Reading guide for The Story of My Assassins by Tarun J. Tejpal

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The Story of My Assassins

By Tarun J. Tejpal

The Story of My Assassins
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2012,
    544 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2013,
    544 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby

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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. How is this storytelling style, with a multiplicity of narratives, different from the movie Slumdog Millionaire, the book The White Tiger, or other stories you've read or heard about contemporary India? Did any perspectives surprise you, or show you a side of India you hadn't seen before?
  2. What were your first thoughts about the protagonist? Did your perception change as the story continued? The author has said he chose an "acidic, dyspeptic, carping, dislikable" narrator because that was the best way to open up the highly complex, polyphonic material of contemporary India. If the narrator had an earnest, sincere voice, do you think the story would be more banal? By not creating sympathy for the narrator, does the author make you feel more empathy for his story of India?
  3. The question of fatherhood and responsibility arises several times in the text. The sardar feels he didn't do enough to train his son for survival. What skills are necessary for survival in this story? How could the hit men, or the protagonist, have been better prepared for the events at hand?
  4. You get a glimpse of each assassin early in his life. The author says he wanted to establish that "in the beginning, there is a kind of innocence in all things." How did the world shape each assassin into the kind of man who would kill another? How did it change your relationship with these characters?
  5. What did you think of the narrator's relationship with Sara? Do you think she was misguided? What is the significance of the image of the goddess Kali, and Sara signing "Your humble wall-hanging"?
  6. This story is deeply rooted in the Bhagavad Gita. What role does Hinduism play in Kabir's life? Chini's life? What about the life of a character like Ghulam, "who imagined god would take the larger view of the equality of supreme gods"?
  7. Did you believe Iqbalmian when he told the protagonist that the latter had been saved by his dog? Why or why not? Do you see any similarities between the protagonist's journey and The Odyssey?
  8. The author says the five killers represent five "fault lines" of India: caste, religion, class, language, and feudalism. With whom did you empathize? Why do you believe that character felt most resonant to you?
  9. Why did you think Bajpaisahib was after the protagonist? Were you right, in the end?
  10. How does knowing that The Story of My Assassins is based on true events change your understanding of the story? What emotions or scenes feel most "true" to you? The author says only one or two scenes were based on his own life. Were there parts you felt sure were made up? Why?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Melville House. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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