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We That Are Young The story of a billionaire family dynasty led by a gold plated madman stewed in corruption mired in violence riven by infighting deception and lies The resonances will be there for anyone who knows King Lear not to mention anyone struggling to come to terms with the new world order from the rise of the religious right wing in India to the Trump dynasty in the United States This is not just Shakespeare repurposed for our times – it’s a novel that urgently matters in 2017 and which will resonate for years to come Jivan Singh the bastard scion of the Devraj family returns to his childhood home after a long absence – only to witness the unexpected resignation of the ageing patriarch from the vast corporation he founded the Devraj Company On the same day Sita Devraj’s youngest daughter absconds – refusing to submit to the marriage her father wants for her Meanwhile Radha and Gargi Sita’s older sisters must deal with the fallout And so begins a brutal deathly struggle for power ranging over the luxury hotels and spas of New Delhi and Amritsar the Palaces and slums of Napurthala to Srinagar Kashmir Told in astonishing prose – a great torrent of words and imagery – We that are young is a modern day King Lear that bursts with energy and fierce beautifully measured rage Set against the backdrop of the anti corruption protests in 2011–2012 it provides startling insights into modern India the clash of youth and age the hectic pace of life in one of the world’s fastest growing economies – and the ever present spectre of death More than that this is a novel about the human heart And its breaking point

  • Paperback
  • 553 pages
  • We That Are Young
  • Preti Taneja
  • English
  • 18 October 2014
  • 9781910296783

About the Author: Preti Taneja

Praise for WE THAT ARE YOUNGWINNER OF THE DESMOND ELLIOT PRIZE 2018Sarah Perry chair of judges said“Samira Chris and myself were absolutely unanimous in our love and admiration for this novel whose scope ambition skill and wisdom was uite simply awe inspiring all three of us sat together shaking our heads saying ‘If this is her first novel what extraordinary work will come next’”'

