History's Angel (Hardcover)
From the Man Asian Literary Prize-longlisted author, the story of a middle-aged man in contemporary India discovering that neither his life nor his country are as stable as he thought.
Alif is a middle-aged, mild-mannered history teacher, living in contemporary Delhi, at a time when Muslims in India are seen either as hapless victims or live threats. Though his life's passion is the history he teaches, it's the present that presses down on him: his wife is set on a bigger house and a better car while trying to ace her MBA exams; his teenage son wants to quit school to get rich; his supercilious colleagues are suspicious of a Muslim teaching India's history; and his old friend Ganesh has just reconnected with a childhood sweetheart with whom Alif was always rather enamored himself.
And then the unthinkable happens. While Alif is leading a school field trip, a student goads him and, in a fit of anger, Alif twists his ear. His job suddenly on the line, Alif finds his life rapidly descending into chaos.
Meanwhile, his home city, too, darkens under the spreading shadow of violence. In this darkly funny, sharply observed and deeply moving novel, Anjum Hasan deftly and delicately explores the force and the consequences of remembering your people's history in an increasingly indifferent milieu.
About the Author
Anjum Hasan is the author of three novels and two short story collections, which have been shortlisted for the Indian Academy of Letters Prize, the Sahiya Akademi Award, the Hindu Best Fiction Award and the Crossword Fiction Award, as well as being longlisted for the Man Asia Literary Prize and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in Granta, Paris Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, among many others. She lives in Bangalore, India.
"[A] wonderfully restrained, shrewdly comic novel . . . Ms. Hasan grants this hero such a complete inner life—and surrounds him with such finely drawn characters—that the very air he breathes seems dense with thoughts and longings . . . There is as much history, then, in this quiet novel as there is in any sweeping epic by Amitav Ghosh. And as much tension—between the fading past and the frenzied present—as there is in Aravind Adiga’s ‘The White Tiger’ . . . Retrograde or not, the quotidian world of Delhi, ‘the city on which the apocalypse descends every day,’ is conjured up by Ms. Hasan with acuity and palpable affection." —The Wall Street Journal
“Erudite and languid … Hasan frequently blends her chronicle of Alif's problems with insightful internal monologues, in which he reflects on the country's history and simmering anti-Muslim sentiments. Hasan's layering of history and personal drama accrues a subtle but undeniable power.” —Publishers Weekly
“Hasan bitingly dramatizes the increasing religious intolerance brewing in modern India . . . the novel efficiently shows class and religion can make or break a man.” —Booklist
“Hasan's honest and delicate portrayal of a Muslim community in contemporary Delhi is told through the eyes of a middle-aged teacher whose life is upended after a small outburst. It is an eye-opening story that will move readers with its sharp observations and crafty writing.” —Debutiful
"A portrait of an individual as well as a nation in transition, History’s Angel traces the fading of the secular promise of the Indian nation—and the richness of its multifaith culture—under its current, Hindu nationalist regime, and the growing intolerance in society . . . History’s Angel exemplifies and makes a case for the role of literature in preserving the marginal and diverse aspects of a society." - Electric Literature
“Hasan's prose is introspective, carefully observed, and imbued with more than what is said . . . [Her] gaze is clear-sighted and unflinching.” —Indian Express on A DAY IN THE LIFE
“Remarkable and insightful . . . Engrossing . . . Elegant.” —National Herald on A DAY IN THE LIFE
“Genius... one of the finest Indian writers alive.” —Firstpost
“Craftily written . . . The elegant, pondered and deep-reaching prose of this collection allows subversive humour to surface effortlessly . . . The 230 pages are filled with underlineable gems . . . Hasan explores many of the relevant experiences of life in present-day.” —The Hindu on A DAY IN THE LIFE
“HISTORY'S ANGEL is a seething seismic tale about the disturbing times the Muslims of India are living through, in ever growing dread of worse to come. Told in a subdued, sad, ironical tenor, it is compassionate without being sentimental. The novel asserts humanity and hope in the face of widening fissures through its main protagonist who, drawing sustenance from a deep historical perspective, refuses to play the victim and negotiates the situation empathetically.” —Geetanjali Shree, author of the International Booker Prize-winning TOMB OF SAND
“It gives me no pleasure to write that History's Angel is extremely timely. In this work of fiction, the protagonist is accused of teaching 'too much Muslim history' after taking his students on a field trip to a Mughal monument. In real life, things are actually worse: The National Council of Educational Research and Training in India has recently announced its decision to excise the entire chapter on the Mughal Empire from class twelve history textbooks throughout the country. History's Angel helps us view these erasures of the past through a living lens. With sensitivity and nuance, Anjum Hasan draws us into the world of Alif, a Muslim history teacher in contemporary Delhi. Even as Alif prefers to immerse himself in the endless complexities of the Subcontinental past, the boundaries of his present reality slowly shrink under the relentless onslaught of contemporary Hindu nationalism.” —Daisy Rockwell
“This absorbing novel trespasses, from sentence to sentence, the boundaries that usually demarcate the grandeur of the historical from the tedium, humour, and disappointments of ordinary human life. Domesticity, everyday routine, and our historical pasts and futures are conjoined here tantalisingly, with impressive skill, and with real tenderness.” —Amit Chaudhuri
“A wonderful Delhi novel for our times, a Shahr-e-Ashob of the new India. History's Angel is eloquent, brave, elegaic and ultimately, heartbreaking. This remarkable novel reminded me of both of Ahmed Ali's Twilight in Delhi and Anita Desai's In Custody, and confirms Anjum Hasan as one of our finest and most important writers.
” —William Dalrymple
“A shimmering, intelligent rage roils under a cool surface in History's Angel, which manages at once to be 'made so insistently, so noisily, of now' and inhabit layers of history. Hasan's eye is sharp and her aim is unerring. This is a work of sublime elegance.” —Shruti Swamy, author of THE HOUSE IS A BODY
"[A] poignant representation of the increasingly precarious lives of Muslims in contemporary India." —India Currents