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The Scent of God

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

The Scent of God

Author: Saikat Majumdar
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

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

In an elite all-boys’ boarding school run by a Hindu monastic order in late-twentieth century India, things aren’t what they look like on the surface…

Anirvan, a young student, is fascinated by the music and silence of spiritual life. He dreams of becoming a monk. But as he seeks his dream, he finds himself drawn to a fellow student, and they come together to form an intimate and unspeakable relationship.

The boys sweat at cricket and football, crack science and mathematics in pursuit of golden careers, and meditate to the aroma of incense and flowers. It’s a world of ruthless discipline shaped by monks in flowing saffron. A sceptical teacher mentors Anirvan and reveals his suspicion of this vigilant atmosphere. Does the beating of the boys reveal urges that cannot be named? What is the meaning of monastic celibacy? What, indeed, holds the brotherhood together?

Against himself, Anirvan gets sucked into a whirl of events outside the walls of the monastery, in the midst of prostitutes, scheming politicians and the impoverished Muslims of the villages surrounding the school. When the love of his life returns to him, the boys’ desire for each other push them towards a wild course of action. But will that give them a life together in a world that does not recognize their kind of love?


About the Author: 

Saikat Majumdar is the author of two novels: Silverfish, and the widely acclaimed The Firebird (published in the US as Play House), featured in The Telegraph’s Best Books of the year and a finalist for the Mumbai Film Festival Word-to-Screen Market and the Bangalore Literature Festival Fiction Prize. He has also published a book of nonfiction, College: Pathways of Possibility, and a book of literary criticism, Prose of the World. He lives in Delhi and teaches literature and creative writing at Ashoka University.


Review: 

“Beautiful and fragile as a dream.” –  The Hindu

The Scent of God is revelation draped in sensuousness.” – Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, Indian   Express

“Saikat Majumdar’s writing is powerful. It reveals and conceals at the same time. Every word is carefully crafted and the subtle carelessness in every sentence opens an ocean of interpretations. The poetry-prose captures the tension of the two entangled world orders, spiritual and material. The sense that does prevail is of the blurring fine line between the pure and the profane, love and lust, and how deeply flawed our education system is; a system that can frown upon imparting sex education but can trick and trap innocent boys into doing the unimaginable.” – Hindustan Times

 

“The novel explores, in evocative, lyrical prose, the hold of religion on India: a modern secular democracy, obsessed with science and economic development.” – Wire

“Beautifully poised, at times hallucinatory, his sentences explore the wedges and crevices of a painful-pleasurable sexual awakening. Majumdar writes with feeling about the abstractions of the spirit (and spirituality), as well as fleshy sensual desire.” – Palash Krishna Mehrotra, OPEN

The Scent of God captures the pulse of our times: the punitive grip of monastic orders over the lives of young boys in the novel evokes a world-wide phenomenon, whereby religions imaginings and mythologies are used to harness the minds of young male adolescents through an explosive mix of piety, discipline, violence, and repressed eroticism.” – Biblio: A Review of Books

The Scent of God is a lush novel that takes us through the many layers of love and longing. I read it in one sitting and am now looking for other books by this author. I want more fiction like this, for queer men and women, for cis and trans persons, for everyone in the margins who wants to see their community in thier fullest, vulnerable, brave humanity. I highly recommend Saikat Majumdar’s novel; you should pick it up as soon as possible.” – Gaylaxy

“Majumdar’s writing reflects the sensory experiences of ritual and belief – the smell of incense that wafts through the prayer halls, the fluttering robes of saffron and flowers for the gods.” – Scroll

“A bold novel…a whiplash on a tranquil pillar of cultural and religious faith in Bengal” –  Sumit Chakrabarti, Desh (in Bengali)

“Is saffron an escape from reality? Or is it an overwhelming maya? In the present context it is hard to mention the rites of religion without evoking the political scenario and Majumdar has used this to his narrative’s advantage.” – Outlook.

“The novel exposes Left politics in Bengal for being unable to see people as persons.” – India Today

“Given the widespread fear of adolescent sexuality in India, and the desperate urge to regulate it, this is a significant moment in literature.” Firstpost

Every now and then comes along a work of fiction that captures in an uncanny manner, the spirit of the times we live in. Saikat Majumdar’s novel The Scent of God is one such book.” – Youth ki Awaaz

“An unusual novel of a unique kind that explores the corridors of a world we know so little about” – The Citizen

“Intimacy can take many forms, some of which are hard to classify. A swaying elephant quilt in Ismat Chughtai’s “Lihaaf”. Or two boys in prayer, their fingers gently curling around the other’s delicate wrist in Saikat Majumdar’s The Scent of God.” – New Indian Express

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