- By Akhil Sharma

An Obedient Father

  • Title: An Obedient Father
  • Author: Akhil Sharma
  • ISBN: 9780156012034
  • Page: 112
  • Format: Paperback
  • An Obedient Father Sins of the FatherAkhil Sharma s An Obedient Father is a first novel of surprising depth and complexity rich and disturbing its twists and revelations continually challenge the reader s preconception

    Sins of the FatherAkhil Sharma s An Obedient Father is a first novel of surprising depth and complexity rich and disturbing, its twists and revelations continually challenge the reader s preconceptions Ram Karan, the protagonist and primary narrator, is an inspector for the corrupt Delhi school system For all intents and purposes, he is a bribe collector, although not aSins of the FatherAkhil Sharma s An Obedient Father is a first novel of surprising depth and complexity rich and disturbing, its twists and revelations continually challenge the reader s preconceptions Ram Karan, the protagonist and primary narrator, is an inspector for the corrupt Delhi school system For all intents and purposes, he is a bribe collector, although not a particularly good one My panic in negotiations was so apparent, he explains, that even people who were eager to bribe me became resentful Anxious and overweight, recently widowed, he is driven by fear rather than political convictions The Congress Party sustains him, but when Rajiv Gandhi is assassinated, Karan finds himself caught precariously between the party and the rising Bharatiya Janata Party If he switches parties, and the BJP loses the election, he will be attacked by Congress and tried on corruption charges If he doesn t switch parties, he will lose his job.This decision is complicated by the drama of his home life Karan shares his apartment with his daughter Anita, whose husband has just died, and their relationship is far from civil My mind was adept at reducing its presence, he admits, when my body did something shameful In the past, his body has often been beyond his control When Anita was a girl, he raped her repeatedly and now 20 years later he begins to find the presence of her 12 year old daughter Asha extremely provocative.Anita notices this attraction and brings her memories into the open, using them to demand money and other concessions from her father The bribes Karan pays Anita mount as he, now working for the BJP, begins selling the very land out from under schools, and filters the money back to the party for election funding He believes in nothing but his own preservation and even seeks to bribe both parties to protect himself.An Obedient Father chronicles these personal and political dramas and their intersections While both storylines are engrossing, neither is particularly encouraging or uplifting It is the subtlety of Sharma s prose that makes the novel so compelling and so readable For example, here is Karan describing his own appearance I wore a blue shirt that stretched so tight across my stomach that the spaces between the buttons were puckered open like small hungry mouths In a book that concerns itself with unnatural, unhealthy appetites, even inanimate objects speak of dissolution.Ram Karan is a monstrous character, in both his public and private life, yet he is so carefully depicted that his motivations and emotions are perfectly understood If he cannot be sympathetic, he is very nearly so His narrative dominates the novel, imbuing it with his anxiety and helplessness his guilt is palpable, as is his desire to change or at least control his behavior Part of the reason he is unable to realize a change, or draw nearer to happiness, is the lack of forgiveness that Anita shows him In the sections she narrates, she reveals herself as a somewhat sinister, scarred figure whose only desire is to free herself by tormenting her father The depth of her hatred and the extent of her revenge are chilling and utterly believable.An Obedient Father may be too dark for some readers however, its power is undeniable, and its story fascinating At its close, the remaining characters are left with the effects of terrible causes, and the hope that the future may bring, with its knowledge of the past, less destructive actions Peter RockPeter Rock is the author of the novels Carnival Wolves and This Is the Place Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, he now lives in Philadelphia.

    1 thought on “An Obedient Father

    1. This is an easy-to-read, very difficult book. Sharma does not shy away from the ugliest, most difficult subjects but writes about them so fluidly that you find yourself going along at a steady clip, jaw dropping wider and wider. Much like the subjects of abuse in this book, the reader at times can feel like he's in an abusive relationship he just can't pull away from. That's not meant to demean or minimize actual abuse victims suffer. It's only meant to highlight how deftly Sharma captures abuse [...]

    2. Gender equality demands that I now read a series of novels about vile and depraved women, say, Isla She-Wolf of the SS or Myra Hindley or…. well there must be some more. The list of novels about vile and depraved men is as long as the arm of a person with really long arms. And here is another. Well I should not complain, I knew the subject (father rapes daughter then 20 years later tries to abuse grand-daughter) already. But I had recently read Family Life, Akhil Sharma’s excellent short nov [...]

