Fiction Reads: Delhi: A Novel by Khushwant Singh

In Khushwant Singh’s inimitable style of writing, Delhi:A Novel is probably the most impressive of his works in fiction.
On its wide canvas he spreads lavish, bright-coloured strokes of a 600-year chronology of rulers, conquests, bloodbaths, poets, ravishment, monuments, greed, perversions and the late writer’s favourite diversion – oodles of sex; erotic passages threaten to peg down the literary impact.
History sparks to life 
Two strands of narratives govern the tale, one of a 56 year-old narrator (clear sketch of the writer himself) in ‘present day’ Delhi (Culminating in year 1984), his eunuch lover, sexual adventures and irreverence (including a treatise on farting!). 
The other part, interspersed as separate chapters, has striking fictional accounts from the lives of Khwaja Nizamuddin, Aurangzeb, Nadir Shah, Meer Taqi Meer, Bahadur Shah Zafar, the city’s architects, partition refugees and other denizens who were part of Delhi’s making, unmaking. 
Singh uses his journalistic knowledge and vivid imagination to best effect here. As mentioned in the author’s note,”History provided me with the skeleton. I covered it with flesh and injected blood and a lot of seminal fluid into it.” Some accounts are remarkable in lending defiant voices to those generally regarded in history as antagonists or villains.

Khushwant Singh’s best? 
Singh’s own bitter-syrupy relation with the city is revealed, with a stark, hostile mockery of its state. Much is salvaged through humour. 
The writer’s mastery shines in detailed, disciplined and arresting prose. When he cuts down the distractions and goes deep into the tale, which is often, there are few novels as straight-forward and readable as this one.

(Article by Snehith Kumbla)    

Khushwant Singh (1915 – 2014)

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