Nominated by:

India International Centre Library, New Delhi

Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli - Vittorio Emanuele III, Italy

Publisher of nominated edition:

Chatto & Windus, UK

W.W. Norton, USA

The Lives of Others

Neel Mukherjee      

2016 Longlist

The aging patriarch and matriarch of the Ghosh family preside over their large household, made up of their five adult children and their respective children, unaware that beneath the barely ruffled surface of their lives the sands are shifting. Each set of family members occupies a floor of the home, in accordance to their standing within the family. Poisonous rivalries between sisters-in-law, destructive secrets, and the implosion of the family business threaten to unravel bonds of kinship as social unrest brews in greater Indian society. This is a moment of turbulence, of inevitable and unstoppable change: the chasm between the generations, and between those who have and those who have not, has never been wider. The eldest grandchild, Supratik, compelled by his idealism, becomes dangerously involved in extremist political activism—an action that further catalyzes the decay of the Ghosh home.

The Lives of Others anatomizes the soul of a nation as it unfolds a family history, at the same time as it questions the nature of political action and the limits of empathy. It is a novel of unflinching power and emotional force.

(from publisher)

About the Author

Neel Mukherjee was born in Calcutta. His first novel, A Life Apart, won the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Award for best fiction, among other honors, and his second novel, The Lives of Others, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Encore Prize. He lives in London.

Librarians’ Comments

This intimate atrocity, born of deprivation and acute despair, is juxtaposed with the comparatively petty concerns of the bourgeois Ghosh family, making a profound point about struggles for equality in the world’s largest democracy during the long aftermath of empire. In The Lives of Others, the author’s fierce intelligence and sophisticated storytelling combine to produce an unforgettable portrait of one family riven by the forces of history and their own desires.

A house and family that are a metaphore of the political and social situation in West Bengal in the late 60’s. Beyond the family intrigues, the personal experience of supratik, a member of the middle class family become a left party activist, changes the novel perspectives.

Related Entries