Journey to Ithaca

( 1 )

Overview

Matteo and Sophie join the 1970s flight of young Europeans to India. Matteo - Italian, raised in the luscious countryside around Lake Como, restless since childhood - has been introduced by a tutor to Hermann Hesse's The Journey to the East, and it opens in him a desperate longing. Sophie - German, practical, worldly - is willing to follow him to the ends of the earth. In India, together they visit swamis, gurus, ashrams - always searching. Matteo is seeking spiritual enlightenment, but for Sophie fulfillment ...
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Overview

Matteo and Sophie join the 1970s flight of young Europeans to India. Matteo - Italian, raised in the luscious countryside around Lake Como, restless since childhood - has been introduced by a tutor to Hermann Hesse's The Journey to the East, and it opens in him a desperate longing. Sophie - German, practical, worldly - is willing to follow him to the ends of the earth. In India, together they visit swamis, gurus, ashrams - always searching. Matteo is seeking spiritual enlightenment, but for Sophie fulfillment lies in earthly love. And when they meet a holy woman known as the Mother, the differences between them seem to explode. When we learn the Mother's story, we see it as an earlier version of their own - the story of a young girl growing up in Cairo and finding her way East by joining a troupe of Indian dancers she has met in Europe. Her journey, a young woman's daring progress through Paris and Venice and New York, until she finds her moment of transcendence in India, comments on, and gives added breadth to, the young couple's quest.

An extraordinarily rich and satisfying novel about three Westerners in search of spiritual enlightenment in India. In its compassionate portrayal of these three people struggling to find a spiritual home for themselves, Journey to Ithaca examines the nature of quests and shows us spiritual India in all its endless complexity.

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Editorial Reviews

Richard Bernstein
As always, Ms. Desai writes with intelligence and power. She has a remarkable eye for substance, the things that give life its texture....The book is wise and observant yet overwrought, edging into grandiloquence and improbability, the emotional drama artificially thickened by images and metaphors that are inflated and not especially fresh. -- New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A disaffected European couple drift apart while seeking enlightenment in India. (Dec.)
Library Journal
The author of Baumgartner's Bombay (LJ 3/15/89) offers another intriguing novel of India. During a seriocomic search for Eastern enlightenment, European newlyweds Matteo and Sophie encounter a living saint, the Mother. Matteo becomes a disciple, but Sophie resists, even as their stay in the Mother's model ashram stretches into years. As Matteo increasingly withdraws from a previously passionate marriage, Sophie vows to destroy her husband's spiritual obsession. To prove that the Mother is less than holy, Sophie explores the saint's past, beginning with rumors about a colorful dancing career. The quest leads Sophie along strange roads to even stranger characters in Egypt, France, Italy, and the United States. Back in India with assorted facts but few answers, she finds shocking news and a challenge waiting. An ambiguous denouement reiterates the haunting questions about sacred and profane love that echo throughout the book. Fine fare for thoughtful readers with a taste for exotic settings.-Starr E. Smith, Marymount Univ., Arlington, Va.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140258189
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/1/1996
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,259,975
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Anita Desai was born in 1937; her father was Bengali and her mother German, and she was educated in Delhi. Her publihsed work includes Clear Light of Day, which was shortlisted for the 1980 Booker Prize, Fire on the Mountain, for which she won the Royal Society of Literature's Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize and the 1978 National Academy of Letters Award, In Custody, which was shortlisted for the 1984 Booker Prize, a volume of short stories, Games at Twilight, and Baumgartner's Bombay, all of which are publihsed in Penguin. She has also written several books for children. She is a member of the Advisory Board for English of the National Academy of Letters in Delhi and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in London. She was awarded the Neil Gunn International Fellowship for 1994. Anita Desai is married, has four children, and lives in India.

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