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The Fate of Butterflies

Nominated | Book Awards 2020 | Creative Writing in English (Fiction & Poetry)

The Fate of Butterflies

One of our most courageous and eloquent storytellers, Nayantara Sahgal’s superb mastery over language and history make this bold new work a compelling story that is as disturbing as it is beautifully told.

Author: Nayantara Sahgal
Publisher: Speaking Tiger Publishing

Award Category: Creative Writing in English (Fiction & Poetry)
About the Book: 

Prabhakar, returning home one evening, comes upon a corpse at a crossroads, naked but for the skullcap on his head. Days later, he listens to Katrina’s stark retelling of a gang rape in a village, as chilling as only the account of a victim can be. And in a macabre sequence, he finds his favourite dhaba no longer serves gular kebabs and rumali roti, while Bonjour, the fine dining restaurant run by a gay couple, has been vandalised by goons.
Casting a long shadow over it all is Mirajkar, the ‘Master Mind’, brilliant policy maker and political theorist, who is determined to rid the country of all elements alien to its culture—as he, and his partymen, perceive it.
A professor of political science, Prabhakar observes these occurrences with deepening concern. Is the theory he put forth in his book—that it is not the influence of those who preach goodness and compassion that prevails, but the matter-of-factness of cruelty—playing out before him?
In the midst of all this, he meets Katrina, beautiful, half-Russian, wearing the scars of a brutal incident as a badge of honour. Together, they discover that, even in times that are grim, there is joy to be had.

About the Author: 

Nayantara Sahgal is the author of several works of fiction and non-fiction, the first of which, Prison and Chocolate Cake, an autobiography, was published in 1954. Her works include classic novels such as Rich Like Us, Plans for Departure and Lesser Breeds. She has received the Sahitya Akademi Award, the Sinclair Prize and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Her novel, When the Moon Shines by Day, was longlisted for the 2018 JCB Prize. She returned her Akademi Award in 2015 in protest against the murder by vigilantes of three writers, and the Akademi’s silence at the time. She has been a Vice President of the PUCL (People’s Union for Civil Liberties) and is engaged in an ongoing protest against the assaults on the freedom of expression and democratic rights.


In her 92nd year, Nayantara Sahgal remains precise, affecting, and politically robust as a writer, qualities that are amply evident in her new novella, The Fate Of Butterflies. Like her previous work of fiction, When The Moon Shines By Day (2017), the story here follows the fate of a close group of characters, living through a time not unlike ours, in an India marked by sectarian, gender-oriented and caste-based violence. The brevity of the book doesn’t allow room for many layers to the plot. But Sahgal is deft with conjuring situations that convey the “mood" of the moment, a sudden insight into a person, or a chilling premonition into the future.
- LiveMint

‘The Fate of Butterflies’: A quietly told novel that is full of menace because it can happen to us.

'The Fate of Butterflies' makes its point quickly and strongly and is an appropriate book for the near-dystopic times we are living in.
- The Hindu

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