10 thoughts on “We That Are Young

  1. Paul Fulcher Paul Fulcher says:

    Now deservedly shortlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize alongside the outstanding shortlist for the 2017 Republic of Consciousness Prize for 'gorgeous prose and hardcore literary fiction' from small independent presses Edgar The weight of this sad time we must obeySpeak what we feel not what we ought to sayThe oldest hath borne most We that are youngShall never see so much nor live so long King Lear Act 5 Scene 3 Postscript to my review Disappointed this missed out on the Booker particularly to Arundhati Roy's messy The Ministry of Utmost Happiness Taneja's novel refutes Roy's claim via one of her characters that it in Kashmir there is too much blood for good literature However delighted to see the favourable coverage in the Sunday Times thetimes2waJwdF one of the year’s most original novels an exuisite retelling of King Lear set in modern New Delhi Revelatory urgent and irresistible Preti Taneja’s We That Are Young is King Lear reinterpreted for the 21st Century and relocated to India It is published by the wonderful Galley Beggar Press the press that published A Girl Is a Half formed Thing who published the most strikingly original novel I read in 2016 Forbidden Line and whose admirable self declared mission is “to produce and support beautiful books and a vibrant eclectic risk taking range of literature’ books that really are ‘hardcore literary fiction and gorgeous prose’The last lines of King Lear and the title of this novel link with India the world’s largest democracy also being cited as the world’s youngest nation The ILO report that two thirds of the population are under the age of 35 Perhaps pertinently for the country’s economic development the Indian government’s own projections have the country in 2020 with an average age of 29 and a demographic bulge of 64% of its population in the working age group of 15 59 Taneja’s wonderful transposition of Lear not only pays tribute to and increases our appreciation of Shakespeare’s original but creates a memorable and revealing portrait of this modern India She also manages beautifully the difficult task of largely following a well known and pre established plot and cast of characters but at the same time creating an intriguing complex but highly absorbing story of her own“King Lear” becomes Devraj Bapuji billionaire owner of the Devraj Company a ubiuitous conglomerateAs the novel opens his youngest and favourite daughter Sita the Cordelia character has just returned to India having graduated from CambridgeDevraj announces his desire to split his 60% shareholding in the Company between Sita and her two older sisters Gargu Goneril married to the rather passive Surenda Albany and Radha Regan married to the much ambituous Bubu CornwallBut asked to express their gratitude for Devraj’s gift Sita as Cordelia declines to join in her sisters’ flatteryPapaji mujhe kuch nahi bolna hai she says she holds up her empty hands there is nothing but air in between Father respectfully I don't want to say anything Cordelia Nothing my LordKing Lear Act 1 Scene 1 At the same time Jivan Edmund the illegitimate son of Devraj’s right hand man Ranjit Singh Gloucester has returned from the United States after his’s mother death Jivan was Ranjit’s favourite and a playchild of Devraj’s daughters but was sent almost exiled with his mother 15 years ago to America when his illegitimacy became an embarrassment Jivan’s initial impressions of a Dehli he has not seen for 15 years – an India that has become younger as he has become older – set the scene for the novel’s early acts He can make out flyovers strewn like necklaces across the city jewelled with billboards promising reincarnation in this life and ways to afford it because it must be achieved There will be ads for new cars mobiles modified milk for bachchas’ bone strength and protein powder for abs; ads for Company hotels full of romance for new detergents and washing machines For flour to make perfect chapattis pictures of fat young execs and good Indian girls promising hot married sex with their homemade bread Now they are cruising over acres of flat white rooftops dotted with satellite dishes hundreds of ears all listening for his arrival The movement of the Bentley its preserved hush As if Jivan is back in the crematorium watching the coffin glide towards the incinerator He has to have a short brutal battle with the lump in his throat The cold air makes him sniff Only girls get sick sick The last thing Ranjit said to him before he was put in the car and sent to America Jivan sniffs again His father and Kritik Sahib do not look at him The sounds from the road are muted the car windows frame and colour everything sepia Scenes from old India reel out before him comforting after the airport A sabzji wala shambles down the lane his cart loaded with wrinkled root vegetables dug up from centuries ago whole families stacked onto mopeds eight legs dangling over the sides There are women balancing bricks and bundles walking barefoot on the broken sidewalks Half naked children grin to each other as they clean their teeth with dirty fingers their hair in helmets of crazy around their heads All of it seen as if from far far away punctuated by Mercedes and 4x4s Toyota Honda all the big boys Jivan takes in these shining beasts as visions from a future possible; at the same time he wants to shout freeze frame He’s thinking How long has the party been going on? Why didn’t you invite me? There are even new buses with doors that fully close But the trucks still say Horn Please in fading yellows and pinks and everyone still drives as if they don’t need sight There are still a few white cows standing dumb as temple paintings white against red walls – this at least has not changed Jivan immediately sets out to undermine the relationship between