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The Impressionist

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  1,677 ratings  ·  154 reviews
Pran Nath Razdan, the boy who will become the Impressionist, was passed off by his Indian mother as the child of her husband, a wealthy man of a high caste. Pran lived a life of luxury just downriver from the Taj Mahal, but at fifteen, the news of Pran’s true parentage is revealed to his father and he is tossed out into the street—a pariah and an outcast. Thus begins an ex...more
Paperback, 465 pages
Published March 25th 2003 by Plume (first published 2002)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Ruth Seeley
The British Raj era has been thoroughly explored by J.G. Farrell (The Siege of Krishnapur), E.M. Forster (A Passage to India), and by Paul Scott in his quartet of novels beginning with The Jewel in the Crown. It's rare for an author of historical fiction to explore this era, as it's been so thoroughly documented.

But the historical fiction is merely a device Kunzru uses in this spectacular first novel to explore what happens when the trappings of family, status, caste, and gender are abruptly rem...more
Jonfaith
This proved to be an exceptional novel to read while waiting at an Immagration office. Such a strange place, much like Old Trafford, the offices are unmistakingly dream factories. It would be unpleasant to wake most of the occupants. A friend from England raved over this novel and while I enjoyed such, it didn't sweep me away in a gale. It does make one ponder about those souls waiting in silence in bureaucratic queues. The veils of identity are quick and fungible. The consequences are a differe...more
Kristel
(I forgot that I've written this review way back in 2007! Young!Me is quaintly embarrassing. I don't have enough critical distance from this, but I sure hope I've improved as a writer.)

I’ve been reading a lot about Britain lately, or at least novels set in Britain and its former colonies. The Impressionist traces the life of Pran Nath, a boy with British and Indian blood, with his attempts to survive the societies that are alternately seduced and repulsed by him. He assumes different guises thro...more
Sarah Cypher
This book was recommended to me by a well-traveled, foreign-policy-savvy author friend of mine, and I found it to be one of my favorite books this year. It's a smart, wry, vivid, take on the hero's journey, where the hero is a fair-skinned Indian who seeks to pass as an Englishman during the Raj era.

The way the narrator follows the nameless (or rather, many-named) protagonist reminded me of Patrick Suskind's Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, in that he's somewhat of a tabula rasa, an observer of...more
Robyn
An incredibly detailed, background-heavy tale about a mixed-race boy born in India at the turn of the 20th century, “The Impressionist” is Hari Kunzru’s reverse take on Rudyard Kipling’s “Kim”. Pran Nath’s privileged life is abruptly brought to an end when a servant reveals his true origins; his father, far from the affluent Indian money-lender who has brought him up, was in fact a deceased English traveller whose path crossed that of Pran’s long-dead mother some 15 years previously. Cast uncere...more
Pamela
The Impressionist was written very well in parts, and in others, poorly. If you can get past those parts, then you can view the novel, on whole, as interesting.

I started off disliking the character, but then you end up liking him by the end of the first part of the book. You feel sorry for him and his life evolves. The second and third part of the book are hard to get through, but after that the story moves on more congruently and smoothly.

The ending was a bit perplexing, and I feel like the rel...more
Ming
a wonderful book that is chaotic at times but suits the thinking and behavior of the main character navigating chaos. clever and quite imaginative throughout and enjoyable. the scene of the tiger hunt was absolutely hilarious. also the sections about anthropology provides an extremely sharp and on-point critique.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jun 23, 2011 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those Who Feel No Need to Have a Sympathetic Protagonist
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
The flyleaf describes this as a "picaresque" tale. It's the story of Pran Nath, who grows up as a privileged, rich Brahman in the India of the Raj. When we first meet him at fifteen years old in 1918, he's contemplating rape: Somehow looking is no longer enough... He could grab her, and pull her down on the bolsters. There would be a fuss, of course, but his father could smooth it over. She is only a servant, after all.

And there I think is my core problem with this book. Style-wise this is well-...more
Madeleine Decker
Conceived during a freak flood in the middle of the desert, privilege young Pran is seen growing up in a rich family in Agra. After being kicked out for being a total spoiled ass, he ends up in a palace looking like a hysterical large pink iced cake, in a Scottish Mission in a Bombay slum, in Oxford and ends up in the middle of nowhere.

