Run and Hide by Pankaj Mishra - review by Nikhil Krishnan

Nikhil Krishnan

Rich Man, Poor Man

Run and Hide


Hutchinson Heinemann 336pp £16.99

Pankaj Mishra’s new novel is narrated by a middle-aged man, Arun, to a younger woman, Alia. The story, part apology and part apologia, is told in circumstances that are slowly clarified in the telling. Alia, it seems, has written a book herself, a journalistic exposé of corrupt Indian millionaires on Wall Street who, like Arun, had origins in humble or violent families before making it to one of India’s elite institutes of technology.

Unlike the now-incarcerated tycoons of Alia’s book, Arun jumped off the ladder of careerism early on. He has chosen instead to move to a small hillside town, making a modest living as a literary translator. But he becomes one of Alia’s sources, able to explain the world his coevals came from and were so desperate to escape.

The early sections promise a different novel from the one Mishra ultimately delivers. Arun’s classmates Aseem (later a well-connected left-wing provocateur) and Virendra (who becomes what the papers call a ‘financial wizard’) start with equal billing, and are recognisably versions of real public figures.

However, it becomes clear as the chapters pass that this is Arun’s story. And Arun, like Mishra, is not interested in current affairs simply for their own sake. Arun has a larger story to tell, about the world-historical role of the petite bourgeoisie: the transforming power of their ressentiment,

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