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Solo Hardcover – February 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547397089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547397085
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,063,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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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From Booklist

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

More About the Author

Rana Dasgupta was born in the UK in 1971 and grew up in Cambridge. As an adult he lived in France, Malaysia and the US before moving to Delhi in 2000.

His first book, "Tokyo Cancelled", was published in 2005. Narrated by travelers stuck for a night in an airport, "Tokyo Cancelled" is a cycle of folktales about our contemporary world of globalization, corporations, film stars and illegal immigrants. It was short-listed for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the Vodafone Crossword Award.

"Solo" came out in the UK in 2009 and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. Set in Bulgaria, "Solo" follows the life and daydreams of a melancholy centenarian, so embarking on an epic exploration of science, memory, music and failure. "Solo" has been translated into twelve languages and will be available in the US in February 2011.

"Capital: the Eruption of Delhi", his most recent book, is a non-fiction portrait of Rana Dasgupta's adopted city.


REVIEWS OF "TOKYO CANCELLED"

"Only the most gifted writers can hold the surreal and the real in satisfying equilibrium. This elite now welcomes Rana Dasgupta to its ranks" - Time Out

"Brilliantly conceived and jauntily delivered" - San Francisco Chronicle

"These stories ... ah, they outdo the Arabian Nights for inventiveness. One closes the book with head spinning" - The Guardian

REVIEWS OF "SOLO"

"Solo is ... utterly unforgettable in its humanity" - The Guardian

"A necessary as well as a timely novel" - Sunday Business Post

"Weird, wonderful and warmly wise" - Daily Mail

"This is an important work" - The Australian

REVIEWS OF "CAPITAL"

an "intense, lyrical, erudite and powerful book... Dasgupta has provided a welcome corrective to the reams of superficial travel writing describing the whimsical, the exotic, the booming or simply the poverty-stricken in India. His is a much more complex, darker story." - The Guardian

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Customer Reviews

I couldn't finish the book.
Sheetal Bahl
I'm not totally sure if I liked the way it became clear, but I think in the very end, I did (without giving too much away).
jennahw
I look forward to his next book.
Abeer Y. Hoque

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Evelyn A. Getchell TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Oh what a brilliant, brilliant novel Rana Dasgupta's Solo is! Books like this are the reason I love to read. I think Rana Dasgupta is a virtuoso of the first order, an author who has boldly created a real work of mastery and originality.

Solo has a haunting quality that continues to stay with me. I can't seem to find the words to describe the book's impact on me. It moved me; it repelled me; it gave me pause; it raised familiar questions concerning reality and dream, thought and mind, what dies or what remains. It is a stunning reading experience, rich in narrative and poetic in prose. It is a novel I am eager to return to again and again because I know I will make new discoveries with each reading.

Solo is both a vehicle for philosophical and psychological musings and a sweeping narrative through history and culture. Literary analysis may engage the book's meaning but will fail to illuminate the spell it can cast on the willing reader. It is a novel of science, of ideas, of poetry, of music. It is written with dreamlike lyricism and emotional intensity, a novel in two movements ~ "Life" and "Daydreams."

"Life" represents the story of Ulrich, a one hundred year old blind Bulgarian man, nearing the end of his life, living minimally and alone in a decaying public housing apartment in modern day Sofia. Through the care and generosity of neighbors, Ulrich has survived. His primary entertainment is his television which keeps him informed of every kind of "modern wisdom.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie De Pue VINE VOICE on January 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Solo,"by Rana Dasgupta, was awarded the U.K. Commonwealth Prize. As almost every other reviewer has already told you, it falls into two parts - two movements, the author calls them, and considering the importance of music in the book, that's quite appropriate.

First Movement is "Life." It opens in Sofia, capital of Bulgaria, in the Balkans of Eastern Europe. And it introduces us to the exceptionally long-lived Ulrich, he's almost 100 years old and now blind, and he's the son of a successful railway engineer who admired the Germans. It opens early in the twentieth century, before World War I, which was begun in the Balkans. His father comes back from that war a cripple, and then we are in the expansive 1920s. Ulrich loves music, but his father won't tolerate that as a career choice: the boy's also interested in chemistry, and his father sends him to Berlin to study with the world's greatest chemists, such as Fritz Haber, while Albert Einstein, world's most famous mathematician, wanders the halls. But then comes the stock market crash of 1929; Ulrich's father's holdings evaporate, and the son is called back to Sofia to support his family. The Depression 30s are rather glum, as you might expect. Then comes World War II and occupation of the country by the Germans, also a rather glum period, as you might expect. The end of World War II brings the Russian invasion and occupation - this for many years. And the situation is even glummer, as you might expect. First thing to be said is, if Dasgupta didn't actually live in Bulgaria for a while, it must have required a considerable amount of research, and powers of imagination, to give us such a vivid take on the capital and the country, and I congratulate the author.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Like a musical composition,* this novel is divided into two movements. The second of them is not bad at all. The trouble is that you have to get through the first movement to reach it, and this is dry and depressing. It is the failed life of an old Bulgarian man known only as Ulrich. Ulrich has two passions as a child: music and chemistry. The first ends when his father burns his violin. He gets far enough with the second to study in Berlin and meet Einstein, but has to abandon his degree when his parents lose their money. Thereafter, he works as a clerk, then as the manager of a chemical factory charged with impossible goals in each successive Five Year Plan. His romantic life fizzles out in failure. Now retired, blind, poor, and nearing 100, all he has are the daydreams which form his legacy.

These make up the second half of the book, and restore at least some of the music that had vanished completely from the first part. But it is a savage music, a grotesque scherzo. It begins almost as a series of short stories: a feral boy living alone in an abandoned factory playing on an old fiddle, the beautiful but impoverished daughter of a former princess who marries a Georgian gangster and takes on much of his ruthlessness, and an American record producer credited with the invention of world music as a popular genre. Eventually, these strands interweave. Dasgupta has gifts as a storyteller, and there is a color, an energy, a wild poetry here that the first part lacks. But his momenta of ecstasy go over the top, and there is too much reliance on drugs, alcohol, and sex. None of these characters is entirely likeable, and this second part also reflects the wanton hardness, squandering of resources, and disregard for humanity that made the first part so distasteful.
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