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Once Upon an Elephant [Paperback]

Ashok Mathur
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 1998

Once Upon an Elephant is a contemporary tale of Hindu deity Ganesh and what happens when worlds, cultures, and stories collide.

A whimsical, contemporary retelling of the creation story of Ganesh-the elephant-headed Hindu deity-Once Upon an Elephant is rife with humour and political satire.

When the police find unusual boy parts-a young man's head and an elephant's body-they assume a murder has been committed, and the case goes to trial. But the appearance of Vighnesvara, a manifestation of Ganesh with the body of a young man and the head of an elephant, in the courtroom of ultra-conservative Judge McEchern throws things into chaos.

Around the world statues of Ganesh are drinking offered milk, and poor Judge McEchern has troubles enough with his carnival court: witnesses who testify in languages other than English, testimony from an accused who grows extra arms at will, and a murder victim, with the head of an elephant, who refuses to stay dead.

Ganesh is known as the lord of obstacles, and Once Upon an Elephant is strewn with them, twisting, turning, and thwarting expectations about race, class, and sexuality, all within a page-turning murder mystery.

This was Ashok Mathur's first novel; his second novel, The Short, Happy Life of Harry Kumar, is also available from Arsenal Pulp Press.


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Review

Mathur's novel is as funny as it is smart . . . the tone is wry, sly and perfectly suited.
-Toronto Star

About the Author

Born in Bhopal, India, Ashok Mathur is the author of two previous novels, Once upon an Elephant and The Short, Happy Life of Harry Kumar. Formerly of Calgary, he is the Director of the Centre for Innovation in Culture and the Arts in Canada at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC.



Follow Ashok Mathur on Twitter

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars When stories collide April 2 2003
Format:Paperback
When the remains of a man's head and an elephant's body are found, police detectives Simpson and Delilah are called to investigate. It seems like a strange, yet straight-forward, homicide. Until Vighnesvara appears, and he's a version of the Hindu god Ganesh who appears with the body of a man and the head of an elephant. He, along with the suspected murderer who has a tendency to grow extra arms and some witnesses who testify in random languages, create havoc in the courtroom of Judge McEchern, who just wants to go back home. With the help of Simpson's boyfriend Sandip, maybe they all can figure out what's going on. "Once upon an Elephant" is a brilliant and whimsical retelling of Ganesh's creation from Hindu mythology. Flittering among the viewpoints of the characters, the story charms the reader, enlightening and delighting as it progresses.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic indian mythology hilariously revisited. Jan. 14 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Author Ashok Mathur revisits the mythology surrounding the birth of Ganesh, the Hindu God portrayed as a human with an elephant head. The story is told in the guise of a contemporary mystery with Ganesh himself as both murderer and victim. As the tale unravels, the reader is continuously transported between the mythology and the current events that have lead to the investigation. Mathur's induction of the tale into contemporary time is what makes the story both fascinating and hilarious. His clever use of recent past events, namely the miracle of the milk-drinking Ganesh statues amongst indian communities all over the world, brings the reader even closer to the story than if we had not already been given a taste of such phenomena. The investigation of the alleged crime is a self-reflexive comical romp in which neither traditional social mores or cultural differences are spared. I enjoyed the author's manipulation of the tale immensely, laughed uproariously, and would recommend it to all readers.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When stories collide April 2 2003
By "blissengine" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
When the remains of a man's head and an elephant's body are found, police detectives Simpson and Delilah are called to investigate. It seems like a strange, yet straight-forward, homicide. Until Vighnesvara appears, and he's a version of the Hindu god Ganesh who appears with the body of a man and the head of an elephant. He, along with the suspected murderer who has a tendency to grow extra arms and some witnesses who testify in random languages, create havoc in the courtroom of Judge McEchern, who just wants to go back home. With the help of Simpson's boyfriend Sandip, maybe they all can figure out what's going on. "Once upon an Elephant" is a brilliant and whimsical retelling of Ganesh's creation from Hindu mythology. Flittering among the viewpoints of the characters, the story charms the reader, enlightening and delighting as it progresses.
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a mystery or a caper or a myth or .... Feb. 15 2014
By Dick Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ganesh, the Hindu god known as the lord of obstacles is the main subject, main character, main victim and main everything in this wickedly funny, convoluted romp through a Canadian murder investigation and trial. Canadian? Yep.

Readers are often asked to suspend belief in order to get into the worlds being created by authors. In this one, readers are asked to embrace the belief in the existence of Ganesh. Further, readers must embrace lots of lots of such existences. But, some may not actually be living forms of Ganesh. One, or more might be dead - and may have been murdered. Or, maybe not, if readers are able to ignore the found body parts and not think about the missing ones.

Maybe the reader should also not think about much in this book. That won't be a problem since that still leaves lots of characters with more problems than the average reader (which always makes readers feel better about themselves). We, the readers, get to meet detectives, gods, elephants, Indians of the South Indian type, Canadians of the North American type, lawyers of the universal type, more elephants, a judge of the sometimes usual type and a sexy lady doing something with a pitcher of (well, no spoilers here).

This is just plain fun with a little bit of mystery, morality (or its absence), romp through a missing human torso and also missing elephant's head.
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