Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
An Outline of the Republic: A Novel Hardcover – April 12, 2005
Discover Memorable Fiction Books
AbeBooks.com, an Amazon Company, recommends a unique list of must-read books. Learn More on AbeBooks.com.
From Publishers Weekly
The pursuit of a mysterious story transforms an Indian reporter in Deb's ambitious second novel (after The Point of Return), vividly capturing the unrest and political infighting that underlies daily life in much of India. Amrit Singh is the bored, disillusioned Sikh protagonist who grinds through his days working for a Calcutta daily until he is jolted from his ennui by an assignment to cover the murder of a woman taken hostage and apparently shot and killed by an insurgent group. A photo of the woman haunts Amrit as he travels toward the Burmese border. At first she is identified as a porn star who was killed to set a moral example, but as Amrit makes his way through a labyrinth of politicos, military figures and shady allies, he learns that the woman, named Leela, was working with a prominent local leader on an optimistic renewal enterprise called the Prosperity Project. The climax is a mixed bag--the fate of Malik, the organizer of the Prosperity Project, who was temporarily able to do business with the insurgents, makes for an intriguing twist--but the final chapters outlining Amrit's efforts to interview Leela are a serious letdown. Still, Deb's intelligent writing and cool, observational tone distinguish this look at the curious mixture of danger, hope and boredom endemic to India's remote provinces.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The border between India and Burma is the site of rampant violence, terrorism, and corruption as rival ethnic groups fight for territory. Amrit Singh, a Sikh without a turban and a Calcutta journalist without conviction, is sent there by the Sentinel, but he has his own assignment in mind. He is obsessed with a young woman in a photograph who is being held captive by two machine-gun-wielding insurgents; however, his search for her is stymied by army searches, insurgent actions, and a landslide. Strangers appear and tell him complicated stories, and nothing is what it seems in this atmospheric tale of fear and cynicism trumping good intentions. This is Graham Greene territory (Greene even appears in a curious flashback cameo), and Deb, whose first novel, The Point of Return (2003), met with much acclaim, writes as dramatically and astutely of the state of ambivalence as he does about his volatile homeland, which serves here as a microcosm for the world's many besieged places where, as Amrit muses, "illusions mask an unbearable reality." Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
While the prose is wonderful the novel itself is a disappointment. The story meanders from one scene to the next as Amrit uncovers the mystery of the young woman and the conclusion is unsatisfying as the reader wonders why either Amrit or the reader made this journey to begin with.
Note: This novel is also published under the title Surface.
The premise seemed good. A journalist finds a mysterious picture of a porn star about to be executed by a paramilitary group and wagers his career to figure out the story behind it. As he travels through remote territory in northeast India, a picturesque region beset by spasms of violence, he discovers a web of corruption and lies. This story held my interest, and my desire to learn about the political situation in that region (albeit in a fictionalized way) were what kept me reading.
But I think Deb made a few mistakes. The first is his prose style. When he writes a vivid scene, he does well with it. However, most of the book is summary. Summary of conversations, scenery, bus rides, historical background. And it gets dull. Perhaps Deb's strength as a journalist is his weakness as a novelist. It's not that these sections are bad, it's simply that they could so easily be made better. The tone of his prose also seems very detached and reporterly, which quite frankly is unengaging. He also lacks a novelist's knack for memorable characterization, and as a result his characters blend together. Another problem is the protagonist, Amrit Singh, who is passive, detached, disillusioned, and depressed. He's just not that interesting of a guy, and the reason he's not interesting is because he doesn't care about anything very much. If the protagonist doesn't really care, why should the reader?
None of these are fatal flaws and could be forgiven if the plot were carried out as it should have been. But alas, Deb fails to make good on his plot's potential. I think the plot fails because Deb makes things too easy for Amrit. In this book, Amrit doesn't do anything to make readers root for him; our allegiance is assumed (and unearned). And even worse, for a journalist, Amrit doesn't seem that keen on or good at seeking out information on his own. In fact, most of the book consists of characters appearing out of nowhere to take Amrit into their confidence and voluntarily tell him lots and lots of the information he needs to know next. He doesn't have to work for it. He just sits by the phone and waits for people to call after they've arranged his travel plans, or wanders down into a strange neighborhood where he passes out and wakes up to see the person he's looking for. Nobody is actively trying to trick him or throw him off the trail; in fact, potential foils give him rides on his journey. It's both implausible and insipid. The novel would have been more entertaining if Amrit had to work for the pieces of the puzzle and had to put them together himself, instead of stumbling into people with an ever-increasing knowledge of the story he's investigating.
I do think Deb has an interesting perspective, and as far as content is concerned, his book is worthwhile as an expose of bureaucratic corruption in India, a discussion of the legacy of colonialism, and a critique of the way nations deal with the "edges" of their populations.
I would recommend this book if you're interested in the content of the book, particularly if you're looking for depictions of journalism in fiction, how authors in postimperial countries are rewriting The Heart of Darkness, or if you want to read a novel that explores the political situation in northeast India or the corruption of NGOs. Otherwise, it's a mediocre read.