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The Artist of Disappearance Paperback – November 20, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


A Best Fiction Audiobook of 2012. ""Anita Desai's The Artist of Disappearance, captures refined longing in all of its lonely, repressed majesty."" - SoundCommentary
Starred Review. ""...ensnaring novellas of consummate artistry and profoundly disquieting perceptions...master storyteller...provocative and mysterious..."" - Booklist
""...poignant and wry...a deft exploration of the limits people place on themselves by trying to cling to the past."" - Kirkus Reviews
""This collection leaves an indelible impression of the conflicts and ambitions found in a region riddled with conflict."" - Publishers Weekly
Editors' Choice. ""Desai is a brilliant anatomist of men and women who seek and gain but fail to triumph."" - The New York Times
""A pleasurably irony reading about these lost landscapes of the Indian soul sketched so deftly by Anita Desai."" - NPR
Book of the Week. ""You'll find yourself whipping through pages...stopping only to drool over their descriptions, which is the real treasure of this book, sentences as wondrous as the wonders they bring to life."" - Life Lift, The Oprah blog
""...superb...deceptively subtle, slightly surreal and profoundly insightful fiction."" - The Washington Post
""Desai explores [India] with such heart in this collection. It's a minute, multifarious world, totally unlike any other."" - Los Angeles Times
""...beautiful...Desai's novellas are classic, entranced with the grace of slowly unspooling narrative...breathtaking portraits of contemporary India..."" - Boston Globe
""As shrewd as she is compassionate, Desai crafts little snow globes in which characters - trapped, magnified and exposed to unfriendly eyes - try to find ways to live within their limits."" - The Columbus Dispatch
""This collection represents an author at the height of her powers. The stories found in The Artist of Disappearance feel light but are possessed of a significant inner strength, the clean and vivid prose akin almost to the flow of a stream: calm and tranquil on the surface but frenzied underneath."" - Irish Examiner (UK)
""...sensitive, subtle and unsettling...heartbreakingly honest...Delicate and deeply affecting."" - Barnes & Noble Review
""The three novellas collected here provide a varied portrayal of contemporary Indian life both urban and rural...united by complementary themes and, of course, by Desai's clear, precise and often lovely prose."" -
--This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.

About the Author

ANITA DESAI is the author of Fasting, Feasting, Baumgartner’s Bombay, Clear Light of Day, and Diamond Dust, among other works. Three of her books have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Desai was born and educated in India and now lives in the New York City area.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (November 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547840128
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547840123
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,037,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Artist of Disappearance consists of three long stories (billed as novellas). Stories of this length deserve to be rated independently.

A young civil servant in training, stuck in the backwaters of India, must decide how to respond to a request for government support to preserve a private museum and its surprising collection of treasures. Later in life, the man is occasionally troubled by self-doubt for reasons that the reader must intuit. Apart from my appreciation of Anita Desai's writing style, nothing about this story grabbed me. I would give "The Museum of Final Journeys" 4 stars.

In "Translator Translated," a woman searches for her roots by relearning her childhood language and visiting the remote region where it is still spoken. The lyrical work of a provincial writer inspires her to translate the text, but she finds its eventual publication to be less than the transformative experience she had imagined. When the writer sends the translator a disappointing novel, the story explores the role of the translator: should she be faithful to the original text or should she try to improve it, essentially becoming a co-author? This is the best of the three stories: 5 stars.

"The Artist of Disappearance" starts as the story of a quiet life -- too quiet to be gripping. Ravi, an adopted boy, raised to be rarely seen and never heard, becomes a reclusive adult, more comfortable in the wilderness than in the company of people. The story gains energy when documentary makers, searching for environmental degradation, stumble upon the landscape art that Ravi has devoted himself to creating, a garden that has blossomed out of devastation. But will Ravi's work be desecrated if outsiders are permitted to gaze upon it?
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Always an astute observer and subtle writer about human nature, Anita Desai is at her best here, creating three novellas revealing the interplay between a main character dealing with universal issues and a second character who sees the world and its values quite differently. The result is book that is morally serious and filled with thematically weighty stories which also reveal subtle, unspoken lessons - neither moralistic, obvious, nor absolute. As each main character approaches the end of a problem, s/he might well conclude that what s/he wants, "[is] dead, a dead loss, a waste of time." But "the loss" is not the point. The reader gains a new appreciation of the small joys and great sorrows which fill the lives of plain people in rural India trying to find beauty and, perhaps, the fulfillment of dreams within an overwhelming reality. All the characters want to preserve something beautiful and important, but all must persevere against insensitive powers. Ultimately, each main character becomes an "artist of disappearance," either physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

In "The Museum of Final Journeys," an old man from the countryside visits a new county official, begging for help. The old man has been working all his life for the same family, now dead or missing. The only son has traveled the world, collecting objects which he sends to his mother. After her death, the objects continue to arrive, and the old servant and his assistant must sell off the furniture to create a museum for these stuffed animals and birds, miniature paintings from Persia and the Mughal Empire, and antique weapons of war, among other things. The final gift is the one which the old man loves most, but it requires a great deal of maintenance.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Romila Sudhir on January 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Kindle edition of this book contains only one of the novellas whereas the print version has three. Its very misleading when Amazon lists the kindle version along with the full edition. Very disappointing when you expect to have the whole book and only get part of it. DO NOT BUY THE KINDLE EDITION!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Friederike Knabe VINE VOICE on December 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Ever since discovering Anita Desai's novels in the late 1970s, I have been drawn to her gentle and elegant writing, her subtle humour, and her ways of bringing to life an India of the early post-colonial times, i.e. on the cusp of change into a modern society. Award winning author and three-time Booker Prize finalist, Anita Desai, was born and raised in India by her German mother and Indian father. Despite having lived outside India for decades now, she has maintained strong emotional ties to India, to her past experiences, and to memories of individuals who lived on the margins or outside society's mainstream, whether socially, culturally or linguistically. In her new book, "The Artist of Disappearance", she returns to familiar themes in the more condensed format of novella. In her three stories she reminds us of an Indian past where tradition and modernity can often stand in more or less stark contrast with each other and where change for one individual can entail a deep feeling of insecurity and apprehension of the unknown. Desai is a master of creating a sense of place in her descriptions and she beautifully evokes the natural environments with poetry and lyrical language.

The novellas in this collection, while independent snapshots on three individuals at a specific, significant point in their lives, are, nonetheless, thematically connected at a deeper level. Not only is their setting primarily rural and remote from urban, modern centres, each protagonist is presented with an option for change - a window of opportunity - that would take him or her beyond their current station. For me, each novella connects to the next in a build-up, like pieces of music where intensity and crescendo grow until something new and different can emerge.
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