Animal's People: A Novel
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In this Booker-shortlisted novel, Indra Sinha’s profane, furious, and scathingly funny narrator delivers an unflinching look at what it means to be human.
I used to be human once. So I’m told. I don’t remember it myself, but people who knew me when I was small say I walked on two feet, just like a human being...
Ever since he can remember, Animal has gone on all fours, his back twisted beyond repair by the catastrophic events of “that night” when a burning fog of poison smoke from the local factory blazed out over the town of Khaufpur, and the Apocalypse visited his slums. Now just turned seventeen and well schooled in street work, he lives by his wits, spending his days jamisponding (spying) on town officials and looking after the elderly nun who raised him, Ma Franci. His nights are spent fantasizing about Nisha, the girlfriend of the local resistance leader, and wondering what it must be like to get laid.
When Elli Barber, a young American doctor, arrives in Khaufpur to open a free clinic for the still suffering townsfolk—only to find herself struggling to convince them that she isn’t there to do the dirty work of the Kampani—Animal gets caught up in a web of intrigues, scams, and plots with the unabashed aim of turning events to his own advantage.
Profane, piercingly honest, and scathingly funny, Animal’s People illuminates a dark world shot through with flashes of joy and lunacy. A stunning tale of an unforgettable character, it is an unflinching look at what it means to be human: the wounds that never heal and a spirit that will not be quenched.
something moist and willing. Of course this was no excuse for poisoning him. TAPE SEVEN Last night I dreamed of Zafar. He was heading up Paradise Alley into the heart of the Nutcracker. Nearly double he was bent, his long nose pointing sorrowfully at the ground. On his head was his favourite red turban, his beard was untrimmed, on his back he carried a shining world, blue as a flycatcher’s wing, criss-crossed by tiny lines. The sun’s heat was falling down on him. Heavy must the world have
wear it out, but this is an emergency. I fetch out the lighter, flip the lid back, grind my thumb on the wheel. Zip-zip-zippo, le bois prît feu! Shadows go jumpfrogging round the tower. I’ve wrapped Ma in a cloth and settled her by the fire. Now there’s some light to see by she’s peering at me. “What are these scratches all over you?” “I fell in a bush,” says I who’d been up the tree again. She sighs, “Such a difficult child, marchais toujours au rhythme de ton propre tambour.” You’ve always
with his head in his hands, for the first time ever I saw him cry. My mother was ill with a sickness that affected her mind. There’d be times when she wouldn’t know who she was, who we were. One day, on my mother’s arm I found red marks, they could only have been made by a man’s strong fingers. My father’s. The realisation that he’d been momentarily cruel filled me with anger, but not against him. I was angry with my poor mother, whose illness had caused him to lose self-control, also I was angry
“Also my pleasure.” Said without the smallest smile. “That’s a bit more friendly,” says she and her next words are lost, but she’s laughing. The mela intervenes, next thing I hear is, “After we were married I came here with my wife, she chose a rug for the house.” Elli asks, “You miss her?” I didn’t hear his reply, if he made one. Probably he didn’t speak because after a bit she says, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to pry.” Now he turns and gives her a smile. One of those rare smiles of his. “No, no,
says Nisha. “Always the same thing. He will not talk about them, but I think they must be very horrible.” “How do you know they are always the same?” Elli asks. “Because he shouts out loud. And it’s the same things each time.” “What sort of things?” “Wait,” says Nisha, “you can hear for yourself.” The two women sat by his bed and watched. Nisha brought some tea. It was not the way Elli usually took it, this tea was milky, a frothy affair in which she could taste ginger and cardamom. “God