In The Zigzag Way, the critically acclaimed novelist Anita Desai offers a gorgeously nuanced story of expatriates and travelers adrift in an unfamiliar land. Eric, a young American historian, has come to Mexico on his first trip abroad. His search for his immigrant family’s roots brings him to a town in the Sierrra Madre, where a hundred years earlier Cornish miners toiled without relief. Here the suspiciously enigmatic Dona Vera, the fierce Austrian widow of a mining baron, has become a local legend, but her reputation for philanthropy glosses over a darker history. A haunting, powerful novel that culminates on the Day of the Dead, The Zigzag Way examines the subtle interplay between past and present.
2000 — Los Angeles Times Best Books
Upon the recent publication of Fasting, Feasting, critics raved about Anita Desai: “Desai is more than smart; she’s an undeniable genius” (Washington Post Book World). The Wall Street Journal called Fasting, Feasting “poignant, penetrating . . . a splendid novel, ” while the Boston Globe celebrated Desai’s “beautiful literary universe.” Now, in this richly diverse collection, Desai trains her luminous spotlight on private universes, stretching from India to New England, from Cornwall to Mexico. Skillfully navigating the fault lines between social obligation and personal loyalties, the men and women in these nine tales set out on journeys that suddenly go beyond the pale — or surprisingly lead them back to where they started from. In the mischievous title story, a beloved dog brings nothing but disaster to his obsessed master; in other tales, old friendships and family ties stir up buried feelings, demanding either renewed commitment or escape. And in the final exquisite story, a young woman discovers a new kind of freedom in Delhi’s rooftop community.
With her trademark “perceptiveness, delicacy of language, and sharp wit” (Salman Rushdie) in full evidence here, Anita Desai once again gloriously confirms that she is “India’s finest writer in English” (Independent).
Anita Desai’s new book, hailed as “unsparing, yet tender and funny,”* brilliantly confirms her place among today’s foremost Indian writers. Fasting, Feasting takes on Desai’s greatest theme: the intricate, delicate web of family conflict. It tells the moving story of Uma, the plain older daughter of an Indian family, tied to the household of her childhood and tending to her parents’ every extravagant demand, and of her younger brother, Arun, across the world in Massachusetts, bewildered by his new life in college and the suburbs, where he lives with the Patton family. Published in Britain to rave reviews, Fasting, Feasting is “rich in the sensuous atmosphere, elegiac pathos, and bleak comedy at which the author excels” (The Spectator). From the overpowering warmth of Indian culture to the cool center of the American family, it captures the physical — and emotional — fasting and feasting that define two distinct cultures. *(Times Literary Supplement)
A “beautifully written, richly textured, and haunting story” (Chaim Potok), Baumgartner’s Bombay is Anita Desai’s classic novel of the Holocaust era, a story of profound emotional wounds of war and its exiles. The novel follows Hugo Baumgartner as he flees Nazi Germany — and his Jewish heritage — for India, only to be imprisoned as a hostile alien and then released to Bombay at war’s end. In this tale of a man who, “like a figure in a Greek tragedy . . . seems to elude his destiny” (New Leader), Desai’s “capacious intelligence, her unsentimental compassion” (New Republic) reach their full height.
Set in India’s Old Delhi, Clear Light of Day is Anita Desai’s tender, warm, and compassionate novel about family scars, the ability to forgive and forget, and the trials and tribulations of familial love. At the novel’s heart are the moving relationships between the members of the Das family, who have grown apart from each other. Bimla is a dissatisfied but ambitious teacher at a women’s college who lives in her childhood home, where she cares for her mentally challenged brother, Baba. Tara is her younger, unambitious, estranged sister, married and with children of her own. Raja is their popular, brilliant, and successful brother. When Tara returns for a visit with Bimla and Baba, old memories and tensions resurface and blend into a domestic drama that is intensely beautiful and leads to profound self-understanding.