Ranjit and his one legitimate son Jeet Edgar a homosexual in a country where this has only just been legalised and was soon to be criminalised once again Jeet flees his privileged life and reinvents himself as Rudra Poor Tom a Naph seer living in a slum set around a large rubbish dump in the shadow to one of the Company’s luxury hotels Other key characters include Devraj’s Hundred Lear’s hundred servants – a cadre of selected young high fliers from the Company but whose riotous behaviour displeases Gargu and Radha the sinister and violent Uppal Oswald Gargu’s chief of staff Kritik Singh Kent the Company’s Head of Security second only to Ranjit in influence but who is rapidly dismissed by Devraj when he argues against his decision to disinherit Sita Kritik’s own 2nd in command Kashyap who fills the Caius role Taneja eschewing Shakespeare’s rather implausible device of having Kent simply reappear in disguiseIndeed via Jivan’s musing on Indian TV serials the author gets in what is hard not to see as a cheeky dig at Shakespeare’s plotsJivan used to watch these hokey Indian serials on Star Plus TV sitting with Ma in the afternoons when he got in from school She loved them all the family dramas with cardboard villains and handsome heroes non stop cases of mistaken identity masters for servants good girls for bad Brothers disguised as each other lovingly beating sisters wives and mothers in law fighting over sons In the end the good would get rich and the bad were punished The lovers would be united with parental blessing kneeling for hands to be raised over their heads in benediction the parents would kneel and beg their children to bless them right back It was always happily ever after the end But Lear – and this novel – certainly don’t have happily ever after ending Indeed We That Are Young is full of the brutal realities of 21st Century life – the massive gap between the rich and poor the depths of poverty corruption drug abuse sexism homophobia religious and ethnic tensions and the tensions in Kashmir The role of the Fool is played by Devraj’s elderly mother a Kashmiri Pandit whose mental health has never really recovered from the events of January 1990 when her husband and Devraj’s wife were both killed in their home town of Srinigar in Kashmir As Sita in his view betrays him and his other two daughters move to seize control of the company Devraj starts to lose his own sanity Uppal reports to Gargi It is your father Gargi Ma'am Oh God What now? He went to the studio He ordered the women to stop packing Ten of the Hundred came with him and they took Sita Ma'am wedding ladoos For cricketShe lets out a bark of shocked laughter Drips of Coke spill and settle on her hands like Bapuji's liver spots She licks them What? Why are you not making sure he's not doing any nautanki? Gargi Ma'am this is not masti There are ladoo all over the lawn all over the jubilee garden Stuck on the rose bushes also You know this time I think he has truly gone mad Gargi installs herself in Devraj’s place and his office replacing his own photos of himself meeting various world leaders Nehru Thatcher Bush Mrs Ghandi with one of the real world artist Dayanita Singh’s Dream Villa photographs of a cityscapeDevraj undergoes a Damascene conversion to the cause of the very workers on whose labour and sacrifices he has built his empire and as the battle for control of the empire rages the scene moves from Dehli to Ranjit’s luxury hotel Gloucester’s castle in Amritsar and then the action converges back to Srinigar where the Company in violation of rules forbidding outsiders from owning property in Kashmir are building the ultimate luxury hotel initially inspired by Devraj wishing to reclaim his heritageThe part of Dover cliffs is played by Amarnath PeakThe novel is narrated in the third person but the perspective and focus shifts between the five main young characters from Jivan to Gargi Radha Jeet and Sita with interspersed first person rambling thoughts from the highly confused Devraj as he lies in the ruins of his former family home in Srinigar where the plot reaches its tragic denouement The device effectively combines a linear plotline with a circular narrative allowing us to appreciate rather than in the original each character’s motivationsAnd Jeet echoes Edgar’s closing speech with one of his ownWe that believe in India shining We that are the youngest the fastest the democracy the economy the global Super Power coming soon to a cinema near you we hum panch that are the five cousins of the five great rivers everybody our brother sister lover we that our divine the echo of the ancient heroes of the old time we that fight we that are hungry so so hungry we that are young We that our jigging on the brink of ruin; we that are washed in the filth of corruption chaal so what? Aise hi Hota hai we that are a force all that is natural slow death to Muslims gays chi chi women in their skin tights hai We that sit picnicking on the edge of our crumbling civilisation we that party with shots and shots shots as the world burns beneath us as the dog barks as the cockroaches crow as the old eat their young and the young whip their elders all wearing the birth marks of respect we that present only the shadow of ourselves behind our painted smiles we that protest for the right to drink whisky sours served to our beds at noon we that eat our beef with chopsticks we that twist tongues to suit our dear selves we that worship the ancient religion of Lakshmi of Shiva of wealth creation and ultimate destruction we that will be born strong in the next life and in a party that never ends we that are the future of this planet we that begin with this beloved India will endure yes it all belongs to us and we will eat it all All of it is ours we that our India and no longer slaves We that are youngHighly recommendedThanks to Galley Beggar for the ARC

