Such a Long Journey

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Overview

It is Bombay in 1971, the year India went to war over what was to become Bangladesh. A hard-working bank clerk, Gustad Noble is a devoted family man who gradually sees his modest life unravelling. His young daughter falls ill; his promising son defies his father’s ambitions for him. He is the one reasonable voice amidst the ongoing dramas of his neighbours. One day, he receives a letter from an old friend, asking him to help in what at first seems like an heroic mission. But he soon finds himself unwittingly ...
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Such a Long Journey

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Overview

It is Bombay in 1971, the year India went to war over what was to become Bangladesh. A hard-working bank clerk, Gustad Noble is a devoted family man who gradually sees his modest life unravelling. His young daughter falls ill; his promising son defies his father’s ambitions for him. He is the one reasonable voice amidst the ongoing dramas of his neighbours. One day, he receives a letter from an old friend, asking him to help in what at first seems like an heroic mission. But he soon finds himself unwittingly drawn into a dangerous network of deception. Compassionate, and rich in details of character and place, this unforgettable novel charts the journey of a moral heart in a turbulent world of change.

A moving domestic tragi-comedy that introduces readers to Gustad Noble, a devout Parsi and dedicated family man, who becomes enmeshed in the corruption of the Indira Gandhi years. His journey back to himself manages to be comical and heartbreaking, deeply compassionate and unsparing.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Short-listed for the Booker Prize, this intelligent fictional portrait of the corrupt aspects of Indira Gandhi's regime focuses on a bank clerk who becomes a secret operative as an Indian-Pakistan war threatens in 1971. (June)
Library Journal
Set in Bombay in 1971, this novel is both microscopic and macrocosmic in its portrait of the various lives of Gustad Noble--his family life, his work as a bank clerk, and, ultimately, his innocent participation in national intrigue. India's overall decay and corruption is evident everywhere, from the petty behavior of Noble's neighbors and friends to the double-dealing of Indira Gandhi's regime. Yet, at the end, Gustad Noble, with much of his previously placid existence disrupted, resolutely continues on his arduous journey of survival. There is one serious flaw--a much-needed appendix of Hindi expressions used in the story, with English translations--but otherwise this is an unusually superior novel.-- Glenn O. Carey, Eastern Kentucky Univ., Richmond
From the Publisher
“Mistry is a writer of considerable achievement.…Patiently and with loving humour, [he] develops a portrait and draws his people with such care and understanding that their trials become our tragedies.”
Time

“A seamless, gracefully written trek through a rocky period in one man’s life.…A rewarding literary excursion.”
Maclean’s

“This fine first novel demonstrates the bright-hard reality of India’s middle class.…Mistry is a singular pleasure to read, and his description of India is a lucid, living account.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“A passionate embracing of life in all its manifestations.”
Books in Canada

“A rich, humane work, undoubtedly one of the best novels about India in recent years.”
The Spectator (U.K.)

“The world of Such a Long Journey is vivid, lively, and comic – a rich and richly recreated setting.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“Fascinating.…Mistry manages to convey a vivid picture of India through sharp affectionate sketches of Indian family life and a gift for erotic satire.”
New York Times Book Review

“A highly poised and accomplished work.”
The Observer (U.K.)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780771061042
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart Ltd.
  • Publication date: 3/28/1999
  • Pages: 352

Meet the Author

Rohinton Mistry

Rohinton Mistry is the author of three novels, all of which have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and a collection of short stories, Tales from Firozsha Baag.
 
His first novel, Such a Long Journey, won the Governor General's Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, and the SmithBooks/Books in Canada First Novel Award. It was made into an acclaimed feature film in 1998.
 
A Fine Balance was winner of the Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize, the Royal Society of Literature's Winifred Holtby Award, and Denmark's ALOA Prize. It was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, and the Prix Femina. In 2002, A Fine Balance was selected for Oprah’s Book Club.
 
Family Matters won the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize for Fiction and the Canadian Authors Association Fiction Award. It was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.
 
Born in Bombay, Rohinton Mistry has lived in Canada since 1975. He was awarded the Trudeau Fellows Prize in 2004, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005. Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2009, he was a finalist for the 2011 Man Booker International Prize, and winner of the 2012 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. In translation, his work has been published in more than thirty languages.

Biography

Rohinton Mistry has not lived in his native India for many years; but like many expatriate writers, he continues a relationship with his country in his writings and has enriched his readers’ understanding of it. In his first two novels, Such a Long Journey and A Fine Balance, Mistry set his humorous, heartrending, Dickensian view of Bombay under the shadow of tumult under Indira Ghandi’s rule in the 1970s.

Four years after publishing a collection of stories, Swimming Lessons: And Other Stories from Firozsha Baag in 1987, Mistry released his first novel. Such a Long Journey, which follows a bank clerk’s unwitting descent into corrupt political dealings in 1971 Bombay, was short-listed for the Booker prize and won Canada’s Governor General’s Award. Next came A Fine Balance, Mistry’s sweeping story of four strangers forced into sharing an apartment in 1975 Bombay. Again the Booker short list, and top Canadian honor the Giller Prize.

