Nakul Krishna

Carnivorous New Flowers

The Book of Chocolate Saints

By

Faber & Faber 496pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

One starts reading Jeet Thayil’s The Book of Chocolate Saints expecting a dark but still essentially comic roman à clef covering sixty or so years of Indian literary and artistic history. There seem to be helpful hints for readers in the know to match character with model (or, more often, models). But the central figure, Newton Francis Xavier, is a more complex case: not simply a thinly disguised alloy of the writer Dom Moraes and the artist Francis Newton Souza, though he seems to have done many of the things they did. It is made clear – not least by the appearance of Moraes and Souza themselves in the novel – that this is not just biography by other means.

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