  2. Gumble& Gumble& says:

    NOW DESERVEDLY THE WINNER OF THE DESMOND ELLIOTT PRIZE TO FOLLOW ITS SHORTLISING FOR THE REPUBLIC OF CONSCIOUSNESS PRIZE for which I was a judge Galley Beggar Press is a small publisher responsible which aims to produce and support beautiful books and a vibrant eclectic risk taking range of literature and which declares an aim to publish books that are hardcore literary fiction and gorgeous prose – a description which has been taken as the criteria for the Republic Of Consciousness prizeIts most striking success to date has been in being prepared to publish Eimear McBride's A Girl Is a Half formed Thing which had taken 9 years to find a publisher and of course went on to win the Bailey’s Prize“We That Are Young” is a debut novel by Preti Taneja a human rights advocate and literary academic Between 2014 16 she held a Post Doc position at ueen Mary University of London and Warwick University working on Shakespeare performances in relation to human rights abuses and in humanitarian situationsThis novel flows directly from her joint interests – and is explicitly a re telling of King Lear set in India in the early 2010’s against a background of the 2011 12 anti corruption protests which form very much of the foreground in Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost HappinessGalley Beggar Press’s co founder has commented much like our author Eimear McBride – when Preti’s novel was first submitted to us it came with a history of ecstatic rejections from editors who almost universally felt that her writing was extraordinary but too ‘tricksy’ to be a commercial successThe book’s title is taken from the closing speech in King Lear attributed to Albany or to Edgar in the two key versions of the play The weight of this sad time we must obey Speak what we feel not what we ought to sayThe oldest hath borne most We that are youngShall never see so much nor live so long In the author’s words While writing We That Are Young I worked in New Delhi and Kashmir and spoke to many people from different castes class backgrounds and religions about the feverish times they felt they were living in The title of my book comes from the end of Shakespeare's play and evokes the power of the fact that India is the world's youngest and fastest growing democracyThe key protagonists in the book and their King Lear counterparts are Devraj Bapuji King Lear billionaire owner of the eponymous Devraj Conglomerate and his daughters the eldest Gargu Goneril married to the stolid Surenda Albany; the flighty and fashionable Radha Regan married to the ambituous Bubu Cornwall; the youngest Sita Cordelia an environmentally aware Cambridge studentDevraj’s right hand man Ranjit Singh Gloucester his gay heir Jeet Edgar and his illegitimate son Jivan Edmund The book opens with Jivan returning from imposed exile in America after the death of his mother Devraj’s singer mistress and reacuainting himself with his childhood friends Gargu and Radha at the same time as a returning party arranged for Sita at her graduation At a lunch on the Day of Jivan’s return Devraj announces he is splitting the company between his daughters only for Sita’s refusal to pay homege to him leading to him renouncing her inheritance; Jivan meanwhile sows seeds of mistrust between his father and brother – all of this of course a character by character re enactment of the basic plot of “King Lear” and which is also followed by King Lear echoing discord between Devraj and his Head of Security Kritik Kent and then a wedge between Devraj and his daughters due to the behaviour of Devraj’s hundreds Lear’s retinue of a hundred servants a hand selected cadre of high fliersThe book is written in five lengthy third party point of view sections – concentrating in turn on the viewpoints of Jivan Gargi Radha Jeet and Sita The length of these sections and the use of a continuous present tense as well as the liberal interspersing of only partially translated Hindi in the book can at times make this an exhausting as well as an exhilarating read I was at times reminded of the assault on the senses that many Westerners use to describe their first visit to India One of the interesting choices in the novel is to open with sympathetic accounts of the actions and motivations of those – Jivan Gargi and Radha – whose King Lear euivalents – Edmund Goneril and Regan are effectively unambiguously villians The effect of this as others have pointed out in their reviews is to give a novel which while clearly borrowing heavily from King Lear also gives back some added perspective to that play particularly around the motivations of the full group of protagonistsThe sections are intercut with some first party ramblings from Devraj – who early on speculates Now the most winning stories always have the same cast of characters in one form or another There is a set of twins or double beings a trainee architect a father an uncle a brother a desirable sister with no self control and of course incestuous love There is always a narrator an old man in a pickle factory sitting on his chutpoy reading Dickens in the English language framed by a picture of the Taj Mahal The settings are new worlds the language tricksy Pah Making up words and full of doubt What is the value of such stories? Expensive papers and lies My story is a simple one come closer if you can The language you understand it in is not the one I am speaking It contains elements of truth the genius of ancients and some modern influences It is priceless and therefore free for all The references to “most winning stories” seems to directly reference the writing of Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy both of whom feature pickle factories in their most famous novels while also implicitly acknowledging the way in which much of modern Indian literary writing draws heavily both on the style of Dickens and implicitly on the implausible plots of Shakespeare; and the same could be said to be true for Indian TV Jivan used to watch these hokey Indian serials on Star Plus TV sitting with Ma in the afternoons when he got in from school She loved them all the family dramas with cardboard villains and handsome heroes non stop cases of mistaken identity masters for servants good girls for bad Brothers disguised as each other lovingly beating sisters wives and mothers in law fighting over sons In the end the good would get rich and the bad were punished The lovers would be united with parental blessing kneeling for hands to be raised over their heads in benediction the parents would kneel and beg their children to bless them right back It was always happily ever after the end There are two very distinct literary choices that the author makes in this book – both of which struck me as slightly false on a first read but as thoroughly justified on a second The first is referenced above – the freuent use of many half translated or untranslated not just Hindi words but full sentences Initially this is to convey the explicit disorientation that the Americanised Devraj first experiences on his return to His homeland as he struggles to recall his childhood Hindi but it is continued throughout the book I understand from interviews with the author that her aim was to convey something of the reality of the world for her and many of her friends – living in Hindi speaking households in English speaking countries and therefore simultaneously inhabiting both linguistic worlds Even further than this though is an acknowledgment of the way in which both languages have inspired and fed the other over time As Devraj notes when addressing the reader My story is a simple one the language you understand it is not the one I am speaking It contains elements of truth the genius of ancients and some modern influences It is priceless and therefore free for all The second was the choice to follow not just the main plot but often the dialogue of King Lear and specifically to choose to convey some of the dramatic parts of the original plot the putting in the stocks of Lear’s messenger the apocalyptic storm and those that are just odd the gouging of Gloucester's eyes the Dover cliffs bluffed suicide scene literally and not in a imaginative and figurative sense However again I now appreciate that this choice is in many ways fundamental to the author’s very conception of this novel – her realisation that concepts and events which render King Lear strange to a modern Western reader the extreme patriarchy; the use of Lear's fortune as what is effectively dowry; the fundamental conflict of ambition family and state; unchecked state violence and civil conflict; extremes of classcaste; the abuse of domestic servants can be understood in a modern context when transplanted across the world Just as King Lear examines the violence that flowed from Lear's partriarchy and his forced and ill thought through division of his Kingdom between his two daughters so We That Are Young could be said to examine the effects of British colonialism and the long lasting impacts of the violence and division that flowed from PartitionOverall a vibrant and wonderful novelMy thanks to Galley Beggar Press for the ARC

