The Far Field
Nominated | Book Awards 2020 | Creative Writing in English (Fiction & Poetry)
The Far Field
Winner of the 2019 - JCB Prize for Literature; Shortlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature; Longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize; Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction; An Indies Introduce pick; an IndieNext selection; a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection; an Amazon Best Book of the Month; a Hudson Booksellers Best Book of 2019; a Publishers Weekly Book of the Week; a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2019; an Economist Best Book of the Year; A Most Anticipated Book of 2019 for Entertainment Weekly; Refinery29, Business Insider, and Bustle One of BookBrowse’s Top 20 Best Books of the Year
"The Far Field is remarkable, a novel at once politically timely and morally timeless. Madhuri Vijay traces the fault lines of history, love, and obligation running through a fractured family and country. Few novels generate enough power to transform their characters, fewer still their readers. The Far Field does both."--Anthony Marra, author of The Tzar of Love and Techno Gorgeously tactile and sweeping in historical and socio-political scope, Pushcart Prize-winner Madhuri Vijay's The Far Field follows a complicated flaneuse across the Indian subcontinent as she reckons with her past, her desires, and the tumultuous present. In the wake of her mother's death, Shalini, a privileged and restless young woman from Bangalore, sets out for a remote Himalayan village in the troubled northern region of Kashmir. Certain that the loss of her mother is somehow connected to the decade-old disappearance of Bashir Ahmed, a charming Kashmiri salesman who frequented her childhood home, she is determined to confront him. But upon her arrival, Shalini is brought face to face with Kashmir's politics, as well as the tangled history of the local family that takes her in. And when life in the village turns volatile and old hatreds threaten to erupt into violence, Shalini finds herself forced to make a series of choices that could hold dangerous repercussions for the very people she has come to love. With rare acumen and evocative prose, in The Far Field Madhuri Vijay masterfully examines Indian politics, class prejudice, and sexuality through the lens of an outsider, offering a profound meditation on grief, guilt, and the limits of compassion.
Madhuri Vijay was born in Bangalore. The Far Field is her first book.
This impressive debut from the Indian writer Madhuri Vijay is about the crashing together of internal and external grief, as a woman mourning the death of her mother embarks on what will prove a life-changing journey into the troubled region of Kashmir… Vijay writes with an assurance surprising in a first-time novelist, and is a delight to read. And while this is an in-depth expansion on the history and people of Jammu and Kashmir (humane but never sentimental), it is her protagonist who compels most.
– The Guardian
The Far Field is an experience, brilliantly executed and deeply felt. Long after one has read the last page and respectfully kept it aside, the story of over 400 pages lingers within like a dull ache and you will it to say something more. Some stories leave a little hole in your heart.
– Hindustan Times
Madhuri Vijay’s writing evokes cross-cultural humanitarian ethos. A teaching position in Kashmir, opened up unique artistic spaces within Vijay. Through her lived experiences in Kashmir and a deeply humanized creative imagination, she concocts a revelatory story. The Far Field divulges how modern Indian history and personal social lives have ignored what is going on in Kashmir.
For the vast majority of us, who hear of the troubles in Kashmir only as a faint strain in the general din of world tragedies, “The Far Field” offers something essential: a chance to glimpse the lives of distant people captured in prose gorgeous enough to make them indelible — and honest enough to make them real.
– Washington Post
The Far Field is remarkable, a novel at once politically timely and morally timeless. Madhuri Vijay traces the fault lines of history, love, and obligation running through a fractured family and country. Few novels generate enough power to transform their characters, fewer still their readers. The Far Field does both.
