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Twilight in a Knotted World

Nominated | Book Awards 2021 | Creative Writing in English (Fiction & Poetry)

Twilight in a Knotted World

Author: Siddhartha Sarma
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

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

The soil of central India hides more than the bones of long-dead giants.

The East India Company is master of almost the entire subcontinent, but real power is now with the Crown. Far from the great games of empire, Captain William Henry Sleeman is content to administer Jabalpur district and dig for remnants of petrified bones with his charming and knowledgeable wife. Until he is tasked with investigating the activities of an obscure group of criminals who are said to strangle their victims.

As Sleeman uncovers the many layers of the Phansigar problem, he finds a language unlike any other, and a set of beliefs, lore and superstitions seemingly drawn from the soul of the countryside. He finds orchards of corpses, and a hierarchy of stranglers, but also ordinary men driven to murder. He hears subtle murmurs of discontentment at the changes which have come to a land believed by some to be unchanging. He finds auguries of a conflict to come. And behind it all, the legend of a mysterious, beautiful man, whose capture might be the key to understanding the Phansigars.

Sleeman’s inquiries will make him confront the nature of his beloved adopted homeland and of the mighty people in Calcutta who he serves. Through the prism of caste, the consequent web of intricate social and cultural relationships, and the nature of travel in the hinterland, he will see the real face of India and come across its uncomfortable, bleak truths.

But to unravel such truths is not easy…

About the Author: 

Siddhartha Sarma is a journalist and historian. A former investigative reporter who covered insurgency, crime, law and foreign affairs, his debut novel, The Grasshopper's Run, received the Sahitya Akademi Award, 2011, for children's literature. His most recent non-fiction work is Carpenters and Kings: Western Christianity and the Idea of India. Twilight in a knotted World is his third novel.


Sleeman and Reynolds arrived in Bhopal on the afternoon of a day when the wind was whipping down from the Vindhyas over the many lakes of the city. It blew away the awnings of shops, and straw from the stacks outside the great timbers and iron spikes of Dehli Darwaza, where merchants and travellers halted to feed their animals after a journey, and to pay tax for their cargo. The wind blew across Sleeman’s face and the dust stung his eyes. It was not cold, for it is never cold in Bhopal, not even on the shores of the lakes in the dead of winter, but there was dust in the air, and Sleeman’s eyes were red. His back was stiff and ached from being on horseback for more days than he cared to count, on difficult roads and terrain.

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