To survive he alternatively shifts from a rich Indian boy to a lower than nothing one, a male slave prostitute disguised as a woman, a servant coupled with a half...more
Jeruen
This is the third novel of Hari Kunzru that I have read. However, I did not read them in chronological order. I first read Transmission a couple of years ago, and this was about the ups and downs of an Indian worker here in the United States who due to some obsession of his, created a virus that plagued the whole word, while working for Google. The second book I read, which was Kunzru’s third novel, is My Revolutions, and this was about a group of young English people who were rebelling against...more
Liviu
another winner from H. Kunzru at least in the first 50 or so pages; should finish it this year; read more and now around page 200 and the book is indeed funny, sad, dark, ironic... the picaresque adventures of Pran aka Clive aka Chandra aka Robert; a magisterial skewering of the Raj, the scenes at the Nawab court are a must read for anyone still believing in the Kipling fairy tales

(it is 1914-15 and the childless/impotent but very traditional Nawab wants to adopt a young cousin rather than leave...more
Evelina
Hari Kunzru ir sarakstījis aizraujošu stāstu „Impresionists”, kas ir ļoti populārs, jo ir tulkots vairākās valodās un saņēmis prestižas balvas. Tajā ir stāstīts par kāda jaunekļa dzīvi, kurā viņam nākas mainīties.
Šajā stāstā galvenais varonis iet savu dzīves ceļu. Viņš no bagāta puisēna, šokējošu iemeslu dēļ, kļūst par nabagu un veido dzīvi no jauna, tādu kāda viņam nebūtu ienākusi prātā, guļot zvilnī uz savrupmājas jumta. Viņš dažādu iemeslu dēļ mainīja savu dzīvesvietu un vārdu. Galvenais varo...more
Anne
I wanted to like this book, and for the first half of it, I did. But when a book is as centered around one character as this one is (despite the author thinking you need to know the full history of every person he crosses paths with, which I found unnecessary and distracting), the character can't just be interesting. I need more than that, and this book just didn't deliver. While the concept of the character was interesting, it went no deeper than a concept - the Impressionist, who puts on lives...more
Billy
I picked this one up because I liked his other book, My Revolutions so much. This is a completely different, almost fantastical, wide ranging novelthat follows a "half caste" Indian-British boy in the period after WWI. The boy goes from a pampered life to being thrown out of his families' home to the streets of Bombay, reinvents himself as an Englishman (with the passport of a murdered Brit.) From there, he goes to England, studies at Oxford, and ends up in West Africa on an anthropology expedit...more
Sarah Goodwin
Only two things let this book down - the ending, and the fact that about a third of the way in, the main character's name changed with no warning.

Now, in all the sections his name changes, but in the first two he'd been identified as 'Pran' even after he was taken away and given a girl's name, so for a large stretch of the next chapter I assumed I was getting to know 'Bobby' as a character that Pran would encounter when he arrived in Bombay - only to realise that they were one and the same, whic...more
Sidra
Well the book was indeed unique, one of its kind that I have read. the way I came about the book was whimsical at a take a book nook in kpj.

Now, the book was enchanting. It was raw, it described details and all different characters central to the impressionist. How they actually were connected all along. and how the book started in a cave and ended in a cave.

The themes of revolving issues of race with natives wanting to be like the English, and then the irony of being rejected for being too Eng...more
Mark Kennedy
It was my complete love of "Gods without Men" that lead me to explore the earlier novels of Mr. Kunzru. "The Impressionist" was interesting enough to read all the way through, but not quite satisfying. The protagonist might be meant to be a shape-shifter, but following through his adventures you feel that the connections that a person would have at their core go missing. I felt that the novel presented me with three main adventures and involved three different characters. Kunzru's strengths are...more
Bob Peragallo
A very hard read.....I could not get this book into my head, I speed read the last half of the book simple to get to the end. I gave it my best try, but am unable to recommend this book. The character development was poor, the wording was strange.

Sorry.....Far to much good good stuff to read to be bothered with this one.

Becca
I don't know that I'll finish this book, though I'm probably 70% of the way done. I just don't really like it and feel like I'm forcing myself to plow through. I just dislike the main character and find a lack of redeeming qualities or relatable characteristics in him. So I'm done... for now, at least.
Linda
Bailed on this one at about page 100, did not like or care about the main character, the setting was never well defined and I frankly did not care about any of them. Made for a bit of discussion with book group but only the person who chose it had anything positive to say about it. I did find a few philosophical statements which I like, but not enough to slog through the remainder of the book. Did like his insight on conservative thought that believes if you keep things the way they are you can...more
Holly
From colonial India to London, a man struggles to find and lose his identity. Great historical context and ironic look at British Imperialism.
Kristina
...yeah I don't know. This book came along at the same time as White Teeth, and suffered for it.
David
At once fascinating and disturbing. One person is traced through several personages but no matter how hard he tries to integrate into his new world, he remains an outsider. This is a gripping study of mixed race set in colonial India and class-drenched England where acceptance is tantalizingly near yet never actually achieved. The characters are finely drawn and eminently believable with echoes of Kipling, Waugh and Conrad. It is the Conradian ending that is the most disturbing and, to an extent...more
Diane
Not sure how I heard about this book, but I'm glad I did. Such a wonderfully told story of a mixed race (Indian/English) boy-then-man during the British Raj. After getting chucked out of his Indian "father's" house as a young teen when his true paternity is revealed (but not exactly to him), the main character. whose name changes are the chapter titles, struggles first to survive and then to fit in somehow, somewhere, preferably in the dominant culture. Whatever that is. Appearances are deceivin...more
Kristin
Having looked through other reviews, I really don't have anything valuable to add. The main character, Pran, begins his life in a family of privilege. He loses this place when his father finds out that Pran was actually fathered by a British man, and he is left penniless and needing to find a way to support himself. The book follows Pran as he takes on the identity of multiple personalities/roles in an effort to survive (thrive?), first in India and then England.

