And the Word Was: A Novel

And the Word Was: A Novel

by Bruce Bauman
     
 

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When the tragic death of his son compels Dr. Neil Downs to flee New York City for India, he takes a job as the resident physician at the American Embassy, where he is introduced to the paradoxes of Indian social and political life. Unable to mourn, and angry about a betrayal on the part of his wife, Sarah, Neil seeks philosophical refuge in the writings of Levi

Overview

When the tragic death of his son compels Dr. Neil Downs to flee New York City for India, he takes a job as the resident physician at the American Embassy, where he is introduced to the paradoxes of Indian social and political life. Unable to mourn, and angry about a betrayal on the part of his wife, Sarah, Neil seeks philosophical refuge in the writings of Levi Furstenblum, whose work grapples with the nature of language and god after Auschwitz. At the same time, he becomes involved with a prestigious Indian family and forms a bond with Holika, the rebellious, activist niece of the family's industrial and political doyen. With this relationship, Neil discovers the intrigues and the horrors that plague a society not dissimilar to the one he left behind. Through a complex interplay between the external and internal, foreign and domestic, the promises of faith and the ineluctability of evil, Neil slowly unravels the lies and misrepresentations that had woven the texture of his life.

This tightly plotted novel will be irresistible to anyone who yearns for affirmation in spirituality and matters of the heart. A stunning reinterpretation of the Abraham and Isaac sacrifice myth, And the Word Was is guaranteed to leave readers profoundly moved.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Booklist 2005

Bauman's first novel is a magnificent debut, smart and intense, but accessible and riveting. Its central character, Neil Downs, is embraceable and human, a doctor for all the right reasons; and though he has led a good life, it is overturned by a random act of violence. His treasured young son, a brilliant and lovable pre-teen, is gunned down in a school shooting, and Downs finds later that day that his wife has betrayed him. When Downs' medical expertise cannot save his son and his spirituality cannot save his faith in his marriage, he turns to the universe in utter despair and moves to India, hoping to find either oblivion or hope. What he finds is a fascinating play of world politics encompassing a wide cast of characters. This story at first seems a strange foil for his internal turmoil, but as the two plots weave together, the connections become clearer. The binding thread of this narrative is the integration of suffering into one's worldview. Downs' favorite writer, Holocaust survivor Levi Furstenblum, denies all meaning in the universe, and his writings are interspersed within the book and espoused in real conversations between him and Downs, since Furstenblum is now living in India. In the end, the world does turn again, for all the characters, and the resolution is hopeful and fulfilling. This is simply a great novel, and hopefully only the first in what will be many more from the author. Debi Lewis

"[And the Word Was] is utterly absorbing, a page-turner in the most literal sense of the phrase. Seamlessly structured, it is at once intellectually ambitious and emotionally alive. Bruce Bauman is one of the most engaging and engaged writers and thinkers that I know."
- Rebecca Goldstein, author of The Mind-Body Problem and winner of a MacArthur Fellowship, the Jewish Book Award, and a Whiting Award.

"This book in its entirety is deelpy moving, sophisticated, intricate, elegant, with a neatly woven narrative and powerful culminations. It is a loving, sensitive novel, which asks many hard questions about life and faith."
- Joanna Scott, author of Arrogance: A Novel and winner of a MacArthur Fellowship and the Lannan Foundation Award

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590512241
Publisher:
Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
04/11/2006
Pages:
360
Product dimensions:
5.98(w) x 8.99(h) x 1.09(d)

Read an Excerpt

And the Word Was


By Bruce Bauman

Other Press

Copyright © 2006 Bruce Bauman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781590512241

I LIVED ALONE. In New Delhi. Before moving there, I lived my whole life, thirty-nine years, in New York City. Please, no Second Avenue New Deli Borsht-Belt and famed, Holy Cow bagel chip jokes. I’ve heard them all.

I did not choose Delhi because I was a Pepsi-Generation hippie turned dyspepsia generation yuppie, who long ago got stoned and laid to the ragas of Ravi Shankar and yearned for the gloried conquests of youth; no, his music bored me into stupefaction; I did not choose Delhi because I was a midlife-crisis New Ager with a self-indulgent belief that I’d find a drivethru guru who would instantly end my emptiness and infuse me with internal peace; no, because I must’ve set a record when I was, ever so politely, asked by the enlightened Desiree Prana (born Rene Kerstein of Roslyn, Long Island) never to come back to her yoga class because I disruptively murmured “shit” and “fuck” every time I couldn’t contort my body into Gumbyesque position; I did not choose Delhi because I craved Indian food and hung out in the dingy restaurants on East 6th Street; nope, because even the odor of curry upset my delicate digestive system. I did not choose Delhi because I was infatuated by the literature, the art, or the movies; I knew almost nothing of the Indian arts. I did not choose India because I wanted to conquer the languages of Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, or any of the hundreds of other languages and dialects spoken by over one billion people; no, I wanted to be deaf to the world around me. I did not choose Delhi because of my lustful desire to experiment with the innumerable sexual entanglements of the Kama Sutra; I almost never expected to have sex again after I left New York. Nor did I choose Delhi because of my mystical belief in the reincarnations of Hinduism.



Continues...

Excerpted from And the Word Was by Bruce Bauman Copyright © 2006 by Bruce Bauman. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Bruce Bauman

Bruce Bauman's work has appeared in Salon, BOMB, Bookforum, and numerous anthologies and literary magazines. He is an associate editor of Black Clock magazine and is adjunct professor in the CalArts MFA Writing Program. He is married to the painter Suzan Woodruff, and lives in Los Angeles.

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