    3. I added this to my reading list ages ago and since I read Akhil Sharma's Family Life recently, I thought I might as well read this. And now that I have, I almost wish I hadn't.The story is disturbing, to say the least. The main character is an aging corrupt politician (corrupt politician - isn't that redundant in India?) who repeatedly committed a horrific crime (rape) against his daughter years ago for which he was never really punished. And the book goes into detail on that. To say it was diff [...]

    4. Despite this book's horrific subject manner, there was a bit of genius in the writing. While the reader is inside the head of the main character, who, to put it nicely, is a vile man, the reader both loathes and somehow can feel some pity for him, once all of his sins catch up with him. While reading this, you know everything he has done is reprehensible but, because you are reading it from his perspective, you almost feel sorry for him when he gets what he pretty much deserves. Getting the read [...]

    5. This book is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It's written with a light hearted, conversational tone that belies the horrors underneath. On one level, the protagonist is a corrupt bureaucrat, given to betting on the wrong horse in political races and using other people's money to extricate himself from sticky situations. Despite the fact this part of the story covers some pretty major political events and a real time of turmoil in India's history, it's not this side of the book that really shocks. It [...]

    6. Reading this book is a test of morality. You may catch yourself holding your breath with Ram Karan as he embezzles election funds. You may also get annoyed with Anita, Ram Karan's elder daughter who was raped by her father at 12, for behaving irritably. Your heart may warm towards Ram Karan when he goes to secretly meet his grand daughter, Asha, who he unsuccessfully attempts to rape in the first chapter. As you go through the pages and the writer, time and again, brings you back to the flat tha [...]

    7. J'adore la littérature indienne.J'aime sa richesse, sa touffeur. J'aime ses histoires compliqués, ses héros hauts en couleurJe n'ai pas été déçu avec ce roman d'un jeune prodige né en 1971 (comme moi) (zut, il n'est donc pas si jeune)Comme dans les grands romans indiens, Akhil Sharma parvient à entrelacer la petite histoire avec la grande.D'un côté l'Inde des années 90. Rajiv Gandhi est assassiné. La mainmise des Nehru sur l'Inde touche à son terme. Le parti du Congrès, omnipotent [...]

    8. Mr. Sharma killed a brilliant story.Without being prejudice, I must say that this book could be better if the author paid a little more attention to his narration style.Sharma made it unnecessary long (almost 300 pages) and that's why it became boring. Really, you find the next page more tedious than the previous one.The characterization is nice. Story changes POV to have a better look inside characters and because of this you have a better view of character's emotion and his/her mental state. T [...]

    9. This is the Shiva-like story of sin and complacency. Each leads to the other. A long ago sin invades those who were involved, and causes complacency which engenders more sin. The cycle continues throughout the book.This is a book about family relationships, about politics, and most interestingly, about India as it transitions from its traditional self to a new world of money, business, and education. In some ways, the original sin was the British occupation of the country, which left the vestige [...]

    10. This is not an easy book to review; nor is it easy to read. The main character, an overweight alcoholic, political crook and child molester, tells most of the story from his point of view. Although he is mostly a vile man, there are some times you forget yourself and feel some sympathy towards him. He molests his oldest daughter, Anita, when she was 12. Twenty years later, Anita is a widow with a young daughter of her own. She is forced to take her daughter and move in with her father, who she h [...]

    11. I wish I could give this book five stars and one star, simultaneously. I love Akhil Sharma. A radio interview with him inspired me to consider that literary fiction can be "comforting" to the reader--his word. This is not the book that Sharma wrote to inspire hope. It was so grim that I had to speed-read it. It's a brilliant examination of how the web of abuse, political corruption, and hatred can draw the most well-intentioned into its inescapable corrosion. When children are involved, it's eve [...]

    12. A very kind bookcrosser (Edwardstreet) sent me this book after seeing it on my wishlist.Why I put this book on my wishlist, I have no idea, but after hearing the author Akhil Sharma on a podcast from The Ubud Writer's Festival I quickly dragged this off my bookshelf to read over the holidays.Having no idea what the book was about, and pulling it out of my beach bag to read last month on the sand I groaned audibly when I realised where the story was going. Generally not what I choose to read - es [...]

    13. בכריכה האחורית של הרומאן נכתב:"האב הצייתן לוקח את הקורא למסע עמוק בתוך עולם של משפחות הודיות ופוליטיקה של גנגסטרים וכוכבי קולנוע, מהומות וחדרי מתים. הרומאן הנפלא והרגיש הזה, שזכה בפרס "פן/ המינגווי" וכונה על ידי המבקרים "יצירת מופת", מציג דמות מעונה, משעשעת ומורכבת מבחינה מוסרי [...]

