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August 3, 2012

Book Notes - Amit Majmudar "Partitions"


In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, David Peace, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Amit Majmudar's Partitions is a well-wrought and moving personal account of the 1947 partitioning of India and Pakistan. The book was recently shortlisted for the inaugural Historical Writers Association/Goldsboro Prize for Best Debut Historical Novel.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"In his magnificent first novel, poet Majmudar embodies the terrible days following the partition of India and Pakistan in the stories of four refugees from sectarian violence."

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes. If you don't have Spotify yet, sign up for the free service.

In his own words, here is Amit Majmudar' Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Partitions:

1. Pandit Jasraj: Raga Bhairav, "Meru Allah Meherban"

This one dovetails with the idea in Partitions of love and kindness transcending religious divides. Music can do it, too. To understand why this track means so much to me, consider that Pandit Jasraj is probably the greatest Hindu musician alive...and here he is, singing a song about Allah and Husain. Talk about crossover moment: This is the metaphysical equivalent of Bach composing a qawwal.

2. Pretty much anything by Pandit Jasraj

See above. There is enough pathos in the man's voice to fuel several novels. Half the time he's singing in Sanskrit and I don't know what he's saying. It doesn't matter.

3. A. R. Rahman, "Theme Music (1947 Earth)"

Allah Rakha Rahman's music transcends the Bollywood film industry the way Mozart's transcended late 18th-century European opera (which was also, in those days, pop entertainment). The film options to Partitions have been sold, and I daydream about whoever ends up buying the rights getting Rahman on board. Incidental bit of inter-faith trivia, also apropos of Partitions: Rahman's late father was Hindu, his mother is Muslim; he was born A. S. Dileep Kumar and changed his name upon his 1989 conversion to Islam.

4. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, "Sanu Ek Pal Chain Na Aave"

This is Simran's song (though the lyrics, about not getting a moment's rest without the beloved, don't actually apply to her story). There's something folk-sweet about it—which says a lot about the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's immense versatility as a singer. That voice of his, exploding from the chest, intense, textured but not rough, can blow you away in some of the more ecstatic qawwals. Here, though, there is tenderness.

5. U2, "One," from Achtung Baby

A little East-West (con)fusion for you, just to mix it up. Here, the lyrics do apply. If Partitions were a fable, the word one would be its moral. Bono gets it right, as usual. We are not the same. But we are one.

Amit Majmudar and Partitions links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Cleveland Plain Dealer review
Daily Mail review
Guardian review
Kirkus Reviews review
NPR review
Powell's Books review
San Francisco Chronicle review
Wall Street Journal review

Kenyon Review interview with the author
Kirkus Reviews review

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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