Novel about contemporary Indian culture by Latha Viswanathan.
TEMPLES is a rich, subtle novel of extraordinary beauty. Set in Tamil Nadu, TEMPLES tells the story of Sathya, an archaeological curator whose life has been dedicated to restoring and preserving the rare, and ecstatically beautiful temple reliefs. When an act of violence occurs at one of his sites, Sathya gradually discovers that he has completely misunderstood the culture that he has worked his entire life to protect. Mixed in to Sathya’s story are those of his great niece, Cookie, visiting him from America; his neighbor, “Mr. Awesome,” who bemoans the dramatic change in India; George and Claudia, two American missionaries whose work enrages local Hindu nationalists; and different stories, as told in the temple reliefs, from the Bhagavad Gita.
TEMPLES explores cultural change and misunderstanding, and the inability of easily classifying a culture or people, shedding a provocative light on contemporary India.
“Through the eyes of her aging narrator, a preserver of temples, visionary and blind at turns, Viswanathan explores a great range of feeling and modes of disquiet around contemporary India’s relationship to religions, its conflicts, and its socially restrictive past and present. She has done something paradoxical, even magical here: She’s s created a great guide to the crumbling and raided shrines of a civilization, and to the elements poised to undermine tradition, foreign and domestic. In depicting decline, however, she has preserved the great wisdom behind the images, statues, and rituals: her story, itself, embodies it.”
—Moira Crone, author of The Ice Garden and The Not Yet
“Whether she is writing about North America or India, a middle aged musician or a young boy, Latha Viswanathan’s prose is unfailingly vivid, tender and intelligent, full of sensual details and pungent insights.”
—Margot Livesey, author of Mercury
“I have read a number of works by Indian or Indian-American writers and find Latha’s among the best. She has such a sympathetic but unsparing view of the interface between two cultures, and an eye for detail that draws the reader in immediately and is also rather eye-opening.”
—Diane Johnson, author of Persian Nights
Latha Viswanathan has worked as a journalist, copywriter, editor and teacher in India, London, Manila, Montreal, Toronto and the United States. These stories have appeared in major American literary magazines and won awards. Her work received a grant from the Texas Commission of the Arts in Fiction, was published in Best New Stories from the South and broadcast on National Public Radio. She currently lives and writes in Houston.