My Review of novel Run and Hide

Indian writer Pankaj Mishra is an amazingly talented writer ‘whose magic pen can produce flowers’, as the Chinese would say.

Run and Hide is his second novel, after a 20-year break, and I loved it. With his poetic prose and his insight into the Indian society, it is a deeply satisfying novel about the new India under the reign of Modi. It concerns the fortunes of three friends Arun, Aseed and Virendra, All coming from humble origins, they meet at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, their ladder to climb up in society. Aseed becomes a writer and editor while Virendra enriches himself on Wall Street. Modest in his ambition, Arun, the novel’s protagonist, settles in a Himalayan village with his mother, indulging in literary translation.

As a Chinese, I found the book illuminating, as both China and India have become obsessed with power and money in recent decades. In fact, Mishra seems to know China rather well. I smiled when he made a reference to Chairman Mao swimming in the Yangtze River.

Some 15 years ago, as I was travelling around India for the first time, I read Mishra’s first novel The Romantics about a young Indian man finding fulfillment in another culture. Despite our different backgrounds, I found the story resonated with me.

Once again, it didn’t disappoint.

The novel is structured as a letter from Arun to his ex-girl Alia. I am not sure that the structure works for me. Generally speaking, people don’t write letters to their former lovers in such an impersonal fashion.

Nevertheless, it is just a ‘slight blemish on a jade’.

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