– Anthony Marra, author of The Tzar of Love and Techno
“Consuming… Vijay’s command of storytelling is so supple that it’s easy to discount the stealth with which she constructs her tale, shifting time frames with seamless ease and juggling a wealth of characters who cling to the heart. The show-stealer is Shalini’s mercurial mother, an ‘outrageous queen’ of capricious gestures. Vijay smartly resists psychoanalyzing her, implying that the china-shop bulls in our families can be survived but never entirely explained away.”—New York Times Book Review
“Vijay probes grand themes—tribalism, despotism, betrayal, death, resurrection—in exquisite but unflowery prose, and with sincere sentiment but little sentimentality.”—New Yorker
“‘All finite things reveal infinitude,’ wrote Theodore Roethke in ‘The Far Field.’ That poem, published in Roethke’s final collection in 1964, concludes with the image of ‘a ripple widening from a single stone / Winding around the waters of the world.’ That’s exactly the expanding effect of Madhuri Vijay’s debut novel, which is also titled The Far Field… For the vast majority of us, who hear of the troubles in Kashmir only as a faint strain in the general din of world tragedies, The Far Field offers something essential: a chance to glimpse the lives of distant people captured in prose gorgeous enough to make them indelible — and honest enough to make them real.”—Ron Charles, Washington Post
“Madhuri Vijay’s supremely accomplished debut novel, ‘The Far Field,’ … is an expansive and wonderfully immersive work … Vijay gives us a brilliant outsider’s view of an exotic, off-the-beaten-track realm and a compelling portrayal of a character gradually unraveling due to forces beyond her control. This is a stunning novel that skillfully grapples with the complexities of human relationships. Madhuri Vijay’s career looks very bright indeed.” –Malcolm Forbes, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Ms. Vijay is an effortlessly assured prose writer. The book’s length led me to expect something slow and atmospheric, but to my surprise I snapped it up in two sittings… Ms. Vijay makes shrewd use of parallels and asymmetries in these mirrored narratives. Shalini intrudes on Bashir’s son’s household just as Bashir once disrupted hers. The counterpart to the wonderfully sharp-tongued figure of Shalini’s mother is Bashir’s impudent, fearless daughter-in-law, Amina, who steals every scene she’s in… ‘The Far Field’ is illuminating about the persecutions in Kashmir, but at its heart it is about the ironclad laws of class by which all India is ruled.”—Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
“In Madhuri Vijay’s exquisite debut novel, grief propels a young woman to northern India, where she seeks answers about her mother’s past. She meets people and communities constantly on the brink of political violence, upending her assumptions about herself and her country.”―Elle
“A story exploring the passage of time and the repercussions of one’s actions sets out to ask the charged question of what it is that we spend our lives searching for.”—Vanity Fair
“A ghastly secret lies at the heart of Madhuri Vijay’s stunning debut, The Far Field, and every chapter beckons us closer to discovering it… The Far Field chafes against the useless pity of outsiders and instead encourages a much more difficult solution: cross-cultural empathy.”—Paris Review
“Loss can make a detective out of anyone, taking us on odd, winding, revelatory journeys toward resolving the pain of the finite. It can also, as Madhuri Vijay so thornily illustrates in her debut novel, The Far Field, blind us from all that’s around us — from our actions and their consequences. Grief, she argues, can be a fundamentally selfish pursuit… a layered examination of pressing Indian political conflicts… Shalini’s wounded narration — her wistful, nostalgic anguish — still pulses through most intensely, lending the novel the feel of a sorrowful family epic. Here is a singular story of mother and daughter — a loving, broken bond so strong it touches, changes, and hurts countless lives beyond theirs.”—David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly
“A courageous, insightful and affecting debut novel.”—Economist
“Vijay provides that alchemical mix of political examination with personal journey that deepens all great novels. The Far Field plays out along the Indian/Kashmir border and follows a young woman’s awakening into the dark realities of her family and her country. As an added bonus, her mother is one of the most memorable characters in contemporary literature. At times brutal, but always tuned to the desperately sweet longing for human connection, Vijay has created a necessary and lovely work that transcends 2018!”―Southern Living
