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Q & A


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About the Author

Vikas Swarup is an Indian diplomat who has served in Turkey, the United States, Ethiopia, and Great Britain. Q & A, his first novel, was translated into eighteen languages and adapted into the Academy Award-winning film Slumdog Millionaire. Swarup currently works in the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi.


Swarup's debut novel is not for the faint of heart. Set in contemporary India, it opens with the arrest of a poor orphan boy named Ram Mohammed Thomas who wins the ultimate prize on a quiz show called Who Will Win a Billion?, only to be arrested and tortured by police and unscrupulous television executives reluctant to cough up the rupees. This episode turns out to be the first in a string of appalling acts that unfold throughout the novel and ostensibly illustrate not only the disturbing conditions of India's lower classes but also the terrible oppression that many women and children are forced to endure in that country. Combined with a picaresque first-person narrative, these themes turn Q & A into an uncommon modern-day saga. There are many moments, however, when Swarup's prose reads as though something has been lost in translation. The formal dialog makes it difficult to conjure the authentic sights and sounds of Indian urban street life, and the excessive number of horrific acts in some ways desensitizes the reader to the characters' plights. That said, the book is still a readable and inventive piece of social commentary that should strike a chord with admirers of somewhat melodramatic, Dickens-like fiction. Recommended for large contemporary fiction collections.-Kevin Greczek, Ewing, NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

When Ram Mohammad Thomas, an orphaned, uneducated waiter from Mumbai, wins a billion rupees on a quiz show, he finds himself thrown in jail. (Unable to pay out the prize, the program's producers bribed local authorities to declare Ram a cheater.) Enter attractive lawyer Smita Shah, to get Ram out of prison and listen to him explain, via flashbacks, how he knew the answers to all the show's questions. Indian diplomat Swarup's fanciful debut is based on a sound premise: you learn a lot about the world by living in it (Ram has survived abandonment, child abuse, murder). And just as the quiz show format is meant to distill his life story (each question prompts a separate flashback), Ram's life seems intended to distill the predicament of India's underclass in general. Rushdie's Midnight's Children may have been a model: Ram's brash yet innocent voice recalls that of Saleem Sinai, Rushdie's narrator, and the sheer number of Ram's near-death adventures represents the life of the underprivileged in India, just as Saleem wore a map of India, quite literally, on his face. But Swarup's prose is sometimes flat and the story's picaresque form turns predictable. Ram is a likable fellow, but this q&a with him, though clever, grows wearying. Agent, Peter Buckman. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"Q & A is that rare novel that chugs along on the parallel tracks of being a rollicking read as well as being a polished, varnished, finished work of impressive craftsmanship."
-- Hindustan Times, India
"[A] rare, seemingly effortless brew of humour, drama, romance and social realism...Swarup...has achieved a triumph with this thrilling, endearing work which gets into the heart and soul of modern India."
-- The New Zealand Herald
"A very clever story told very cleverly and at a relentless pace."
-- The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
"It was an inspired idea by Vikas Swarup to write Q & A...A broad and sympathetic humanity underpins the whole book."
-- The Sunday Telegraph, London
"Swarup is an accomplished storyteller, and Q & A has all the immediacy and impact of an oral account."
-- Daily Mail, London
"This page-turning novel reels from farce to melodrama to fairy tale."
-- You Magazine, London
"Vikas Swarup weaves a delightful yarn. With an easy style, Q & A is sweet, sorrowful and funny. An enchanting tale."
-- The Sunday Tribune, India

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