Journey To Ithaca by Anita Desai

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Synopsis

In her first novel since the widely praised Baumgartner's Bombay, Anita Desai brilliantly evokes spiritual India in all its endless complexity, and examines the nature of pilgrimage through the aspirations and adventures of three superbly realized characters.

Matteo and Sophie join the 1970s flight of young Europeans to India. Matteo -- Italian, raised in the luscious countryside around Lake Como, restless since childhood -- has been introduced by a tutor to Hermann Hesse's The Journey to the East, and it opens in him a desperate longing. Sophie -- German, practical, worldly -- is willing to follow him to the ends of the earth.

In India, together they visit swamis, gurus, ashrams -- always searching. Matteo is seeking spiritual enlightenment, but for Sophie fulfillment lies in earthly love. And when they meet a holy woman known as the Mother, the differences between them seem to explode.

When we learn the Mother's story, we see it as an earlier version of their own -- the story of a young girl growing up in Cairo and finding her way East by joining a troupe of Indian dancers she has met in Europe. Her journey, a young woman's daring progress through Paris and Venice and New York, until she finds her moment of transcendence in India, comments on, and gives added breadth to, the young couple's quest.

In telling what happens to Matteo and Sophie and the mother, Anita Desai gives us a novel of great richness, an extraordinary vision of a country, and a compassionate portrait of people struggling to find a spiritual home. Journey to Ithaca is her most powerful and most involving novel.
 

About Anita Desai

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Anita Desai was born in Mussorie, India, and was educated in Delhi. Her published works include short stories, children's books, and nine novels. Two of her novels, Clear Light of Day (1980) and In Custody (1984), were short-listed for England's celebrated Booker Prize. In Custody has recently been made into a full-length feature film by Merchant Ivory Productions.Anita Desai teaches in the writing program at MIT and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
 
Published January 1, 1996 by Distributed by Orient Longman. 301 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Romance, Arts & Photography. Fiction

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Skeptical Sophie, on the other hand, goes to India simply because she loves her husband and thinks ``the possibilities...endless and fascinating.'' After a few years, however, the squalor they live in, the drug-crazed hippies they meet, the charlatans they're gulled byalong with Matteo's increasi...

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A disaffected European couple drift apart while seeking enlightenment in India. (Dec.)

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Publishers Weekly

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The husband, an Italian named Matteo, joins an ashram and becomes a fervent devotee of an aged, solitary guru known as ``the Mother.'' But to his skeptical German wife, Sophie, the Mother is not a fount of Eastern wisdom but a ``monster spider'' who catches ``silly flies'' like the deluded Matteo.

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Publishers Weekly

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A disaffected European couple drift apart while seeking enlightenment in India.

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