagined world involving a Bulgarian musical prodigy, an American executive, and Georgian siblings whose lives all intersect in New York. With this ambitious structure, Dasgupta's subtle architecture gives rise to questions of modernity, memory, and human failures. Lucid prose and a narrative scheme both demanding and inchoate reveal a writer beginning to deploy his considerable powers. (Feb.)
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Following his critically acclaimed debut, Tokyo Cancelled (2005), Dasgupta presents two loosely connected novels. The first, set in Bulgaria, follows Ulrich, from privileged boyhood at the dawn of the last century to destitute old age. As decades evaporate in a whirl of revolution, war, and political upheaval, Ulrich’s possibilities shrink and his life grows increasingly narrow. Yet the meagerness of his circumstances belies the richness of his inner daydreams, which form the second half of the novel. A new set of characters, vividly imagined by Ulrich, ultimately collide in modern-day New York. (One is a writer, allowing Dasgupta to flex his considerable poetic talent.) The first half moves at a stately pace, while the second throbs to a twenty-first-century beat, with pieces of Ulrich’s real life cleverly repurposed to create an echo effect. With an intriguing bifurcated storytelling device, this is a novel of dazzling ideas and emotion in which Dasgupta comes to astonishingly beautiful and original conclusions about love, loss, and aging, and his protagonist realizes “There is far more to us than what we live.” --Patty Wetli