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The Book of Chocolate Saints follows the unforgettable character Francis Newton Xavier and his journey towards salvation – or damnation – or perhaps both. In the swooning, hypnotic prose for which his Man Booker Prize-shortlisted novel was acclaimed, Jeet Thayil paints a hallucinatory portrait of an ambiguous soul: a self-destructive figure living a wild existence of excess in pursuit of his uncompromising aesthetic vision, a charismatic contrarian, and a tortured artist battling with his conflicting instincts. His paintings and poems embodying the decadent jeu d’esprit of his heroes like Baudelaire forged his reputation, which is celebrated at a show in Delhi. Approaching middle-age, Xavier leaves Manhattan following 9/11, and his journey home to India becomes a voyage into his past. From his formative years with an infamous school of Bombay poets – documented by his biographer, Diswas – to an uncertain future, Xavier’s story shows how the artist’s life itself can become the final monument. The Book of Chocolate Saints explores our deepest urges in a novel that is sexy, dangerous, and entirely uncompromising. It is intoxicating, blazingly intelligent literary fiction – a strange, beautiful hymn to the artistic life lived fearlessly – that consolidates Thayil’s reputation as one of the most exciting writers of his generation.
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