  3. Hugh Hugh says:

    Update 21618 Now the well deserved winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize 2018 Congratulations to Preti Taneja and all at Galley Beggar This vibrant epic ambitious transplantation of King Lear to modern India is by far the longest book on the Republic of Consciousness Prize shortlist and looks a potential winner Taneja keeps the essential elements of the familiar Shakespeare version of the story in place but allows herself plenty of scope to explore the issues extremes of wealth and poverty corruption and factionalism of modern IndiaIt is probably easiest to list the main players with their Shakespeare euivalents Devraj Bapuji Lear a super rich magnate and owner of one of India's biggest companies his daughters Gargi Goneril Radha Regan and Sita Cordelia his henchmen Ranjit Gloucester and Kritik Kent Ranjit's sons Jeet Edgar and the illegitimate Jivan Edmund Albany and Cornwall become Surendra and BubuThe story is told in six parts The first five are told from the perspectives of the younger protagonists and at the end of each chapter Bapuji gets to speak for himself getting increasingly incoherent as the story proceeds This structure breaks up the linear narrative and in some cases leads to events being described than once from different viewpoints The last part is shorter and ties up the loose endsIn the first and longest part Jivan returns from America where he has been living with his now dead mother for 15 years and arrives on Bapuji's farm near Delhi every lavish excess is described and this allows Taneja to introduce the rest of the cast and the nature of the family business and to describe background events and his childhood memories Bapuji is the son of a Maharaja from Kashmir who has lost his land and his mother Nanu who is still alive at 90 he has built up the family firm from almost nothing initially by exploiting the skills of Kashmiri craftsmen One of Bapuji's pet projects is to build a luxury hotel in Srinagar the Kashmiri capital Over the course of Jivan's first day there Bapuji announces his retirement plans to the family over lunch and puts his daughters to the test and by the end of the day both Sita and Jeet have disappeared and Kritik has been dismissed for defending Sita In Sita's case this is because she does not want to be married off but wishes to pursue her own career as an environmental campaigner Jeet has been living a double life acuiring ancient artefacts for the company while maintaining a secret gay relationship he goes into hiding because he believes this is about to be exposedThe second part revolves around Gargi who is initially presented as a conscientious daughter and worthy heir to the business frustrated by India's archaic and sexist property laws She resolves to rid the business of corruption and modernise it she wants to maintain the unity of the company and refuses to sign the papers that legitimise Bapuji's plans to split the business The disappointments of her marriage to the impotent and largely useless Surendra are also described In this part Gargi argues with Bapuji and refuses to accommodate the regular parties of his 100 henchmenThe third part is about Radha who is vain and hedonistic She has been partying in Goa but she and Bubu head for Srinagar when they hear that Bapuji and Nanu are heading there having started to amass popular support by denouncing the company's activities and blaming his daughters Radha starts an affair with Jivan who is now employed as a company security man Bubu is a corrupt playboy who has been allowed to control Radha's share of the business Bapuji arrives to find that one of Kritik's deputies has been beaten left chained in the sun uarrels with Radha and walks away from the hotel The section ends with the blinding of Ranjit and the murder of Bubu no attempt has been made to spare any of the brutality of the originalIn the fourth part we meet Jeet in his guise of Rudra the Naph He has also journeyed to Srinagar living among the untouchables on the rubbish dump and surviving as a holy man and storyteller This is perhaps the most interesting part of the story in that it is almost the only part in which the action moves away from the elite owning class He encounters Bapuji in the storm the heath becomes the dump and is entrusted with looking after his father and instead of leading him to Amarnath Dover Cliffs he takes him back to Delhi and the farmThe fifth part returns to Sita who is the least realised of the main characters Her escape to Sri Lanka is barely described and by the time we meet her she is in a safe house in Kashmir with Kritik and the increasingly feeble Bapuji Unlike Cordelia she defends her unmarried status The remainder of the book plays out the rest of Shakespeare's denouementThe language of the book is interesting the dialogue includes a lot of Hindi much of it untranslated which can be a little frustrating for the untrained reader though there is never much doubt about the important eventsI was a little disappointed by the number of typographical errors mostly incorrect homophones but overall I can't find a strong reason not to award this book the full five stars and encourage others to read it

  4. Jonathan Pool Jonathan Pool says:

    We That Are Young has a feel to it that's not dissimilar to Salman Rushdie's recent 2017 novel The Golden House That's praise Both novels ultimately revolve around a big figure a patriarch who is revealed to be rather less worthy of the adulation that his status and visibility might indicate Preti Taneja's Devraj Bapuji to Rushdie's Nero Golden Both books shine a spotlight on an India of the latter 20th century far removed from the deference or degradation depending on your viewpoint of the indigenous population under the British RajIndia the modern nation in Taneja's account is conveyed in its vastness diversity poverty and cruelty It's well written and utterly convincing to this reader who hasn't experienced the country at first handThe division into five sections by character and overlapping timelines works well bringing different perspective to events taking place over a very short time span I found Jeet Rudra in the fictional cityslum of Dhimbala to be the most striking of themThe freuently pitiable lot of women despite the exceptions of the two leading sisters Garghi and Radha is never far from the surface Sharam shame from birthFamilies Dynasties Loyalty Devotion Power Service Poverty Greed BetrayalThe Shakespearean King Lear framework is well worked as the base emotions are given full reinThe author is clear in her description of the book's theme from the very first line it's not about land it's about moneyThis is amplified later on in the book405 we that are young We that are jigging on the brink of ruin; we that are washed in the filth of corruption;the mirage of new India is bemoanedBoth Galley Beggar Press and the Republic of Consciousness charter We That Are Young is longlisted at the time of writing state that they celebrate‘hardcore literary fiction and gorgeous prose’I think this is a great advert for small presses and though I'm not sure I would particularly describe the prose as gorgeous I certainly felt the commitment or hardcore in Preti Taneja's writing

