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The Cripple and His Talismans [Paperback]

Anosh Irani
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 2 2010
Prepare to enter a world where the norms of human behavior — even the rules governing time and gravity — are set on their heads. This dark and wry fable begins with the narrator waking up and discovering he is missing an arm. He has no idea how he lost it or how to find it — but as he searches the chaotic, often surreal streets of Bombay, he meets an absurd and marvelous cast of characters who offer him clues: a woman selling rainbows, a beggar living under an egg cart, a coffin maker who builds finger-sized caskets, a giant who lives underwater, a homeless boy riding the rails. They all lead him to Baba Rakhu, master of the underworld, who will reveal the story of his lost arm — for a price.

Funny and wise, violent and tender, The Cripple and His Talismans is an impressive debut for lovers of Samuel Beckett, Lewis Carroll, and Salman Rushdie.

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From Amazon

The cripple of Anosh Irani's debut novel, The Cripple and His Talismans, is the first-person narrator of this strange and humorous fantasy, a resident of Bombay who has lost his arm and goes off in search of it. Each chapter reads like a parable: magical, sometimes dreamlike, but often devoid of any apparent meaning. The cripple meets a coffin-maker, a guru, a pair of fighting lepers, and various people he abused in his own past and to whom he feels he must make amends. He also fails at an attempt to commit suicide by leaping from a 20-story building.

Irani can be extremely funny--a long phone conversation with a government clerk is hysterical in its depiction of a narrow-minded bureaucrat: "Is this a terrorist call? ... If this is a terrorist call, there is a separate number for that." At times, however, his humour can go overboard into weak puns and silliness ("His honour was on her"). He can also write lines of striking beauty: "These impoverished men are casual. They are orange leaves falling on your cheek." The depiction of Bombay is too relentlessly surreal, however, and too many scenes read like dreams, which makes it impossible for the reader to conjure a distinct image of the city. The plot remains as thin and meandering as a path through a South Asian shantytown. And yet the writing has an energy and a pulse that are fresh and quite distinct from any other novelist working in Canada. This is a writer to watch. --Mark Frutkin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

An unnamed narrator searches for his missing arm in a Bombay marked by odd magic and peopled by surreal prophets in Irani's lush debut novel. The protagonist awakes in a hospital with his arm amputated, but with no memory of how he was injured. Thus begins his quest: a search to unravel the mystery of the missing limb that signifies a spiritual journey. A young man of privilege, he forgoes material comforts for an austere existence more fitting for a "novice cripple" and discovers a Bombay he never knew. Various underworld characters offer him cryptic clues: the beggar Gura instructs him to listen to the sounds of the streets for answers, a woman selling rainbows warns him of an evil eye, and a leper gives him a finger, which he carries thereafter in search of its significance. On this colorful journey of self-discovery, the narrator investigates his past and faces his sins. Though the novel's many instructive riddles ("Your eyes see only that which they are meant to") can read as New Agey sound bites, an undercurrent of dark humor as well as Irani's atmospheric evocation of Bombay enliven this compelling story. Agent, Denise Bukowski. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An odd tale of Bombay July 30 2004
By W. Wren
Format:Hardcover
Many books are referred to as "darkly comic." In this case, it's true. It's a dark tale but one that is genuinely funny. An unnamed narrator goes on a quest for his missing arm through the dark, impoverished, violent and funny side of Bombay.
The journey is episodic as the wealthy narrator encounters odd characters, wakes in new situations and generally moves through an absurdist world that reveals a Bombay he didn't know, as it also reveals a self he didn't know - or at least, he had been avoiding.
In the end, it is a quest for himself. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say a harmonization of himself through the discovery of a strangely and wonderfully contradictory Bombay.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Magic Realism in Bombay April 29 2006
Format:Hardcover
Absolutely fantastic read. Anosh is like an Indian Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The story is magical and tragic and very sad yet incredibly funny.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An odd tale of Bombay July 30 2004
By W. Wren - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Many books are referred to as "darkly comic." In this case, it's true. It's a dark tale but one that is genuinely funny. An unnamed narrator goes on a quest for his missing arm through the dark, impoverished, violent and funny side of Bombay.

The journey is episodic as the wealthy narrator encounters odd characters, wakes in new situations and generally moves through an absurdist world that reveals a Bombay he didn't know, as it also reveals a self he didn't know - or at least, he had been avoiding.

In the end, it is a quest for himself. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say a harmonization of himself through the discovery of a strangely and wonderfully contradictory Bombay.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars brilliant but unfortunately a sick tale July 31 2005
By Prakash V. kulkarni - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is Anosh Irani's debut novel. I really admire his craft. His use of similies and allegories is just perfect.

A man wakes up in a Bombay hospital to find his arm has been amputated. He goes in search of it in the dark side of Bombay. Since most first novels are to some extent autobiographical, I continuously wondered what experiences were really part of the author's life. To strengthen my doubts, the experiences of the protagonist are written in first person singular (the character I).

On most occasions the incidents don't make a real sense. The slant gets confusing. What does the author intend to tell?

Is it the rediscovery of a missing part of the personality? Is this some kind of a spiritual quest? (I hope it wasn't) or was the intention to show the dark side of Bombay?

Though incidents have depicted vividly, sometimes they look so distorted as to be called 'ramblings of a psychotic mind.'

Still I must say I enjoyed reading the book and I wouldn't discourage anyone who wishes to read it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious Aug. 16 2004
By M - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I love this book. Anosh Irani has a wonderful wit. I've never laughed so much from a book.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ulysses in Bombay Aug. 13 2010
By Salenia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An exquisite gem of a novel. The unnamed narrator, a well off resident of Bombay, has lost his arm, but can't remember how. He sets off on a search for his missing limb, following seemingly random advice from a series of beggars and shopkeepers. A leper gives him a finger that fell off, which the narrator treasures as a talisman to aid him in his quest and carries with him for much of the book. He travels through a number of seedy Bombay locales such as a little café that caters to delinquent students and a theatre playing an indistinguishable Indian movie, and winds up in a subterranean room where Baba Rakhu operates a business stealing limbs at night from apparently undeserving persons and selling them to those in need..

The mood is at times dreamlike, at times entirely matter of fact. The narrator is given vague prophesies. He is asked riddles he cannot answer. He meets Gura the floating beggar, visits his favorite Maliaka at the brothel whom he fantasizes of marrying, sees dancing cockroaches, black and brown, and dreams he is the Emperor Akbar. He meets -- and joins -- two naked men, one blind the other a drunk, who are trying to defecate on a mound near a rail line. They wisecrack about the state of the world in exchanges reminiscent of Shakespeare, but they cannot complete their task until the train passes.

The narrator has some ugly secrets. He recalls and relives some disturbing events in his life, which, without giving away the plot, have a connection with his missing limb. He eventually returns to Baba Rakhu's store where he reconciles his life and missing limb.

The writing is elegant and beautiful. The dialogue quick and believable, although what is said often is bizarre. Aphorisms, seemingly genuine Hindi ones, are spoken, such as "Once your journey begins, you cannot end it." The images are haunting, such as Rakhu's store where limbs are carefully hung on the walls. "Bombay" says the narrator. "There is no other like it" says a little boy.

In recent years, I have been reading a number of Third World novels that have been highly recommended, such as Things Fall Apart or Season of Migration to the North. Those were certainly good. I picked up The Cripple and his Talismans at a used bookstore, having no idea what to expect. It is, by far, the best novel I have read in recent years. My only criticism, and it's only a suggestion, is that the book could have used a short glossary for the dozen or so Hindi words used.
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