The Alchemy of Desire
By Tarun Tejpal
The book grabs you immediately with a dramatic opening line: “ Love is not the greatest glue between 2 people. Sex is.” The narrator (nameless throughout) you soon discover, is a young man in a marriage that is coming unglued slowly but surely. Desire, which has been a constant presence in their relationship, summoned up at will, any time anywhere, has suddenly and quite mysteriously disappeared. The narrator finds himself no longer desiring his wife Fizz (Fiza), a beautiful almost impossibly perfect woman. The novel takes us along their story at a brisk pace. A young couple, hopelessly in love, gets married, sets up house and with the husband’s ambitions of becoming a writer, struggle with holding down day jobs while allowing him to write at night. For this, they move from cozy
Catherine’s story is set in the late 19th century and veers from her American upbringing, her dad’s ‘exotic’ Indian store in
Tejpal’s writing is bold and striking and he has an unabashed way of using drama in his words and phrases. The sex is prolific and after the initial excitement, it begins to pall. Catherine’s story especially has some pretty graphic descriptions of all kinds of couplings. Soon you begin to skip the sex parts and you realize that it is a lot of skipping. You then have to force yourself back into the story.
Overall, the book is interesting, purely because it tackles a refreshingly unusual theme – exploring the substance of desire. It goes just that bit over the top though – in language, in the depiction of an exotic 19th century