WINNER OF THE 2019 JCB PRIZE IN LITERATURE
“The Far Field is remarkable, a novel at once politically timely and morally timeless. Madhuri Vijay traces the fault lines of history, love, and obligation running through a fractured family and country. Few novels generate enough power to transform their characters, fewer still their readers. The Far Field does both.”—Anthony Marra, author of The Tzar of Love and Techno
Gorgeously tactile and sweeping in historical and socio-political scope, Pushcart Prize-winner Madhuri Vijay’s The Far Field follows a complicated flaneuse across the Indian subcontinent as she reckons with her past, her desires, and the tumultuous present.
In the wake of her mother’s death, Shalini, a privileged and restless young woman from Bangalore, sets out for a remote Himalayan village in the troubled northern region of Kashmir. Certain that the loss of her mother is somehow connected to the decade-old disappearance of Bashir Ahmed, a charming Kashmiri salesman who frequented her childhood home, she is determined to confront him. But upon her arrival, Shalini is brought face to face with Kashmir’s politics, as well as the tangled history of the local family that takes her in. And when life in the village turns volatile and old hatreds threaten to erupt into violence, Shalini finds herself forced to make a series of choices that could hold dangerous repercussions for the very people she has come to love.
With rare acumen and evocative prose, in The Far Field Madhuri Vijay masterfully examines Indian politics, class prejudice, and sexuality through the lens of an outsider, offering a profound meditation on grief, guilt, and the limits of compassion.
Vijay's remarkable debut novel is an engrossing narrative of individual angst played out against political turmoil in India's Jammu and Kashmir state in the late 2000s. Unmoored by her mother's death, 24-year-old Shalini apathetically floats from job to job while receiving financial support from her affluent father. In an effort to find closure, Shalini leaves her native Bangalore to search for Bashir Ahmed, her mother's only friend, who she hasn't seen in years. Upon arriving in tumultuous Jammu, Shalini is taken in by a Muslim family in Kishtwar and struggles to understand the fractured nature of her surroundings: the role of the omnipresent Indian Army, the disappearances of local Muslims, and the frequent violence against and perpetrated by both Muslims and Hindus. Her search eventually leads to a Himalayan village, whose generous inhabitants temporarily give her a sense of purpose amidst staggering natural beauty. However, Shalini's ignorance and inability to be honest with herself and others results in dangerous consequences for everyone she comes in contact with. Interspersed with flashbacks of Shalini's relationships with her dazzling yet mentally ill mother, the mysterious but kind Bashir Ahmed, and her withdrawn father, Shalini's misguided attempts at love, fulfillment, and friendship are poignant. Vijay's stunning debut novel expertly intertwines the personal and political to pick apart the history of Jammu and Kashmir. Agent: Claudia Ballard, William Morris
A Perfect mix of love-war-family drama
#thefarfield is a heartbreakingly beautiful page turner. The debut novel by #madhurivijay (Pushcart prize winner) is an amazing coming-of-age narrative of Shalini’s life. The plot takes her from southern India to Kashmir in the quest of truth and ultimately lands her to the edge of a political and personal reckoning. The uniquely flawed characters bring out the best of the story.
My opinion -
> I felt the story took a slow start and long buildup time but then sucked me in the frame later on.
> A little anger in me rose at times due to the foolishness and restlessness of the naive protagonist.
> Oftentimes, I felt that the story was dragging the description of a scene for long (which could be a good thing for someone not acquainted with the Indian lifestyle/setting)
> There are some scenes where hardcore opinions about the political turmoil of Kashmir politics have been expressed.
> I was disappointed that the story switched between past and present intermittently.
> At the end of the story, there is an illegitimate sexual scene described between two unmarried individuals.
> Since, I am from India - the book was very special to me and I especially enjoyed and could relate to most of the scenarios described and they also made me nostalgic 🥰
> Even though being aware of Indian politics, this was an eye opener to the conflict from local Kashmiri people point of view for me.
> The book deported me to the world where I have come from 🇮🇳
The biggest appeal for me was the fact that the story was engrossing, wonderfully written, had strong characters and a perfect mix of love-war-family drama. The book also gives an amazing critique of Indian politics for an outsider.
Couldn’t put it down. Brilliantly captures human emotion, secret lives, and the deeply personal impacts of geopolitics.