In January 1976, the Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser declared an amnesty for illegal immigrants. It is hard to imagine such a thing happening in today’s hostile environment down under, but that doesn’t stop the protagonist of Aravind Adiga’s new novel taking hope from historical precedent.
Hope is the only thing Dhananjaya has left after overstaying his student visa in Sydney. Returning to his home country of Sri Lanka is unthinkable and there is no route to becoming an Australian citizen. In this state of limbo, ‘Danny’, as he has reinvented himself, spends his evenings stacking shelves in the Sunburst grocery store, where he sleeps in a windowless stockroom.
By day, Danny straps on an astronaut backpack – a nod to the alien environment he must traverse – and cleans apartments in the Sydney suburbs, all the time trying not to draw attention to himself. Even his Vietnamese girlfriend, Sonja, doesn’t know he is in the country illegally (but