3 years

Open Minds 2016: Soft Power

Karan Mahajan: Explosive Imagination

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There is a certain smartness to this Delhi-raised writer’s work that has made him the toast in literary circles.

What is Lajpat Nagar? ‘A market in Delhi’ is the most likely answer. But Karan Mahajan, author of The Association of Small Bombs (out later this month), outdoes and outshines all descriptions of Lajpat Nagar by describing it as a ‘Heisenbergian nightmare of motion and ambiguity’. Later in the same chapter, he writes of Mr and Mrs Khurana who have lost their two children in a bomb blast: ‘Mr and Mrs Khurana were forty and forty, and they had suffered the defining tragedy of their lives, and so all other competing tragedies were relegated to mere facts of existence.’ There is a certain smartness to this Delhi-raised writer’s work that has made him the toast in literary circles. He made news early on when he read the draft of what was to become his novel—without a manuscript. He recited his work-in-progress from memory. This audacity of style has made The New Yorker sit up and take note of him, an honour seldom awarded to a newbie writer who is just out with his second novel. The New Yorker states: ‘Mahajan can’t explain the grand structures of violence any better than the rest of us can. But he brings us close enough to feel the blast.’ His first novel, Family Planning (2012) was appreciated for its portrayal of modern Delhi and its humour. Association of Small Bombs has only consolidated that talent and announces the arrival of a startling new voice.

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