Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Heat and Dust

I’m not recommending Heat and Dust because it won a Booker Prize (although it did). Or because its author demonstrates the same elegant phrasing and attention to emotional nuance evident in her screenplays for many Merchant-Ivory films, including Howards End, A Room with a View, and The Remains of the Day. Or even because I think reading it will deepen your appreciation of Indian culture and history, though it very well might.

There’s a much simpler reason that I’m grateful to have run across this book. Here’s why I recommend it to you: There’s a paragraph on page 132 that shot an arrow straight into my heart when I read it, and the arrow has remained there, quivering, ever since. I won’t keep you in suspense; here’s the passage.

“There are certain people who if they are absent life becomes hard to bear. Once I asked a fakir from Ajmere (a very holy person): ‘Why these people? Why they and not others?’ He gave me the following reply which I like very much: ‘These are the people who once sat close to you in Paradise.’ ”

As Cookie Monster would say, that’s good enough for me.

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