rev. of The Guru of Love by Samrat Upadhyay

Issue #90
Spring 2003

The Guru of Love,
a novel by Samrat Upadhyay (Houghton Mifflin): The debut novel of short-story writer Samrat Upadhyay is set in Kathmandu, but for most of the first half of
The Guru of Love, the plot and the language aren’t so terribly exotic. This remarkable restraint is one of this wonderful novel’s many strengths, and indicates a work that is both profound and universal. Ramchandra, a struggling schoolteacher, is a typical middle-aged man plagued by the typical traps of marriage and parenthood and income, until an impoverished nineteen-year-old girl arrives on the doorstep of his very modest apartment and asks to be tutored for the SLC exam. Of course he falls for her, of course they have an affair, but then the tale turns marvelously daring, as Ramchandra’s wife first quits the home with her two young children, and then returns to live under the same roof with her husband and his mistress. Only in Kathmandu? Perhaps. But throughout this ultimately wise and fresh story is an astonishing eye for the telling detail, coupled with a rivetingly precise and graceful style. This is a marvelous book.
-Fred Leebron