“Exquisite… Vijay does a superb job of showing how the personal and the political spark off one another to drive change in both. But when violence erupts in Kashmir, difficult choices must be made and sobering lessons learned about privilege, Indian history, class prejudice, violence, and sexuality.”— Amazon
“Remarkable… engrossing… Vijay’s stunning debut novel expertly intertwines the personal and political to pick apart the history of Jammu and Kashmir.”—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“Vijay intertwines her story’s threads with dazzling skill. Dense, layered, impossible to pin—or put—down, her first novel is an engrossing tale of love and grief, politics and morality. Combining up-close character studies with finely plotted drama, this is a triumphant, transporting debut.”—Booklist (Starred Review)
“Vivid… a striking debut.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Gorgeously tactile and sweeping in historical and socio-political scope.”—BookBrowse
“Dazzling… Vijay’s prose is exquisite—florid and descriptive at times, spare and pared back at others. The story keeps twisting unexpectedly until the end, keeping emotions fraught, questions percolating. It’s a scintillating novel from a truly gifted writer.”—Bookpage (Starred Review)
“Remarkably vivid … Vijay’s descriptive powers and eloquent prose work brilliantly in awakening the reader to the majestic beauty of Kashmir and the severe hardships of villagers who make their home in its verdant landscape. Vijay’s writing is socially astute, exploring taboos of mental illness, female sexuality and religious indifference. It is also politically relevant, a reminder that beautiful but war-torn Kashmir is still a disputed territory, fought over for decades by India and Pakistan.”—Shahina Piyarali, Shelf Awareness
“I had to remind myself while reading The Far Field that this is the work of a debut novelist, and not a mid-career book by a master writer at the height of her powers. Madhuri Vijay astonishes with her wisdom, her fearlessness, her sure handling of a desperately loaded narrative that’s equal parts love story, war story, and family intrigue. Such is the power of Vijay’s writing that I finished the book feeling like I’d lived it. Only the very best novels are experienced, as opposed to merely read, and this is one of those rare and brilliant novels.”—Ben Fountain, author of Beautiful Country Burn Again
“I am in awe of Madhuri Vijay. With poised and measured grace, The Far Field tells a story as immediate and urgent as life beyond the page. I will think of these characters – tender and complex, mysterious and flawed, remarkably real to me – for years to come, as though I have lived alongside them.”—Anna Noyes, author of Goodnight, Beautiful Women
“Utterly immersive and vividly realized, The Far Field is that rare gem of a novel which effortlessly transports the reader into distant, unfamiliar terrain through the force of a story deeply anchored in the humanity of its characters. Madhuri Vijay’s debut marks the arrival of an astonishing new talent.”—Elliot Ackerman, author of Waiting for Eden
“The Far Field is remarkable, a novel at once politically timely and morally timeless. Madhuri Vijay traces the fault lines of history, love, and obligation running through a fractured family and country. Few novels generate enough power to transform their characters, fewer still their readers. The Far Field does both.”—Anthony Marra, author of The Tzar of Love and Techno
“This riveting and unique book faces the most troubling, insoluble questions with a bold, keen clarity that has no patience for anything less than the complete truth, even if that truth is disappointing or merciless or dark. The fierce undertow of Vijay’s prose masterfully propels this story about loyalty, about how we create, sustain, and inevitably break our bonds with other people.”—Merritt Tierce, author of Love Me Back
“I loved this novel. Shalini is an utterly convincing narrator, particularly in her naïveté, which might very well serve as a metaphor for her country’s refusal to see what it has wrought in Kashmir. Madhuri Vijay has written a brilliant and important book.”—Liaquat Ahamed, author of Lords of Finance
“What do we spend our lives searching for? What lasts and what pushes us forward? These are some of the questions Madhuri Vijay’s THE FAR FIELD explores and navigates with a heart on fire. Stunning in its artistry, in its engagement with the world and the personal, this is a profound and monumental achievement composed with rage, vulnerability, humor, grief, and mystery. How dangerous this novel is, in the very best of ways, and how grateful I am for this writer and for her creation.”—Paul Yoon, author of The Mountain
“A strikingly unusual book full of beauty and surprise.”—Sonia Faleiro, author of Beautiful Thing