  5. Doug Doug says:

    This should have been right smack dab in my wheelhouse given my penchant for both Indian lit and Shakespeare it's a modern retelling of Lear but I must say despite some gorgeous prose I found it for the most part rather tedious and almost gave up halfway through In need of much judicious editing the inciting incident of the patriarch's division of his spoils doesn't even occur into well over 100 pages into this LONG 553 pages I was also than a little annoyed by the miniscule print of the Galley Beggar Press edition AND by the constant need to run to Google Translate due to the many reversions to Hindi words and phrases it may instill verisimilitude but a glossary or footnotes would have been a welcome antidote to the author's contempt for her non Indian readers As to the novel itself sections of it are uite delightful and whereas Edward St Aubyn's recent Hogarth version of the story 'Dunbar' which I read just prior to this so maybe I was 'Leared' out by the time I got to this one strays perhaps TOO far from the Shakespearian original here Taneja clings a mite too steadfastly to certain elements that make little sense in a modern milieu for example the blinding of the Gloucester character albeit one of the viscerally rendered scenes Most of the contemporary euivalents DO work however especially the scenes of Jeet the Edmund character amongst the dabhi slum dwellers although these also somewhat pale in comparison to similar ones in Katherine Boo's outstanding 'Behind the Beautiful Forevers'And while the circularity of the structure telling scenes over and over and over from the various viewpoints of the five main characters provides some interesting counterpoints it also slows the action to an almost standstill However ultimately I am not sorry I read this but doubt I would ever pick it up again for a re read even though NOW my copy has copious notes as to the translations Fun Fact'Easter Egg' On page 467 Taneja writes 'Sita thinks he should be in rural England being nursed by aristocratic girls with names like Abby for shelter Florence like the bulbul or Megan her skin pale as flushed pearls Better he go to Switzerland or Dubai and rest at some hushed private clinic This is undoubtedly a terrific 'insider' tribute to St Aubyn's simultaneously published 'Dunbar' as those are the names he uses for Goneril Cordelia and Regan and his book opens with the Lear character escaping from just such a Swiss clinic Cheeky

  6. Neil Neil says:

    NOW RE READ AFTER ITS INCLUSION ON THE REPUBLIC OF CONSCIOUSNESS PRIZE LONG LISTWe That Are Young is published by Galley Beggar Press Perhaps best known as the publisher that took the risk on A Girl Is a Half formed Thing after everyone else had rejected it it went on to win the Women’s Prize for Fiction Galley Beggar Press is also the publisher of the wonderful Forbidden Line that I read earlier this year and which remains one of the most unusual books I have read in 2017My thanks to Galley Beggar Press for an ARC of Preti Taneja’s re working of King Lear Taneja takes the story and transposes it to India This works really well it is the ideal setting King Lear ends with a speech that gives Taneja her title The weight of this sad time we must obey Speak what we feel not what we ought to say The oldest hath borne most we that are young Shall never see so much nor live so longAnd as the book points out India is a young nation of young people We live in a young country Jivan Five years ago you couldn’t even get Coca Cola in a can here The kids who are making money now like all the upper level staff we employ the girls and the boys who didn’t grow up travelling abroad they just want to make money be cool They know what stuff they want; the great thing is they don’t know why No context My God they are the ideal customer They didn’t have access to anything and now look – everything All at once Now now nowAnd Gargi he says you told me the night Bapuji left the Farm that this is our time Don’t we have the ‘the youngest population the fastest growing democracy’ in the world? So the king becomes a majorly successful Indian business man and the rest of the characters fall into place in that environmentIt can be difficult to take a well known story that is hundreds of years old and create something fresh out of it If you make it too obvious what you are doing your readers spend the whole story comparing events and characters with the original If you are too subtle about it no one knows what you have done Somehow Taneja manages to strike the balance Yes this is a re telling of King Lear transposed to modern day India but it is also a complex story in its own right that pulls you through it Although I read King Lear prior to reading this I didn’t find myself continually drawing comparisons I was happy to let Taneja’s story develop into its own revealing portrait of Indian culture If you want it is relatively easy to make the link between characters in Shakespeare and characters in Taneja’s book but I didn’t feel that was important except maybe as an intellectual exercise at the end of the bookThe fact is this is a superbly told story in its own right My experience with the book was that it got better with each section as the intensity and emotion gradually ramped up to the tragic climax The fact that I knew from the original the basics of what that climax would be didn’t stop me from devouring the pagesAnd in fact the structure does actually help you get a better appreciation of the original It is split into sections with each one named after and focusing on one of the key characters This means Taneja can take the opportunity to both circle back on some events and look at them again from a different perspective but also to give us fresh insight into the motivation of these characters If I were to re read King Lear I would do that with a fresh perspective on the key playersAnd then finally I picked up a great uote to use when someone isn’t uite all there Yep there’s definitely a samosa missing from the high tea selectionIt’s long but it is a really excellent read and I hope it receives some recognition through the various literary prizes out there