    14. The write-up on the back of the edition that I read describes Sharma's protagonist as a bit of a Dostoevskyian anti-hero. This makes sense: Sharma gives us a corrupt, alcoholic, child-molesting bureaucrat as the vehicle through which most of the story is told. And—call me old fashioned—this makes the story just that much harder to get through; any time you have a protagonist so wretched, so miserable, so abhorrent that you are viscerally—even physically—angered by them Well, good luck fi [...]

    15. How the narrator notices himself enjoying swinging his arms, or considering telling little lies, or, with the same candor, drinking compulsively, or committing the grossest meanness, is funny, and then devastating. Ram's efforts at redemption towards the end of the story are accomplished by way of his own degradation at the hands of his increasingly unhinged daughter--a perverse catharsis that never vindicates her. The outer-tier story of vocational corruption and betrayal, is dense, and harder [...]

    16. This is a very well written book, but the author puts the reader in a place where they don't want to be, inside the mid of a pedophile. Most of the book is told form his point of view, he collects bribes for a living, and is hiding from the fact that he molested his daughter as a young girl. Occasionally the story switches and is told from his daughters point of view, which I found quite disconcerting. There is also a backstory of corruption in India's political system, and how the main characte [...]

    17. ERC Book Club, June 2004 selectionBoring especially regarding Indian politics which the author assumes the reader might have an inkling of what's going on. The father and daughter were both not enviable and dissatisfying. You would think the reader would identify or empathize with the daughter who was raped. Instead I felt more sad for the father and distaste for the  daughter who gained nothing for herself in telling the truth. The ending was abrupt and, like the rest of book, went absolutely [...]

    18. If you had a hard time reading Lolita you might want to take this one off your 'to read' list. The primary theme is the impact of rampant corruption on the life of one family in Delhi, India. I thought I wouldn't be able to finish the book, its written from the point of view of a man that rapes his own daughter. Tough topic but great writing, at one the point the grime that quickly accumulates on your skin in the Delhi slum is compared to the inside of a smokers' lung. Surprised by the somewhat [...]

    19. When books are really good, as this one was, it's hard for me to think of anything to say about them - it's always so much easier to criticize, haha. But yeah, amazing and emotionally devastating. Be forewarned though that it's mostly told through the voice of a child molester, so reading this is a pretty intense emotional commitment! It's worth it though.

    20. There were parts that the writing was good n raw and powerful. I found the political shenanigans got too convoluted. The conclusion seems rather inconclusive

    21. This Pen/Hemingway Award winning book deals with a very harsh topic. While I enjoyed Akhil Sharma's mastery of the language and his writing style and learned a lot about Indian history and culture (Admittedly, I am woefully ignorant of both!), the subject matter was hard to get through. That being said, the book is a very good read - just not an uplifting story that makes you happy to read. The debate about villains and forgiveness and absolution is a great one to have, and this book had me deep [...]

    22. I chose this book based on the multitude of positive reviews I had read. The author does a good job of staying true to the characters and you can see that he's trying to create a parallel between Ram and the Indian political parties. Both are in trustworthy positions but are capable of the ultimate betrayal. The changes in points of view really gets you into the mind of the different characters. The last chapter however was unnecessary IMO. There is far too much detail given for which I did not [...]

    23. Finally finished reading this book and I just don't know how to react It made me angry, cringe on the situations, irritated by the choices that the main character made and had me on the edge of my seat when he was being unmasked off his wrong doings Definitely worth a read. I'll have a detailed review of this book on my channel youtube/c/jasminedayal very soon.

    24. An Arvind Adiga meets Rohinton Mistry kinda book, light read with heavy subject matter. This one is about an extremely dysfunctional Indian family as most go and where corruption and politics are submerged in the cacophony of everyday life.

    25. Extraordinary Indian novel about a father-daughter-granddaughter dealing with a dark past in Delhi. The usual Indian politics and corruption are interspersed with the troubled interplay between the family members. Extremely well written, well paced and highly recommended

    26. As another reviewer mentioned - easy to read but very difficult story. Well written but deeply troubling.

    27. CAN'T READ!!!!! Struggled to reach at pg 21 thennnnn just couldn't read any further shut and close. Well, i wanted to read some indian authors writing. But I guess i picked a wrong book

    28. I guess 3.5 stars would be more on the mark. Akhil Sharma is a phenomenal writer, no question. Reading this book, I savored every sentence, every detail because he draws them with utmost precision and his language is both spare and dazzlingly evocative. This is a family saga about the aftermath of rape as an aging, thoroughly corrupt government functionary and sex addict, first, rapes his daughter, then, twenty years later, finds his lusts awakened while in the company of his granddaughter. The [...]

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