Namaste Trump and Other Stories (Paperback)

Namaste Trump and Other Stories By Tabish Khair Cover Image

Namaste Trump and Other Stories (Paperback)

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A collection of other stories from shining India—those not often told.

The short story “Namaste Trump” starts in a deceptive domestic setting, where a servant from the hinterlands is patronized and exploited by an upwardly mobile urban family. But as the nation celebrates Trump’s visit and copes with the pandemic, it ends up becoming a prophecy of endless haunting. This sets the agenda for a series of stories that delve into fracturing or broken lives in small-town India over the past fifty years.

In the novella-length “Night of Happiness,” pragmatic entrepreneur Anil Mehrotra has set up his thriving business empire with the help of his lieutenant, Ahmed, an older man who is different in more ways than one. Quiet and undemanding, Ahmed talks in aphorisms; bothers no one; and always gets the job done. But when one stormy night, Mehrotra discovers an aspect to Ahmed that defies all reason, he is forced to find out more about his trusted aide. What will he discover: madness or something worse?

In a series of three linked stories, “The Corridor,” “The Ubiquity of Riots” and “Elopement,” Khair traces, through the eyes of an adolescent, the tensions of living as a liberal Muslim in India in the 1970s and 1980s, tensions that isolate families, break friendships, and point to the violence to come. The narrator of these stories, now a busy professional, returns in the third person in another story, “Olden Friends are Golden,” about belonging and exclusion on WhatsApp. Then there is “Scam,” a flippantly narrated story about a crime that
can only be comprehended as a scam perpetuated by the victim, and in “Shadow of a Story” violence returns to a village family in an unimaginable shape.

“The Thing with Feathers” is perhaps about hope, but it is hope beyond despair, hope perhaps gone mad: or, is all hope mad now? Finally, “The Last Installment” narrates two farmers, a father and a son, in a village of North India, caught in a corporate vice: the breathless sentences of the story making the reader sense the desperation of the central character as he finally fights to breathe, to live.

By turns poetic, chilling, and heartbreaking, ranging from understated realism to gothic terror, this is a book of stories about precarious lives in a world without tolerance.

Praise for Tabish Khair

“Ingenious and mischievous …”
The New Yorker

“Khair writes brilliantly ... Unmissable …”
The Times

“Irreverent, intelligent, and explosive.”
– The Independent

“For a book so concise and witty, it is also surprisingly textured …”
The New Republic

“The picture that emerges may sear your soul much like your all-time favorite film.”
India Today

“Intelligent and argumentative …”
London Review of Books
Tabish Khair was born in 1966 and educated in Gaya, a small town in Bihar, India. He is the acclaimed author of 7 novels—of which Interlink published three: The Body by the Shore, Just Another Jihadi Jane, and How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position—and 2 poetry collections. Winner of the All India Poetry Prize, his novels have been shortlisted for more than a dozen major prizes, including the Man Asian, the DSC Prize and the Encore Prize. An Associate Professor at Aarhus University, Denmark and has also been awarded guest professorships or honorary fellowships at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Leeds University (UK), Delhi University (India), York University (UK), Cambridge University (UK), and others.
Product Details ISBN: 9781623717483
ISBN-10: 1623717485
Publisher: Interlink Books
Publication Date: July 25th, 2023
Pages: 278
Language: English
“[A] magnificent collection … Indian poet, essayist, and author Tabish Khair nimbly interrogates relationships both enabled and sundered by religious and socioeconomic divides in Namaste Trump & Other Stories … Khair proves to be an elegant, diligent conduit for all of his characters, as he records incidents of desperate sacrifice, casual disregard, blind denial, and generational trauma to create an unforgettable mosaic of human frailty and unforgivable inhumanity.”
— —Shelf Awareness, starred review

