Published by Penguin India: 2006
An accomplished first novel that spans two continents and many lives.
Niladri Dasgupta's marriage is over; he hasn't seen his little daughter in five years, having fled as far away as he could manage from the scene of disaster. Now his uncle has been brutally murdered, and he must finally return for the funeral to confront everything he has evaded thus far. And this is just the opening of his all-too-real nightmare.
What journeys begin beyond the frontiers of family, home and identity? What remains of you after every role you played, every readymade definition you took for granted — as husband, father, son and citizen — has disintegrated? Where do you seek shelter when the world around will grant you no respite from upheaval or change? Cast out beyond all certainties, Niladri must choose as he narrates, and act as he understands, recreating himself gradually amid his relentlessly shattering world.
A fine balance of emotion and intelligence, incident and character, Or the Day Seizes You captures the urban Indian psyche at the close of the twentieth century with unerring insight and remarkable style.
Or the Day Seizes You appeared in a Spanish translation, La Vida Que Nos Lleva (Ediciones Ambar), in 2009. You can find the Spanish version of the novel here, and download its opening chapter. You can also read an interview with Rajorshi about the novel on Jabberwock.
And here is an article by the critic Jai Arjun Singh in which he discusses Or the Day Seizes You alongside an essay of mine.
Reviews of or the day seizes you:
"A compelling debut novel [...] strongly rooted in the surrealist tradition. Running through Or the Day Seizes You are a continuous sense of dislocation, of time being stretched out to the point where it doesn't mean anything, and a paranoia based on uncertainty about where dream-life ends and waking-life begins.
"This is a story about missed connections, [and] the vast spaces that can exist between people in close relationships." - Indian Express.
"Rajorshi Chakraborti's debut spans two continents and many lives. It brings forth a colourful saga of love, sex, betrayal and dreams — both fulfilled and unfulfilled.
"A refreshing novel, written with a fine balance between heart and mind, which dwells deeply into the Indian psyche with great panache." - Sunday Tribune, India.
"A dreamlike debut [...] The narrative structure is fascinating. It's much more subtle than, say, magic realism, which often lends itself to excess. In contrast, [this] requires a careful reading to realise that it isn't a strictly logical narrative." - Business Standard, India.
"The narrative is fluid [...] The characters are anything but flat or one-dimensional, which makes them that much more intriguing [...]. Not very often does one get to flip through a story in which the enigma of relationships is unravelled through men and women that don't live in a fool's paradise." - Dawn, Pakistan.
"Journeys are [...] a recurrent theme running through Rajorshi Chakraborti's ambitious debut novel, taking us back and forth across time and time zones and bridging the divide between the realms of the physical, metaphysical and psychological relentlessly.
"Entertaining, absorbing and haunting [...] Replete [...] in characters and their individual compulsions and contexts, in experiences, concepts, attitudes, world views, history, politics and conflicting feelings [...] A writer so promising and committed that one suspects he cannot help doing too many things too well." - The Statesman, India.
"What's notable is the ease with which [Chakraborti] has created the sense of a life that's perpetually adrift in his compelling debut Or the Day Seizes You." - India Today.
"[Chakraborti's] style owes something to surrealism, his content to Kafka [...]. It is a novel of ideas that, once lodged in a reader's mind, will firmly stay there.
"[He] seems to suggest that it is only through the prism of an absent identity that the world can accurately be described. This might not make easy reading, but for originality it's hard to beat." - Edinburgh Review, U.K.
"One of the sleeper hits of Indian publishing in 2006, a low-profile title that became popular through word-of-mouth, acquired a cult following, and eventually made it to the Hutch-Crossword Award shortlist for best fiction title." - Life First magazine, India.