The UK-based literary journal and well-known point of reference for postcolonial studies, Wasafiri, has published, in its latest issue, my review of Geek Sublime, the first non-fiction work to be published by the Indian novelist Vikram Chandra (on whose work I have written on various occasions in the past).
Vikram Chandra, Geek Sublime: Writing Fiction, Coding Software, London: Faber and Faber, 2014, paperback, xiii + 258 pp., ISBN 978-0-571-31030-2
Christopher Rollason, review of Geek Sublime, Wasafiri, Vol. 29, No. 4, December 2014, pp. 90-91.
An edited extract from the review follows.
In July 1963, the first-ever computer to manifest on Indian soil, an IBM mainframe, was unloaded at Kanpur airport, commissioned by that city’s Indian Institute of Technology or IIT. This event, which with India’s rise since then to stellar IT status now retrospectively appears as world-changing, is lovingly chronicled in the pages of Geek Sublime, the fourth published book and first non-fiction title by Vikram Chandra. Born in Bombay/Mumbai and today based in Berkeley, Chandra is the author of three works of fiction appertaining to the genre of Indian Writing in English (IWE), the novels Red Earth and Pouring Rain (1995) and Sacred Games (2006) and the story-sequence Love and Longing in Bombay (1997).
Chandra’s latest book appeared in this UK print edition [i.e. that under review] in February 2014, some while after its print launch in India, where it was published in November 2013 by Penguin India / Hamish Hamilton under a completely different title – Mirrored Mind: My Life in Letters and Code. The US edition, published by Graywolf in September 2014, has yet another title: Geek Sublime: The Code of Beauty, the Beauty of Code. A UK Kindle version, with the same title as the UK print edition, appeared in parallel with the Indian print edition in November 2013.
The book is a generic hybrid, poised somewhere between essay and autobiography. Its leitmotif is made up of the complex and fascinating parallels that Chandra draws between his two selves, hands-on IT person and writer of fiction. As he puts it, ‘I am a writer from India, but I’ve worked professionally as a programmer in the United States. Fiction has been my vocation, and code my obsession’.