Stephen Kelman’s first novel, the Booker-shortlisted Pigeon English (2011), was inspired by the manslaughter of Damilola Taylor, the ten-year-old Nigerian boy who bled to death in a Peckham stairwell after being attacked by two brothers aged twelve and thirteen. His second novel, Man on Fire, is again inspired by real events, this time the physical exploits of Kelman’s friend Bibhuti Nayak, a Mumbai journalist and extreme sportsman.
YouTube devotees may have seen Bibhuti setting the surreal record for being kicked the most number of times full-force in the groin – a bloodcurdling forty-three piledrivers received serenely before, in the words of this novel, ‘I gave the nod to signal the end of my endurance’. Bibhuti narrates part of Man on Fire, recounting his various feats. The other