Dasgupta, Rana 1971-
DASGUPTA, Rana 1971-
PERSONAL: Born 1971.
ADDRESSES: Home and office—Delhi, India. Agent—Toby Eady Associates, 3rd Fl., 9 Orme Ct., London W2 4RL, England. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer. Worked for marketing firms in London, England, and New York, NY.
Tokyo Cancelled (stories), Grove Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to periodicals, including Biblio: A Review of Books.
Tokyo Cancelled was translated into French, Italian, Portuguese, and German.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Another story cycle, one that is "reminiscent of both Ballard and Borges, depicting ordinary extraordinary individuals … in a world that remains ineffable, inexplicable, wonderful."
SIDELIGHTS: In 2005 Rana Dasgupta published what some reviewers called a loosely knit novel of magical realism, titled Tokyo Cancelled. Set in a Tokyo airport after a snowstorm has grounded planes and stranded passengers overnight, the book revolves around a group of travelers who amuse each other by telling fantastic stories—thirteen tales in all. Dasgupta expressed the reasoning behind his choice of narrative techniques and literary forms: "Paradoxically, the more the world becomes interwoven, the less it seems possible to tell a single, representative story of it—yet the connections are real and lived," Dasgupta told Sarah Crown in a London Guardian interview. "So how do you narrate this? I was trying to find a narrative structure that would have the form of a network, one that could admit the distances between places, but could also hint at the metaphors and analogies that connect them."
After living in London and New York for a number of years, Dasgupta found moving to Delhi, India, was conducive to his fiction writing. In line with the Hinduism practiced throughout India, Dasgupta uses recur ring images of metamorphosis as the pivot points of the stories in Tokyo Cancelled. "I'm interested in the things people do to accommodate themselves in the world—the dark things, the glorious things," he told Crown, adding: "Sometimes, transmutation is a way of dramatising the dream of a self of infinite possibility, sometimes it is about the terror of change, and always, of course, there is a dialogue between the serious questions of change and continuity in the self and the perpetual promises of instant transformation delivered by consumerist whisperers."
Among the work's enthusiasts number a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who praised Dasgupta's "humorous" critique of consumerism and creation of "exotic luster," and critic Laurie Sullivan, who in Library Journal described the title as a "witty interweaving of classic fairy tale and fable conventions with contemporary settings." Several other reviewers expressed reservations, however. A Kirkus Reviews critic dubbed Tokyo Cancelled "pleasantly weird, but not electrifying," while Artforum reviewer Oliver Broudy commented that "the results are not always successful." Broudy also cited the lack of "a sense of unifying structure. In the headlong tumble of the plot, the conceit that sets events in motion is often neglected, or left behind entirely, so that the end of a story does not follow from the beginning." In the London Independent, Alev Adil called the work "an ambitious and often successful collection…. However, the lack of a meta-narrative—of any interplay or tension between the tales and tellers—robs Tokyo Cancelled of any overall cohesion." Of the thirteen tales, Adil suggested that the first, "The Tailor," is the "most elegant and effective in the way it delivers both a traditional folk tale … and contemporary social commentary."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Artforum, April-May, 2005, Oliver Broudy, review of Tokyo Cancelled, p. 53.
Guardian (London, England), March 29, 2005, Sarah Crown, "Narrative Planes."
Independent (London, England), March 8, 2005, Alev Adil, review of Tokyo Cancelled.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2005, review of Tokyo Cancelled, p. 246.
Library Journal, April 1, 2005, Laurie Sullivan, review of Tokyo Cancelled, p. 84.
Publishers Weekly, April 4, 2005, review of Tokyo Cancelled, p. 43.
Telegraph (London, England), February 27, 2005, Kasia Boddy, review of Tokyo Cancelled.
SF Gate, http://www.sfgate.com/ (May 15, 2005), Alan Cheuse, "Grounded Travelers Pass the Time with Flights of Fancy."