Summary and book reviews of The Story of My Assassins by Tarun Tejpal

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 Summary

Based on actual events, The Story of My Assassins tells the story of a journalist who learns that the police have captured five hitmen on their way to kill him. Landing like a bombshell on his comfortable life, just as he's started a steamy affair with a brilliant woman, the news prompts him to launch an urgent investigation into the lives of his aspiring murderers - a ragtag group of street thugs and village waifs - and their mastermind. Who wanted him dead, and why?
 
But the investigation forces him to reexamine his own life, too - to confront his own notion of himself, his job, and his treatment of the women in his life, as well as his own complex feelings about the country that crafted his would-be killers.

Part thriller and part erotic romance, full of dark humor and knife-edged suspense, The Story of My Assassins is a piercing literary novel that takes us from the lavish, hedonistic palaces of India's elite to its seediest slums. It is a novel of corruption, passion, power, and ambition; of extreme poverty and obscene wealth.

It is an awesome adventure into the heart of today's India.

Excerpt
The Story of My Assassins

Kaaliya was a dodger and a scrapper, to the task born. Like the snakes his forefathers had mastered for generations, he could wriggle and he could strike. His first conscious memory, from the time he was three, was the feel of a rat snake slithering through his hands. For the toddler, shaking a serpent by its head was like waving a rattle. It was the way of his people, to let the harmless ones flow through their huts and tents, their clothes and bedding, their pots and pans, their sons and daughters. In winter, many of their folk slept with their snakes in their patchwork quilts, their fat fullness as reassuring as a mother's touch. The more lethal ones were kept apart, in a corner, in wicker baskets, lightly weighted down.

Before he learnt to walk, Kaaliya knew that in these baskets slept the reigning deity of their lives—the flared black one whose mesmeric swaying sustained his people and their wanderings. The world was full of serpents,...

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 ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

In [Tarjun J. Tejpal's] latest novel, The Story of My Assassins – a hardboiled account of life on the fringes – he draws on his journalistic background to create a fictional panorama that questions perceptions of victimhood. But this is not a thriller with easy resolutions and clear culprits. Instead, Tejpal creates a naturalistic portrait of a society plagued by abuses of power, poverty and village tensions.   (Reviewed by Karen Rigby).

Full Review Members Only (962 words).

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Katherine Boo, author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
Deeply humane, raucously funny, dizzy with social and psychological insight! A masterful account of 21st-century ambition, inequality, and power from one of India's most fearless writers.

Author Blurb Pankaj Mishra, author of From the Ruins of Empire
Combining a fierce political imagination with a tender solicitude for the losers of history, it sets a new and formidably high standard in Indian writing in English.

Author Blurb ayantara Sahgal, author of Rich Like Us
For the awesome story it tells and the stunning impact of its prose this is, quite simply, the best Indian novel in English I have ever read.

The Times Literary Supplement

One of the most attractive Indian writers in English of his generation.

Hari Kunzru, author of Gods Without Men, in The Guardian's 'Books of the Year'

Overlooked in the general rush to adore The White Tiger and Slumdog Millionaire. ... with a much richer understanding of the politics of poverty, [The Story of My Assassins] deserves wider attention.

Publisher's Weekly

Starred Review. It is a sweeping indictment of government bureaucracy, a revelation of the layered consequences of revenge, an exposé of the stunning violence visited upon victims of circumstance, and a brazen censure of how technology has quashed imagination - it is also a philosophical treatise on how to live one's life to the fullest.

Newseek

The Story of My Assassins is a dark, brutal, and yet often funny narration by a journalist of an attempt on his life...The result is a meditation, a commentary, on the convoluted venality of modern India

The Wall Street Journal

Tejpal writes with splendid élan: His novel is a stylish, erudite potboiler that reads like a mix of Alexandre Dumas and India's ancient national epic, the Mahabharata ... exhilarating

New York Journal of Books

Tarun J. Tejpal is brilliant. A master storyteller, he writes with graphic detail so stunning in spots as to make the reader pause for breath.

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New Delhi, India

India's national capital territory of Delhi, which includes the capital city of New Delhi, is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world. It has over sixteen million people working in information technology, telecommunications, hotels, banking, media, and tourism, among other fields. It boasts globally renowned universities and medical centers, world heritage sites, fabulously wealthy people, and the world's second largest exhibition of books held biannually. At the same time, many of its residents live in slums without water, electricity, or sanitation. One of the most dangerous cities in India, Delhi has high crime rates including serious crimes such as kidnapping and crimes against women.

Delhi is a northern Indian city, with...

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