"Pran Nath Razdan, the boy who will become the Impressionist, was fathered in circuitous circumstances by an Englishman and passed off by his Indian mother as the child of her husband, a wealthy man of high caste. Growing up in luxury just downriver from the Taj Mahal, at fifteen the news of Pran's true parentage is revealed and he is tossed out into the street - a pariah and an outcast. Thus begins an extraordinary, near mythical journey of a young man who must invent himself to survive - not once, but many times." "Imprisoned in a brothel and dressed in women's clothes, his sensuous beauty is exploited as he is made to become Rukhsana, a pawn in a game between colony and empire. To a depraved British major he becomes Clive, an object of desire taught to be a model English schoolboy. Escaping to Bombay he begins a double life as Robert, dutiful foster child to a Scottish missionary couple, and as Pretty Bobby, errand boy and sometime pimp to the tawdry women of the city's most notorious district. But as political unrest begins to stir, Pran finds himself in the company of a doomed Englishman - an orphan named Jonathan Bridgeman. Having learned quickly that perception is a ready substitute for reality, Pran soon finds himself on a ship with Bridgeman's passport. First in London, then at Oxford, the Impressionist hones his chameleon-like skills, making himself whoever and whatever he needs to be to obtain what he desires."--BOOK JACKET.
I think it is worth reading for the descriptions of the places and the look back into the British empire from Kunru's point of view.
He watches intently, praying that he is wrong, that he has missed something. There is no escaping it. In between each impression, just at the moment when one person falls away and the next has yet to take possession, the impressionist is completely blank. There is nothing there at all.
Each transformation into another persona is an 'impression' that Pran is cultivating.
A suppressed thought starts to take form. What if, long ago, he got lost? What of he got lost from himself, and could never get back again?
Kunzru sets the reader (and Pran) up for a great irony, when he has become so totally conventional and boring that his one chance of happiness is lost with his identity. But Kunzru also seems to play with genre as much as Pran plays with identity - some of them work and some of them don't. The result is an unevenness that is frustrating, though the overall impression of the book is is a favorable one.
A clever satire of Indian, British and French posh circles.
Not to forget the pscychological aspect of the characters.
Well written, well documented and humourous.A real delight!!!
The book is almost too accomplished, polished and well travelled for its own good, sometimes a little soulless and devoid of warmth. At the same time, Kunzru is effortlessly gifted and his prose elegant. An interesting if clever-clever meditation on race and belonging, impeccably packaged if hard to love.
In the last third where he got into life at Oxford and beyond the picture he created became more and more sketchy and less and less credible. My sense was that he was desperately trying to close a circle when his story wanted to go off in a different direction. Disappointing.
Pran is an amazing character. His adventures contain a good mix of satire/humour and serious introspection which allows us to think about the broader implications of what is going on.
Well written, strong characters, good story, thought-provoking. Who could ask for more?