CHENNAI: Writer-journalist Vauhini Vara's keenly anticipated debut novel about family, modernity and techno-capitalism The Immortal King Rao is set to release in India and the US on May 3, 2022.
To be published under the prestigious Fourth Estate imprint, this novel blurs the boundaries between literary and speculative fiction and is an expansive saga set across times and continents "from the coconut plantations of South India in the 1950s to the globalised arena of America in the near future," marrying Dalit history, the digital age and dystopia, PTI said in a report quoting the PR agency for the book's publishers HarperCollins India.
The Immortal King Rao, according to the author's website, was set in an Indian village in the 1950s. A precocious child is born into a family of Dalit coconut farmers. King Rao will grow up to be the most accomplished tech CEO in the world and, eventually, the leader of a global, corporate-led government.
In a future in which the world is run by the Board of Corporations, King’s daughter, Athena, reckons with his legacy -- literally, for he has given her access to his memories, among other questionable gifts.
With climate change raging, Athena has come to believe that saving the planet and its shareholders will require a radical act of communion -- and so she sets out to tell the truth to the world's shareholders, in entrancing sensory detail, about King’s childhood on a South Indian coconut plantation; his migration to the U.S. to study engineering in a world transformed by globalization; his marriage to the ambitious artist with whom he changed the world; and, ultimately, his invention, under self-exile, of the most ambitious creation of his life -- Athena herself.
The novel by the award-winning, former Wall Street Journal technology reporter, has been featured in Electric Literature.com's "62 Books By Women of Color to Read in 2022." There, RO Kwon wrote that Vauhini Vara's novel is "indelible, a brilliant epic about a Dalit immigrant who becomes terribly, unimaginably powerful, and about what happens to his child. The Immortal King Rao is something new, and it astonished me."
The novel also featured in Literary Hub's exhaustive list of 196 Most Anticipated Books of 2022. The Hub, quoting from a review, describes that "the debut novel follows Athena, a young woman accused of killing her father - a tech mogul who grew up on a Dalit plantation and became the most powerful person on earth through the force of his corporate-led government."
The novel was also in Alex Preston's (The Guardian) list of Fiction to Look out for in 2022. Preston has praised the work as "a brilliant and beautifully written book about capitalism and the patriarchy, about Dalit India and digital America, about power and family and love."
Talking about the book, Vauhini Vara says, "In 2009, when I was studying creative writing in graduate school, I was on a train with my father, and he was teasing me about having not started a novel yet."
I said, "Give me an idea, then."
And he said, "Write about the coconut grove."
He was referring to the coconut grove in Andhra Pradesh where he'd grown up! And that became the germ of the idea that became The Immortal King Rao.
"Publishing this novel in India has been a dream of mine, and learning that I would get to do so with Rahul Soni and the legendary Fourth Estate has been one of the greatest thrills and honors of this whole process," she said.
"Rahul Soni, Executive Editor at HarperCollins India, says, "This is a novel that has been the talk of publishing circles internationally since the manuscript was first sent around, and I'm thrilled that Vauhini Vara ultimately decided that HarperCollins and Fourth Estate were the right home for The Immortal King Rao in India".
(With PTI inputs)