“Indian poet, essayist, and author Tabish Khair (The Thing About Thugs) nimbly interrogates relationships both enabled and sundered by religious and socioeconomic divides in Namaste Trump & Other Stories. This magnificent collection opens with ‘Night of Happiness,’ a sly yet ultimately devastating novella featuring a Hindu businessman and his longstanding Muslim employee responsible for much of the company's success. Ahmed is a tireless worker whose only request has been to celebrate Shab-e-Barat, the Muslim festival ‘night of happiness,’ at home with his wife. A visit to Ahmed's flat one rainy afternoon morphs into a poignantly haunting mystery. Hindu-Muslim tensions permeate three interconnected stories—‘The Corridor,’ ‘The Ubiquity of Riots,’ and ‘Elopement’—told from the perspective of Sameer, an only child so protected that he sleeps in his parents' room until he's 12. Theirs is a privileged, albeit minority, Muslim family in a small town that has been their home for generations; but longevity doesn't mean acceptance. That story trio brilliantly sets up ‘Olden Friends Are Golden,’ in which 50-something Sameer remains connected via WhatsApp group chat to childhood friends who are quick to dismiss some of their own because they are not a ‘good’ Muslim, ‘like Sameer.’ In the titular ‘Namaste Trump,’ an ad executive readily dismisses his ‘goofy’ devoted servant as India goes into pandemic lockdown, but his callous disregard turns into karmic torment. ‘I had to tell my story,’ one protagonist declares. Khair proves to be an elegant, diligent conduit for all of his characters, as he records incidents of desperate sacrifice, casual disregard, blind denial, and generational trauma to create an unforgettable mosaic of human frailty and unforgivable inhumanity.”
— —Shelf Awareness, starred review

“Indian writer Khair colors in scenes of quotidian life with depictions of violence, political upheaval, and strange behavior in this accomplished collection … Khair demonstrates a sure hand in stories that keep readers on their toes with a mix of existential searching and biting irony.”
— —Publishers Weekly

“Indian writer Khair colors in scenes of quotidian life with depictions of violence, political upheaval, and strange behavior in this accomplished collection (after the crime novel The Body by the Shore). ‘Night of Happiness,’ a novella set in the present day, explores an employer’s unease with his loyal right-hand man. Anil Mehrota, a Hindu, runs a thriving import/export business with the help of Ahmed, the only Muslim applicant for the job (‘I did not want to feel prejudiced by not giving him a chance,’ Mehrota narrates). In ‘The Corridor,’ one of three stories that depict the chaos and instability of the early 1970s Indo-Pakistan conflicts, a young boy fears his routine visits with a tutor, whose building is infested with rats and has dank hallways piled with discarded furniture. The incandescent ‘Shadow of a Story’ features a literature professor’s meditation on the value of literature as the Covid-19 pandemic ravages India. He remembers how two decades earlier, while visiting his rural hometown after finishing his PhD, he stumbled upon the body of a six-year-old child bride who had been sacrificially killed. Khair demonstrates a sure hand in stories that keep readers on their toes with a mix of existential searching and biting irony.”
— —Publishers Weekly

“Skillful and intriguing … A book that reminded me much more of Paul Auster than of any of Khair’s Indian contemporaries … [Namaste Trump], while undeniably a ‘literary thriller’ with a gripping and well-constructed plot, is also a penetrating inquiry into, among other things, the nature of loss and trauma—in this case following the Gujarat pogrom of 2002—and of the varieties of Muslim faith in India.”
— The Hindu

“A serving of distilled wisdom from Tabish Khair … [Namaste Trump] is gripping and almost impossible to put down … Khair, like in all his books, ensures that long after the book ends, its poetry—because it certainly is that—continues to gently waft through your mind.”
— The Week

“In Albert Camus’ immortal words, ‘the purpose of the writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.’ Tabish Khair shoulders this responsibility with impressive fortitude. Nuanced and insightful, his fiction shines a light on the inner workings of a world mired in Islamophobia and intolerance. It raises difficult, and necessary, questions about the powerful influence religion exerts on the Indian social fabric.”
— Open Magazine

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