Fiction can invite the reader into unknown worlds and perspectives, or it can hold up a mirror so that we can see the familiar more clearly. In this episode of Book Dreams, Eve and Julie talk to first-time novelist Vauhini Vara about her new book, The Immortal King Rao. Together they explore how fiction helps us understand the path we’re on now, whether we can or should transcend global capitalism, how technology has played a role in the fracturing of family relationships and can also help give voice to what was once inexpressible–and the reason we exist at all.
Vauhini Vara has worked as a Wall Street Journal technology reporter and as the business editor for The New Yorker. From a Dalit background, she is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and an O. Henry Prize winner. The Immortal King Rao was her first novel. It was a New York Times Editor's Choice and was named a Best Book of the Year by NPR and Esquire.
The Immortal King Rao
"[The Immortal King Rao] is a monumental achievement: beautiful and brilliant, heartbreaking and wise, but also pitiless, which may be controversial to list among its virtues but is in fact essential to its success. Vara respects her reader and herself too much to yield to the temptation to console us. How rare these days as a reader ― and how bracing, in the finest way ― to encounter a novel that refuses to treat you like a child or a studio audience. If that were the only thing to love about ‘Rao,’ it would probably be enough. But as I’ve said, there’s also everything else." ―Justin Taylor, New York Times
"Utterly, thrillingly brilliant. From the first unforgettable page to the last, The Immortal King Rao is a form-inventing, genre-exploding triumph. Vauhini Vara’s bravura debut has reshaped my brain and expanded my heart." ―R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries
"In this richly imagined saga spanning past, present, and future, Vauhini Vara brings us a visionary who makes the world in his image, and the strong-willed daughter whose life could be his final legacy. Vara’s brilliance is matched only by her heart, and this unforgettable debut will challenge what you think you know about genius, capitalism, consciousness, and what it means to be human." ―Anna North, author of Outlawed