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Solo Hardcover – February 1, 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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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

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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: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,326,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Evelyn Getchell TOP 500 REVIEWER 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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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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Format: Hardcover
In the capable hands of the young British author, Rana Dasgupta, we simply fall into this impressive novel, set in two movements. The first movement, "Life" is set in Bulgaria and is the story of Ulrich, a blind centenarian eking out his years in a rundown apartment that overlooks the Sofia bus station. He spends his days reviewing his life in his memories, recalling people, places, experiences, making lists, wondering and reflecting. The child of a railway engineer, who sees railroads as the technology that will unite Europe and Asia, Ulrich leaves Bulgaria to study in Berlin, the intellectual and scientific hub of pre-World War I Europe. But, a downturn in family finances forces him to return to Sofia, where he eventually marries and has a child. The situation in Bulgaria is chaotic, with supporters of King Simeon, communists and German agents among the many factions vying to control events. Ulrich avoids politics and tries to lead a quiet, simple life. But, this is not the life his wife wants and she eventually emigrates to America, taking their young son with her. Ulrich's life continues through both wars, the communist era and the transition to "democracy". This is all told with a strong narrative drive and a captivating revelation of Ulrich's character and the life he was forced to make upon his return.

The second movement, "Daydreams", represents a complete shift in the tenor and feeling of the novel, yet is clearly linked to the first. In some ways this movement is what Ulrich dreams about in his dilapidated room overlooking the bus station. The movement begins in the republic of Georgia, in the years following the fall of communism. It is a time of violent opportunism, with the pell mell rush to take advantage of weak government and opening ties with the West.
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