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Dec 13th, 2004, 03:33 PM #1----
What a book ...................Absolutely Terrific ... Dont miss it. Reminds of Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid. This book will be made into a movie with Johnny Depp.
I was a revolutionary who lost his ideals in heroin, a philosopher who lost his integrity in crime, and a poet who lost his soul in a maximum-security prison. When I escaped from that prison, over the front wall, between two gun-towers, I became my country's most wanted man. Luck ran with me and flew with me across the world to India, where I set up and ran a free clinic in a crowded Bombay slum. I joined the Bombay mafia, and worked as a gunrunner, a smuggler, and a counterfeiter. I was chained on three continents, beaten, stabbed, and starved. I went to war. I ran into the enemy guns. And when those wilderness years of hunted exile came to an end, when I changed my life, when I stopped running onto the knives and started running into the light of love instead, I wrote the novel, Shantaram, that was based on my wild and wicked life.
Now, the novel is a best-seller, has been described as a masterpiece, appears as major hard-back releases in London and New York this year, is being translated into new languages, has been created in a Braille edition, and will be made into a Hollywood film, starring Johnny Depp as the character Lin.
Now I, the author, Gregory David Roberts, once known as Public Enemy Number One and Australia's Most Wanted Man, have set up a charitable trust to oversee the operation of a mobile clinic for slum dwellers and others who live in dire need of help, I lecture on literature and art at universities, and teach my philosophy and cosmosophy to students from every walk of life, including business leaders and creative artists in the fields of movies, writing, music, and drama.
Now, I welcome you, with love and thanks, to my life, my dreams, and my art.
Dec 25th, 2004, 08:46 AM #2----
'Shantaram': Bombay or Bust
By MEGAN O'GRADY
Published: December 26, 2004
N bookstores, size does matter. A big novel stands out from the crowd on the new fiction table, demanding attention with its ostensible swaggering gravitas. At a time when stories have never seemed more disposable, to find a narrative that merits all that time and paper feels -- in a word -- gratifying.
Few stand out quite like ''Shantaram,'' Gregory David Roberts's 936-page novel -- the first volume of a projected four based on his own life. In 1980, while serving a 19-year sentence for robbery in Australia, Roberts escaped from prison and fled to India, spending a decade on the lam before he was recaptured and extradited. As Australia's most wanted man -- or so he describes himself in this fictionalized account of his years in Bombay -- Roberts was a larger-than-life figure in his native country long before ''Shantaram'' made him a best-selling author when his book was published there last year.
So it's with palpable bravura and a false passport that Roberts's alter ego arrives in the Bombay airport. Named ''Linbaba'' by Prabaker, the amiable taxi driver who becomes his sidekick, he acquires a hut in a slum, where he earns his neighbors' respect by opening a makeshift clinic and learning Hindi and Marathi. Within a few hundred pages, Linbaba has encountered a Lonely Planet guide's worth of third world dangers and annoyances -- including cholera, human trafficking, a leper colony and cat-sized rats in nightly, knee-deep migration patterns. ''Nobody minds, because they keep the place clean,'' he remarks.
Nearly everything about Bombay agrees with the philosophical fugitive, for whom every new experience is an eloquent signpost into an uncertain future. He finds a father figure in a gurulike local mafia boss, an Afghan named Khader, and a lover in a mysterious Swiss woman who inspires the most memorable of the novel's many metaphoric interludes. ''My body was her chariot, and she drove it into the sun. Her body was my river, and I became the sea.'' Roberts doesn't so much capture a mood as annihilate it with enthusiasm: ''Our tongues writhed, and slithered in their caves of pleasure. Tongues proclaiming what we were. Human. Lovers.'' No doubt these scenes will be worth watching in the movie version, in which Johnny Depp will reportedly star.
Linbaba is far more skillful as a fighter, it soon becomes apparent -- in spite of the book's title, a Marathi name given to him meaning ''man of peace.'' ''Shantaram'' reveals its dark side when he is arrested without explanation and tortured in the notorious Arthur Road Prison -- an ordeal he barely survives. Khader buys his release, and as Linbaba seeks out his betrayer, he works as a counterfeiter and smuggler within Khader's criminal empire, ultimately abandoning a budding career as a Bollywood agent and joining a gunrunning expedition to Afghanistan. The warily affectionate multinational band of wiseguys lends Linbaba a sense of common purpose in a serious cause, though when Khader leads them in discussions on metaphysics and morality, it's hard not to think of Tony and Paulie Walnuts talking about coping skills.
A gentle giant on the scale of ''Shantaram'' can afford a few unintended giggles, but million-rupee questions remain: Why, given Roberts's wealth of material and penchant for soul-searching, didn't he write a memoir? And what of Linbaba's debt to society and, presumably, to his briefly mentioned young daughter back in Australia? What is he really after, anyway? But it seems unsporting to begrudge Roberts the license to thrill while having such a good time -- and ''Shantaram,'' mangrove-scented prose and all, is nothing if not entertaining. Sometimes a big story is its own best reward. And there's always the next installment.
Megan O'Grady writes about books for Vogue.