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The Assassin's Song

M.G. Vassanji's novel follows an heir who rejects his duty to rule over a mysterious medieval shrine in India.

M.G. Vassanji

In the aftermath of the brutal violence that gripped western India in 2002, Karsan Dargawalla, heir to Pirbaag — the shrine of a mysterious, medieval sufi — begins to tell the story of his family. His tale opens in the 1960s: young Karsan is next in line after his father to assume lordship of the shrine, but he longs to be "just ordinary." Despite his father's pleas, Karsan leaves home behind for Harvard, and, eventually, marriage and a career. Not until tragedy strikes, both in Karsan's adopted home in Canada and in Pirbaag, is he drawn back across 30 years of separation and silence to discover what, if anything, is left for him in India. (From Knopf Canada)

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From the book

One night my father took me out for a stroll. This was a rare treat, for he was a reticent man, a great and divine presence in our village who hardly ever ventured out. But it was my birthday. And so my heart was full to bursting with his tall, looming presence beside me. We walked along the highway away from the village, and when we had gone sufficiently far, to where it was utterly quiet and dark, Bapu-ji stopped and stared momentarily at our broken, grey road blurring ahead into the night, then slowly turned around to go back. He looked up at the sky; I did likewise. "Look, Karsan," said Bapu-ji. He pointed out the bright planets overhead, the speckle that was the North Star, at the constellations connected tenuously by their invisible threads. "When I was young," he said, "I wished only to study the stars...But that was a long time ago, and a different world...


From The Assassin's Song by M.G. Vassanji ©2007. Published by Knopf Canada.

Author interviews

On this week's Writers and Company: award-winning novelist M.G. Vassanji and war historian John Keegan. This clip was edited for copyright reasons. 31:20