  7. Inderjit Sanghera Inderjit Sanghera says:

    A modern day re telling of King Lear 'We Are That Young' is a brilliant exploration of greed corruption and vice in modern India The novel follows the aristocrat cum royal family of Devraj; a patriarch whose puissance dissolves once he cedes ownership of his company to his elder daughters Garghi and Radha only to rise ephemerally like a phoenix in a haze of self righteous indignation against the corruption inherent in the company he set up riding a wife of populism based on deep seated misogyny and malevolent nationalism 'We Are That Young' both eschews the limitations so often placed on Indian literature whilst at the same time exploring the problems inherent in modern Indian society; the uneven distribution of wealth the rise of parochial religious fundamentalism and the cultural schizophrenia India is experiencing under the relentless waves of globalizationThere story is told via multiple narrators; Jivan the illegitimate son of Devraj's right hand man Ranjit is the first and penultimate narrator A vapid and ultimately egoistical young man Jivan acts as the catalyst for the corruption and downfall of Garghi trapped in a loveless relationship with a neurotic husband and Radha married to the bellicose buffoon Bubu; Jivan is the key by which both characters break free from the shackles of their father Devraj Whilst objectively speaking the reader's sympathies should lie with Devraj Tenaja influenced partially by King Lear paints Devraj as a chauvinistic egoist concerned with his pride and money than his daughters propagating a philosophy which is a mix of bigotry misogyny and populism any tragic elements of his downfall are skewered by his selfish characteristics Again although Garghi and Radha are ostensibly the villains of the story Taneja's multi faceted characterisation enables the reader to understand the reasons for their frustrations of being forever trapped in the roles society expects of them as women The other principle characters are Ranjit's soon Jeet who undergoes a ultimately fruitless spiritual epiphany after going through an existential crisis about the emptiness of life and the meaningless of his wealth The heroine of the story and one of the few positive characters is Devraj's youngest daughter Sita whose truculence in refusing to marry sets off the chain of events which takes over the character's lives Beneath this Taneja's India shimmers forth via a blaze of colours and sounds; the effervescent sun set on a sultry evening the degradation of the slums the  superficiality of the super rich Taneja captures and describes modern Indian with a verve and vivacity which is reminiscent of Salman Rushdie from the corrupt  curmudgeons who hold power to the servility of the poor and the weight of Westernization which Indian society is labouring under Taneja is able to capture the complex contradictory and often cruel contractions of a society undergoing constant flux and change and of a family which is driving and leading much of that change; a family which like wider Indian society becomes steadily dehumanised with money and power

