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In Times of Siege Hardcover – 1 Aug 2003

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon Books (Aug. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375422390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375422393
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 2.3 x 14.6 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,573,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"A heady mix of myth, modern mores, politics and lust. . . . Heartbreakingly funny, moving and as relevant as today's headlines."--"The Washington Post
""Githa Hariharan's fiction is wonderful--full of subtleties and humor and tenderness." -Michael Ondaatje
"If this premise seems to be drawn from the headlines of modern, B.J.P.-dominated India, Hariharan amplifies the themes of courage, dissent, and responsibility in her protagonist's private life. . . . The result is an engaging portrait of the mild-mannered professor." -"The New Yorker
" "Appealing. . . . By turns bewildered, titillated, embarrassed, and frightened out of his wits, Shiv makes a sweetly sympathetic hero for a story that is part comedy of manners, part comedy of ideas."--"The Boston Globe
"A modern fable . . . beautifully told in a spare style that is as modern as its subject."--"The Baltimore Sun
"A witty, insightful novel . . . Hariharan tells the tale with a realistic grasp of how people interact and a highly evolved sense of the absurd." --"The Seattle Times
""Intelligent . . . [Hariharan's] deceptively simple prose belies the artistry of her phrasings and she writes with an infectious concern for her characters." --"San Francisco Chronicle
"Admirable. [Its] themes . . . extend beyond India or its current situation. They are universal. Ms. Hariharan has written a fine novel that leaves much to ponder long after its conclusion." -"The Richmond-Times Dispatch
"[Hariharan is] an outstanding writer." -J. M. Coetzee
"Eloquently written . . . a quick read, and fascinating to any outsider. A modern book, it reads like a classic with gorgeous prose and intense conflict." -"The Oklahoma Gazette"
"Imaginative . . . entertaining . . . [The] strength of this highly readable tale is that it is a delicate blend of humor, tenderness and insight." --"Tucson Citizen
"Wonderful . . . Ms. Hariharan executes the vastness of India's hi --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

At 52, Shiv Murthy is a New Delhi professor of history. He leads a mild, unremarkable life until, while his wife is away, things spin out of control. First, the young and passionate daughter of an old friend breaks her leg and moves in with him. Even as he struggles to care for Meena and ignore his increasing attraction to her, a group of religious extremists challenges one of his lessons on medieval India. His instinct is to apologize, but the voice inside his head keeps asking: "Do you imagine an ordinary man cannot be a hero?" The decision he makes will prompt readers to ask themselves the same question. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars 3 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine fictional treatment of an important issue. 10 Dec. 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
A low key, middle aged history professor in Delhi has his calm world torn awry when a group of religious fundamentalists seize upon his scholarly interpretations of a medieval poet saint's life, twisting and sensationalizing the work to further their own aims. Githa Hariharan deals with the theme of extremism deftly and with an impressive depth of understanding, not only of human nature, but of ancient and modern Indian history.
Throughout the ages, narrow minded religious extremists have been responsible for a disproportionate share of the world's horrors (I depict several of these events in my historical novels India Treasures and India Fortunes). In our present age, as Hariharan so adeptly shows, fundamentalist extremism can be a major threat to academic freedom, as well as to a civil society. Although the troublemakers in this book are Indian Hindus, in only a slightly different setting they could just as well be extremist Christians or Muslims threatening anyone who doesn't subscribe to their own strict views. In this case, the previously uncouragious Shiv Murthy, with some inspiration from the young college woman he is taking care of, summons the strength to take his life in new directions. The reader gladly identifies with him as he resists not only his antagonists, but also the timid university administration which would compromise its principles.
The novel is a must for readers with a particular interest in India, but anyone enjoying well written, serious fiction will find it highly rewarding. Review by Gary Worthington
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars �When they came for me, there was no one left to speak�� 17 Nov. 2003
By Luan Gaines - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This elegant little novel begins with an unusual arrangement: a college student breaks her leg and asks her guardian, a friend of her parents, if she can stay with him until the cast is removed in six weeks. Professor Shiv Murthy is tantalized by the idea, even though his wife is currently visiting their daughter in Seattle and Meena doesn't think her parents need to know about her slight inconvenience. Of course, the middle-aged man is unable to resist this faintly scandalous arrangement.
Shiv composes medieval history courses for college correspondence students, so it is a simple thing for him to request a leave of absence from his assigned office, working from home on his lectures. Meena occupies the professor's small study, enjoying his attentions; neither expects the political maelstrom about to descend upon their quietude.
The professor has drifted into euphoric days, shopping and cooking for two, chatting comfortably over afternoon tea, Murthy indulging in the occasional sexual fantasy: "Wherever he is in the house....Shiv is aware of another presence. The woman in the narrow bed in his study, a young woman." But Shiv's private romantic fantasies are innocent.
Shiv's content is Meena's boredom. In any case, their peace is destroyed by a phone call, when a reporter asks whether Professor Murthy is taking a "forced" leave. A group of fundamentalists has attacked Murthy's lecture on the life of a 12th Century poet/reformer, who challenged the caste system, working for social reform and equality. The extremist's real agenda is the suppression of any conflict in Indian history, in effect, historical revisionism, creating the illusion of a perfect, homogenous society. Their methods of bullying and intimidation are not an issue.
Shiv is a simple, uncomplicated man who avoids confrontation. With the young woman's guidance, Shiv understands the significance of the situation. Rising to the occasion, Meena demands that he take a stand, calling her college friends to aid in his defense. Inspired by the poet's struggle in 1168 and his own predicament in 2000, Shiv is inspired to speak out against the bullying of the fundamentalists and his right to teach history with integrity.
While Meena is at the center of their small world, Shiv is isolated from the larger concerns around him. Yet Meena is the catalyst that enables Shiv to confront his biggest challenge. Their intimate domestic contretemps evolves into an awakening to the dangers of revisionism, the implicit deception of censorship on demand.
Hariharan has written a parable for our times, one with an important message for any country that allows the censorship of facts. The author deftly stages her battle in New Delhi, but the parallels are obvious. This powerful novel offers a thoughtful reminder about the freedoms we take for granted. Luan Gaines/2003.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and Interesting 14 Jan. 2005
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those with epistemological inclinations, this is a very interesting, and beautifully written, novel. There are important issues raised about objective truth, particularly historical truth, and the relationship between history and identity politics. Highly recommended.
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