The Arsonist book review: A much-needed rebel for our times

Witty and in-your-face, The Arsonist is an unputdownable tale on the issues ailing our country and the world.

Published: 23rd July 2019 01:32 PM  |   Last Updated: 23rd July 2019 01:32 PM   |  A+A-

Author Kiran Nagarkar

Author Kiran Nagarkar

By Express News Service

HYDERABAD: Fascism is rearing its ugly hood in many countries of the world today. Hyper-nationalism, discrimination and hatred for the ‘other’ has become the order of the day. Genocides have been committed in the name of religion.

Did God create man or was it the other way around? Have we forgotten the essence of religion? How did the caste system get institutionalised in our country? All these and other profound aspects of the times we live in find a prominent mention in prize-winning author Kiran Nagarkar’s ‘The Arsonist’.

Kabir, the 15th century mystic, poet, saint and master weaver is the protagonist in ‘The Arsonist’. He tears to shreds the incongruities of human beings – such as people donating millions to build temples, gifting gold and diamond-studded crowns to Gods, all the while ignoring the millions of homeless and starving poor; of the evil and greed lurking in us, and so on.

Nagarkar also touches upon the relentless deforestation happening all over the world, and tells us about how irreplaceable trees (memory banks of our planet) are.

Due to climate change and the ‘nuclear button’, we are closer to extinction than at any time in the past, he points out. When it comes to morality, animals and birds are far better than human beings, he adds.

Throughout the book, the metaphors are easily understood – lynching of Muslims with the alleged connivance of the state, of the “upholding Raj Dharma” comment made by then Prime Minister, jailing innocents on charges of sedition for speaking on behalf of those accused of killing cows, deification of godmen and heads of state, all find mention.

‘The Arsonist’ also has a backstory, where readers get to know of the weaver’s past (that of being a robber), and how he rose to become the king’s most trusted advisor.

Kiran Nagarkar tears into the rigid dogmas, casteist arrogance and majoritarian machinations being witnessed in our country today. Just like Kabir the Weaver, he effortlessly weaves a tale into the current narrative that’s plaguing India.

‘The Arsonist’ reimagines Kabir and makes him our contemporary. Immensely thought-provoking, it is a masterpiece to cherish, and can be read over and over and over again.

Pages: 308
Price: Rs 599 
Publisher: Juggernaut


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