  8. Katia N Katia N says:

    I've picked up this book as it received a lot of positive reviews here and has won Desmond Elliot prize for the first novel I have to admit I was somewhat underwhelmed The author models her book on King Lear and sets it in the modern day India In general 2018 was the year of classic retelling by the modern authors in English language I am not big fan of the idea though of course I admit that all the literature in a way is the retelling of the books written before At this case as well I felt uite ambivalent about King's Lear plot and may be if I would not know about this fact I would appreciate the book Broadly she picks up the prototypes of the five young characters from the play and studies them Lets start with the positives the language at the beginning of the book felt energetic and fresh She uses the present tense throughout and that helps her builds up pace It worked for the first 100 pages or so But unfortunately later it has become somewhat monotonic And at the sentence’s level she is not always careful We can get this She rises Her blood is telling her to run her head to stay and force answers Her heart wants Gargi and Radha her hands need to hold theirs I was happy not to know what her legs stomach and other body parts wanted at that minute as the list could go on her villains are much ambiguous in their motivations than in the original play and a bit likeable Especially it applies to the two older sisters and Jivan Edmund So it leaves the reader a space for contemplation However if someone reads this book without knowledge of the original play this advantage would probably fade sense of place I am struggling with this one a bit For the first 3 out of the 6 parts of the book I did not feel any sense of place it could be anywhere in spite of numerous untranslated dialogue incepts in Hindu And that was a bit frustrating as I wanted to know about India However it has changed in the last parts The part set inside a slum was the best in my opinionNow negatives unfortunately it suffers from those pitfalls of the first novels too long too disjointed and not adeuately resolved I would want to know what happened at the end to the all of 5 main characters Of course I've got Shakespeare for that But standalone the author has left a lot of ends loose Also some strange subplot with the poisoned apple has resurfaced in the last few pages Why? I did not have a feeling it worked as a whole As I mentioned the book consists of 5 separate parts told on behalf of the one of the five young characters It is written in a third person The dialogue is often contrived and basic Each of these parts looks like a character study The interaction with the rest of the story mainly happens through the King Lier's plot So the feeling is that a certain new character is appearing on the scene and then dropped back into the darkness I found it very irritating as the characters do not work with each other Out of 5 the two parts were uite successful as stand alone novellas And I hardly could care for another 3 I was only frustrated and not intrested when Sita Cordelia was introduced and very briefly at that in the last part of the book for the first time while again the rest of the cast have fallen into the shadows This is while in theory Sita would have a fantastic potential as a character as she was so different from the rest of the family this novel should be nominated for the bad sex award The sex scenes and fantasies fortunately not numerous were really off putting ones and made me wince which is really rare India has appeared very stereotypical out of the book the young nation and the young democracy with the huge ineuality One does not need to read this book for this I did not get what Taneja thinks about itOverall Deborah Levi is saying on the blurb that Taneja is the writer to watch and I agree with that But in hindsight I'd rather spend my time elsewhere than reading this book 540 pages in spite of some really good parts of it2 stars plus 1 which i always add for debut novels

  9. Jackie Law Jackie Law says:

    We that are young by Preti Taneja is a fabulous reworking of King Lear Having enjoyed a number of adaptations of this Shakespearean tragedy on stage I was familiar with the direction the arc of the story was likely to take This did not in any way detract from my enjoyment The book is big in size scope and depth The action is set in modern India and offers a masterclass in the country its people and the stubborness and hurt inherent in wider family feudsThe tale opens with the return of a son Jivan banished to America with his mother when he was thirteen years old Prior to this he had been one of five young playmates although as the child of his father’s mistress had never been permitted full integration into the privileged lives of his friends His half brother Jeet and he grew up alongside the three daughters of a hugely wealthy businessman Devraj who is also Jeet’s godfather The girls – clever Gargi beautiful Radha and baby Sita – have in the intervening years grown into outwardly dutiful and obedient womenJivan returns on the cusp of change The oppulent farm where the family now live is being prepared for Sita’s engagement celebrations As Jivan is shown around a lunch is taking place that will be the catalyst to Devraj’s ruinationEconomic growth has enabled India to consider itself a world player and with this has come a clash of cultures Despite the uality and beauty of local products there is a hankering after western labels Colour and vibrancy are being toned down flesh exposed in imported attire Women desire freedom and opportunity than tradition permitsDevraj demands that his daughters regularly demonstrate love and respect for him in word and deed When Sita unexpectedly refuses to conform he attempts to punish her by passing on the share of the business he had selected for her his favourite to her sisters Gargi and Radha watch as he reacts to their little sister’s rebellion envious of her courage but afraid of its effects They fear their father may be going mad and determine to save the business for themselvesThe story is told from the points of view of each of the five former playmates with occasional chapters in Devraj’s voice Their’s is a life of excess abuse and thwarted desire When Jeet chooses to leave the farm the reader is offered a snapshot of the lives of India’s untouchables a contrast that is shocking and telling Those who grow up in comfort will struggle to understand the psychological effects of poverty the cost of survivalDevraj strives for a new India yet fights any attempt by his daughters to embrace change to relinuish stifling traditions This generational divide is all too familiar Elders are eager to force the rules of their upbringing on their children unappreciative of the differing challenges they must face in an evolving worldThe writing is stunning evoking the sights sounds and smells of the region the extremes of wealth and poverty the corruption and striving for a better way of life at all levels Turns of phrase deserve to be savoured imagery basked in The story is labyrinthian and should not be rushedAlthough a literary feast this is also a highly readable story It remains engaging tense and compelling throughout despite knowing how it must end I wanted to applaud that last line the author deserves all the commendations Recommended without reservation

  10. Siddhartha Siddhartha says:

    A great book can be great at different levels but a bad one doesn’t have that luxury Mislaid by all the hype and praise from western critics made me pick up this book Probably this is the worst book I read in a long time Pathetic plotting miserable attempt at adapting King Lear in Indian context lack of real knowledge on the subcontinent is so evident I got migraine by constant feel of something getting drilled into my brain I hardly write reviews but this time thought that it was my responsibility to warn the readers so that they can spare themselves of this ordeal

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