- Hardcover: 357 pages
- Publisher: Fourth Estate; First Edition edition (April 30, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0007182147
- ISBN-13: 978-0007182145
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 32 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,044,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Solo Hardcover – April 30, 2009
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'A novel of exceptional, astonishing strangeness, Solo confirms Rana Dasgupta as the most unexpected and original Indian writer of his generation.' SALMAN RUSHDIE
About the Author
Rana Dasgupta was born in England in 1971, and grew up in Cambridge. Having lived in France, Malaysia and the US, he moved to Delhi in 2001. His first book, Tokyo Cancelled, was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize.
Top customer reviews
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Daringly experimental, the book has two parts, which represent the two parts of our lives, the world of reality and the world of the imagination and memory. The imaginative second part evolves from the events of the first part, with clear parallels. Set in Bulgaria, the novel features Ulrich, a main character who is almost a hundred years old and who has lived through the major political changes of the twentieth century. Blind, impoverished, and alone, he now lives in his memories and fantasies as his past unfolds, and the reader comes to know the pivotal events in his life and that of his country. A lover of music who had hoped to study violin, Ulrich is forced to switch to chemistry after his father angrily destroys his instrument, going to Berlin to study science until he runs out of money. He returns home to political unrest, and watches as student friends are arrested, the fascists take over, and the communists overthrow them ten years later. Ulrich's life revolves around his job in a steel works which pollutes the air, rivers, and land around it, and his days of music are over.
More philosophical and historical than it is psychological, emotional, or exciting in the first part, the novel changes at the halfway point when Ulrich's memories and wild fantasies become the story line. Here a young man named Boris, the same name as Ulrich's best friend in the first part, becomes the main character, a pig farmer who teaches himself to play the violin, learns from the gypsies, and enjoys his music. Succeeding chapters introduce other characters, such as Khatuna, a beautiful and very ambitious woman, and her sensitive poet brother, Irakli, who bring the country's history and the collapse of communism up to date. The two artists, Boris and Irakli, are the vehicles through which the author eventually comments on the art world, its commercialization, and its human parasites. Even the seemingly idyllic world of music and poetry has its down side.
When Boris, "the son of [Ulrich's] daydreams," faces the death of a friend, Ulrich enters the story himself to offer advice. In a passage of extraordinary beauty and sensitivity, one of the high points of the novel for me, Ulrich says, "[Your friend] will find his way inside you, and you'll carry him onward. Behind your heartbeat, you'll hear another one, faint and out of step...You won't wait until people die to grieve for them; you'll give them their grief while they are still alive, for then judgment falls away, and there remains only the miracle of being." A fine definition of love from a thoughtful and gifted author, not yet forty, in a book that I found astonishing in its depth. Mary Whipple
The second part, "Daydreams" is tied the the first only in that the stories are the daydreams of Ulrich. Some character names are the same, but they are completely disconnected from the first part. I took a day or two before reading the second part to fully digest the first, and I suggest doing the same. In this half of the book we are introduced to Georgian mobsters, pig-farming musical virtuosos, and modern day New York. Ulrich makes an appearance or two, but not as his literal self. The rich fantasy of Ulrich is a stark contrast to his real life, and provides even more depth to the first half once finished.
This book is difficult to read, but not in an intellectual, you must think to read it way. It is difficult in an emotional way, and I wouldn't expect everyone to have the same reaction I did... I think it will hit each reader differently on a personal level. I loved this book, and look forward to rereading it later.
My favorite sentence--and there are many-- "When I die, says Ulrich, they will put me under the ground, and I will lie with an eternity of dreamers, breeding visions that will flicker on the surface--and the children of my daydreams will roam free."
Most recent customer reviews
A portrait, strong and spare, of a twentieth century Industrial revolution, rendered in human dimension and set to music.Read more