The selection of A Fine Balance for Oprah’s Book Club in 2001 changed the nature of Mistry’s career, as it has for many authors. While already respected, he had now earned a recognition with a new readership in the hundreds of thousands – a readership that was by and large unlikely to pick up a sprawling book set in 1970s India. Mistry told the show, “[India] remains my focus and makes it all worthwhile because of the people…their capacity for laughter, their capacity to endure….Perhaps my main intention in writing this novel was to look at history from the bottom up.”

As a result of the Oprah publicity, a greater weight of expectation may have rested on Mistry’s third novel than it might have otherwise; this is true not only because of the increased pairs of eyes on Mistry’s work, but because he is a writer who is clearly still evolving. His earlier books encountered some criticism for heavyhandedness, particularly where the injection of political and social commentary were concerned. In 2002’s Family Matters, Mistry moves away from a charged national backdrop and focuses more on family politics, though his keen observance of Indian culture remains a strong element. Charting the effects of one partriarch’s physical decline on his extended family, Family Matters moves forward in Bombay time to the mid-1990s and uses the Vakeel clan as a lens through which the author views (critically) religious fundamentalism.

Mistry’s consistent performance as a novelist, and ever growing awareness of his talents among American readers, promises a long and fruitful career. One Atlantic reviewer, beginning a review of Family Matters, put it this way: “[Mistry] has long been recognized as one of the best Indian writers; he ought to be considered simply one of the best writers, Indian or otherwise, now alive.”

Good To Know

Although he left India in 1975 and does not often go back, Mistry told a British magazine that he feels no hindrance in writing about his home country. "So far I have had no difficulty writing about it, even though I have been away for so long," he said. "All fiction relies on the real world in the sense that we all take in the world through our five senses and we accumulate details, consciously or subconsciously. This accumulation of detail can be drawn on when you write fiction..."

After emigrating to Toronto in 1975, Mistry got a job as a bank clerk and ascended to the supervisor of customer service after a few years. His dissatisfaction in the job led to his taking classes in English, first at York College, and ultimately pursuing a degree part-time at the University of Toronto.

Mistry had no ambitions to be a writer until he got to Canada and began taking classes in literature at the University of Toronto. Encouraged by his wife, he set out to win a university literary contest by writing his first short story. He called in sick from work, devoted several days to the story, entered it, and won the contest.

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    1. Hometown:
      Toronto, Canada
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 30, 1951
    2. Place of Birth:
      Bombay, India
    1. Education:
      B. S. in mathematics and economics, University of Bombay; B.A. in English and philosophy, University of Toronto, 1983

Read an Excerpt

The first light of morning barely illumined the sky as Gustad Noble faced eastward to offer his orisons to Ahura Mazda. The hour was approaching six, and up in the compound’s solitary tree the sparrows began to call. Gustad listened to their chirping every morning while reciting his kusti prayers. There was something reassuring about it. Always, the sparrows were first; the cawing of crows came later.

From a few flats away, the metallic clatter of pots and pans began nibbling at the edges of stillness. The bhaiya sat on his haunches beside the tall aluminium can and dispensed milk into the vessels of housewives. His little measure with its long, hooked handle dipped into the container and emerged, dipped and emerged, rapidly, with scarcely a drip. After each customer was served, he let the dipper hang in the milk can, adjusted his dhoti, and rubbed his bare knees while waiting to be paid. Flakes of dry dead skin fell from his fingers. The women blenched with disgust, but the tranquil hour and early light preserved the peace.

Gustad Noble eased his prayer cap slightly, away from the wide forehead with its numerous lines, until it settled comfortably on his grey-­white hair. The black velvet of the cap contrasted starkly with his cinereous sideburns, but his thick, groomed moustache was just as black and velvety. Tall and broad-­shouldered, Gustad was the envy and admiration of friends and relatives whenever health or sickness was being discussed. For a man swimming the tidewater of his fifth decade of life, they said, he looked so solid. Especially for one who had suffered a serious accident just a few years ago; and even that left him with nothing graver than a slight limp. His wife hated this kind of talk. Touch wood, Dilnavaz would say to herself, and look around for a suitable table or chair to make surreptitious contact with her fingers. But Gustad did not mind telling about his accident, about the day he had risked his own life to save his eldest.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2005

    Unusually Good

    Usually I'm not a fan of novels like this. For every SUCH A LONG JOURNEY (not to mention MY FATHER'S EYES, of course) there are a dozen pretentious psychobabble productions. This is worth the time and effort. Maybe because it's set in a differnt time and less navel-gazing society than ours.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2002

    well written and i find quite true to a character

    good book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2003

    A must read....

    I am an avid reader and found this book hard to put down...from beginning to end this book ensnares you and keep you wanting to read more.....Rohinto Mistry gives the reader humor, sadness, variety and a look at middle class India....totally enjoyable.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2000

    A very absorbing and simple story

    I think this book is Rohington Mistry's best book to date.It tells us the story of a simple Indian family which for all practical purposes could be any Indian Family and it takes us along with the protoganist Gustad Noble and his family on a long journey filled with numerous ups and downs and it also tells us how the protoganist like a lot of us eventually comes to terms with the reality and learns to live with it. Really an exceptional book.

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    Posted April 2, 2011

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    Posted February 27, 2011

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    Posted December 21, 2012

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    Posted December 9, 2011

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