Magazine article The Spectator

'The Way Things Were', by Aatish Taseer - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'The Way Things Were', by Aatish Taseer - Review

Article excerpt

The Way Things Were Aatish Taseer

Picador, pp.560, £16.99, ISBN: 9781447272458

Early in the second section of Aatish Taseer's The Way Things Were we are presented with a striking description of Delhi. The city's bright bazaars and bald communal gardens, among them 'the occasional tomb of a forgotten medieval official', are 'stitched together with the radial sprawl of Lutyens's city'. Taseer acknowledges the landscape's beauty, but buried in his description, with its reference to the British architect who designed much of Delhi during the empire, is the painful and stifling legacy of history. For Taseer, it is an atmosphere that infects Delhi -- simultaneously a 'submerged necropolis' and a city where 'the dense cold air, sulphurous and full of particles, closes over old wounds'. Throughout the book the scar-tissue left by colonialism and the agonising poverty of a society in swift, violent transition are felt presences.

The basic narrative is a simple one. Skanda, the Manhattan-dwelling narrator, must return the body of his father Toby, the former Maharaja of Kalasuryaketu, to Delhi and then to his home city for burial. …

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