The Impressionist by Hari Kunzru

The Impressionist

Hari Kunzru

A young man of mixed race in colonial India is alternately accepted and rejected by this elitist society. He is an anti-hero who changes his identity again and again in his struggle to find a way in life. Despite these metamorphoses I found the character in all its guises, utterly compelling. Complex and challenging but worth the read for the sheer magnificence of language and setting.


Jonathan does not understand what he is saying, but he cannot take his eyes away from the man. One after the other, characters appear. One with a deep baritone voice. Another with a little cap and a hectoring way of talking. Each lasts a few seconds, a minute. Each erases the last. The man becomes these other people so completely that nothing of his own is visible. A coldness starts to rise in Jonathan's gut, cutting through the vodka. He watches intently, praying that he is wrong, that he has missed something. There is no escaping it. In between each impression, just at the moment when one person falls away and the next has yet to take possession, the impressionist is completely blank. There is nothing there at all.

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