I DO think this is an incredibly...more
Elaine
Apr 19, 2010 Elaine rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes a good long read
This is a wonderfully written read about a boy's quest to find an identity, and the irony of his fate after he settles on one. It is Dickensian in its tale of a poor boy who has fallen from grace and must survive by his own wits and ability to charm, combined with a willingness to endure what he must to get along and get ahead. Like Dickens, Kunzru's plot depends on coincidence, but no such far-fetched ones as, say, David Copperfield. There will be no aristocratic far-flung or far-fetched savior...more
Melissa Conner
For the first fifteen years of his life, Pran Nath Razdan enjoyed a life of luxury. Living just down the river from the Taj Mahal and being worshipped as one of the most beautiful boys in India, he was able to do pretty much anything he wanted. That was, of course, until word began to spread about his true parentage…namely his father…his common, low-life English father. Suddenly the life he had known is taken from him as this “result of a one night stand” is cast out onto the street to fend for...more
Philip
In his impressive and successful novel, Hari Kunzru explores the nature of identity. For some people a sense of belonging is very strong, whereas for others such feelings are mere illusion. The former group may cite social group, language, culture or religion as evidence of their stance, while the latter group, perhaps, may cite exactly the same subject matter to prove the opposite. The more politically inclined may even cite our relationship to the means of production as the primary source or p...more
George
Set during the first part of the 20th century and moving from India to England to Africa The Impressionist uses British imperialism to explore issues of identity (and vice versa). The protagonist, forced to reinvent himself after his comfortable life as the spoiled child of a wealthy Indian couple is taken from him, finds that racial, sexual, and even gender identity is defined as much by external forces as internal ones.

Many readers will struggle to find anything much to like about this shedde...more
Colette
Jan 19, 2008 Colette rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in the British Raj or the issue of identity
Recommended to Colette by: Can't remember who gave it to me!
This was like a few short books in one, set in different parts of India and in England. It concerns the issue of identity, how and why it can shift, whether one can truly shape it as one wills. More concretely, it concerns the protagonist's shifting identity as a person of mixed Indian and English blood.

I liked Kunzru's attention to detail, his use of the parenthetical, and his ability to quickly paint a character or a caricature.

There were a few instances in which my support for the protagoni...more
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What's The Name o...: About a boy/man in England/India [s] 4 38 Nov 12, 2013 12:59PM  
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Hari Mohan Nath Kunzru (born 1969) is a British novelist and journalist, author of the novels The Impressionist, Transmission and My Revolutions. Of mixed English and Kashmiri Pandit ancestry, he grew up in Essex. He studied English at Wadham College, Oxford University, then gained an MA in Philosophy and Literature from Warwick University. His work has been translated into twenty languages. He li...more
More about Hari Kunzru...
Gods Without Men My Revolutions Transmission Memory Palace Noise (Pocket Penguin 70's #20)

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“Duhovna sloboda sveta direktno zavisi od politicke slobode Indije. Molimo Vas da stavite nesto sitinine u kasu.

Posle tri cetvrti sata gubi svaku sigurnost, posle sat i po, sasvim je rastrojen. I dok prodju dva sata straze, njegove granice su se savsim istopile i on je potpuno izgubljen, ili mozda ne toliko izgubljen koliko razasut svuda po tami, okretanje njegovog sveta ima iznenadne zastoje i sada uopste nije siguran ni ko je, ni sta je, ni gde je ili cak da li uopste ima pravo da naziva sebe on.

Dzonatan je naucio trik. Ljudi mare samo za spoljasnji izgled: sirinu manzetne, izgovor dentalno-labijalnog frikativa V. Da bi postao neko drugi treba samo da promenis krojaca i zapamtis da moras da dodirujes donjom usnom ivicu gornjih zuba. Lako je. Ali ako se promena lika ne desava spontano, onda noge gube oslonac i hvata te panika i onda nista ne moze zaustaviti pad. Onda je promena lika beg, onda je to trcanje uz saznanje da zaustavljanje moze izazvati sumnju da ustvari niko i ne trci. Niko ne trci. Niko se ne zaustavlja. Tu uopste i nema nikoga.

Kako se coveculjak okrece, tako se pojavljuju razne licnosti jedna za drugom. Svaka pojava traje samo nekoliko sekundi, najvise minut. Svaka brise onu prethodnu. Ovaj covek postaje neko drugi tako potpuno da se nista od njegove sopstvene licnosti ne moze prepoznati. Izmedju svaka dva utiska koja coveculjak stvara, u trenutku dok jedna osoba odlazi, a druga jos nije stupila na njeno mesto, coveculjak, imitator-impresionista, sasvim je bezlican, potpuno prazan. On je niko.”
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