Triumph from disaster

From The Guardian:

Book_2 Like Salman Rushdie, Indra Sinha used to be an adman. Best leave the comparison there: the parallels are so close that Sinha prefers not to think about them. Both were born in Bombay, went to the Cathedral School for Boys, came to Britain, went to Cambridge, wrote ads about cream cakes (as well as The Satanic Verses, Rushdie is credited with the “Naughty but Nice” campaign), and abandoned advertising to write fiction. Sinha, the son of an Indian naval officer and an Englishwoman who wrote short stories, doesn’t dwell on the similarities because he doesn’t want to think too hard about the latest one. Rushdie went on to win the Booker prize; now Sinha has been shortlisted for his second novel, Animal’s People, a powerful fictionalisation of the Bhopal disaster of 1984 in which a gas escape from a US-owned chemical factory killed thousands in the central Indian city.

The story is told by Animal, a 20-year-old whose spine was wrecked as a result of the leak and who has been reduced to walking on all fours. “I used to be human once. So I’m told,” he says at the outset. Animal curses, masturbates while spying on a naked woman from up a tree, and tries to poison the leader of the justice campaign. He is the anarchic centre of an angry, yet warm-hearted, book. It is a remarkable piece of ventriloquism by the cultivated, Cambridge-educated Sinha, a large, shambling, shaggy-haired bear of a man who speaks in disconcertingly perfect sentences and still frets about the amount of swearing in the book.

More here.