Where isolation is beautiful and death delivers transparency…..

August 3, 2010 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Award Nominated, Great for Book Clubs, Literary Fiction | 1 Comment

‘Chef’, Jaspreet Singh, Bloomsbury March 2010

The finest fiction takes base human conditions and emotions, chips and sculpts away to reveal what is fine in them. What does this mean? The finest authors, I believe, take the most common emotions known to us all such as guilt, love, hate, boredom, patience and commitment and elevate them by using a story to reveal how uncommon these experiences actually are to us and in the case of this novel how desolation can be movingly beautiful. Jaspreet Singh is a very special author who makes these common human emotions, we all experience in one form or another, into a shared experience through this story that is sharp like a razor.

Chef’ is a novel full of grace and powerful storytelling. A novel where isolation becomes beautiful in its description and in its place in the story both emotionally and geographically. A novel in which death delivers transparency on a life chastened by guilt and moulded by circumstances. How does Jaspreet Singh make this happen? Through sublime storytelling. This is the memory of a life that reveals itself to be a requiem for India and Pakistan.

Kirpal Singh is dying on a train. He is making his way back to a military camp in Kashmir where fourteen years previously he worked as a chef for the General there to cook a final wedding feast for the Generals daughter. He worked in an isolated part of Kashmir flanked by glaciers which are both violently beautiful and physically cruel and become a testament to Kirpal’s own life. He is making sense of his life as he travels on the slow train. He joined the Indian army out of an allegiance to his father who died in the line of duty. During his career Kirpal bears witness to sectarian hatred his life’s story in its own way painting the personalized history of Pakistan and India. He experiences love, learns the art of food and women and experiences relationships that occur outside normal social rhythms.

Duties as a military man are not always easy for Kirpal, carrying out orders he can’t agree with and working with people he doesn’t always understand culminates in Kirpal having to leave Kashmir in a shroud of mystery. Kirpal is a soldier but not of the army he a soldier in his own life.  Jasprett Singh’s writing has earned him several awards and nominations, notably ‘Chef’ was long listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2010. Singh has a PHD in chemical engineering and is a former research scientist living in the Canadian Rockies. With this novel Singh has announced himself as a major literary player. This is extraordinary writing.

Haiku; The border between, India and Pakistan, crossed with princely skill.

Click here to view this book on Bloomsbury.com

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1 Comment »

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  1. Sounds fantastic


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