Cover image for Night theater : a novel
Title:
Night theater : a novel
Uniform Title:
Wounds of the dead
ISBN:
9781948226547
Physical Description:
209 pages ; 21 cm.
General Note:
"First published in India in 2017 as The Wounds of the Dead by Fourth Estate"--Title page verso.

"First published in Great Britain in 2019 as Night Theatre by Serpent's Tail"--Title page verso.
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Genre:
Summary:
A surgeon flees a scandal in the city and accepts a job at a village clinic. He buys antibiotics out of pocket, squashes roaches, and chafes at the interventions of the corrupt officer who oversees his work. But his outlook on life changes one night when a teacher, his pregnant wife, and their young son appear. Killed in a violent robbery, they tell the surgeon that they have been offered a second chance at living if the surgeon can mend their wounds before sunrise. So begins a night of quiet work ... during which the surgeon realizes his future is tied more closely to that of the dead family than he could have imagined. By dawn, he and his assistant have gained knowledge no mortal should have.
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Summary

Summary

A surgeon flees a scandal in the city and accepts a job at a village clinic. He buys antibiotics out of pocket, squashes roaches, and chafes at the interventions of the corrupt officer who oversees his work.

But his outlook on life changes one night when a teacher, his pregnant wife, and their young son appear. Killed in a violent robbery, they tell the surgeon that they have been offered a second chance at living if the surgeon can mend their wounds before sunrise.

So begins a night of quiet work, "as if the crickets had been bribed," during which the surgeon realizes his future is tied more closely to that of the dead family than he could have imagined. By dawn, he and his assistant have gained knowledge no mortal should have.

In this inventive novel charged with philosophical gravity and sly humor, Vikram Paralkar takes on the practice of medicine in a time when the right to health care is frequently challenged. Engaging earthly injustice and imaginaries of the afterlife, he asks how we might navigate corrupt institutions to find a moral center. Encompassing social criticism and magically unreal drama, Night Theater is a first novel as satisfying for its existential inquiry as for its enthralling story of a skeptical physician who arrives at a greater understanding of life's miracles.


Author Notes

Vikram Paralkar was born and raised in Mumbai. Author of a previous book, The Afflictions , he is a physician-scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, where he treats patients with leukemia and researches the disease. He lives in Philadelphia.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Paralkar (The Afflictions) draws on his experience as a physician in this fablelike tale that melds the philosophical with the corporeal. After a near career-ending scandal, an unnamed surgeon in India grudgingly figures he'll finish his career caring for the rural poor, doing his best with the outmoded equipment and minimal supplies at his disposal. One night, he's visited by a family--a young boy, his father, and his pregnant mother--asking for his help. As it happens, they're all dead, the victims of an attack by highwaymen. The family claims to have been visited by an angel who has insisted that this surgeon alone has the skills to return them to life--but there's only one night to repair their bodies. Accompanied by his devout young assistant, the decidedly a-religious surgeon embarks on the greatest challenge of his career, all the while considering questions about mortality, the afterlife, and the challenges of living an upright life. Paralkar's novel underscores the arbitrary nature of death, the fact that one can neither prepare for it nor, perhaps, cheat one's way out of it. Metaphysical conversations contrast with the detailed descriptions of surgery on damaged bodies that no longer either bleed or feel pain. Grotesque, strange, and hopeful in turns, the novel will leave readers marveling at the mysteries of death--and the wonders of life. (Jan.)


Kirkus Review

In this otherworldly novel, a cantankerous surgeon in a remote village in India attempts to revive a dead family.A surgeon is about to leave his clinic for the night when a teacher, his pregnant wife, and their boy make a special request. They are undead, recently murdered by attackers, but an angel has promised them that if the surgeon repairs their injuries by dawn, they'll be returned to the land of the living. The surgeon; his only assistant, a pharmacist; and her husband are confronted with an impossible taskto heal these ghost-beings in an antiquated operating room ill-equipped to mend even earthly bodies in a single night. "Whatever he was feeling nowthe fear and fatiguethe night would only magnify it." Physician-scientist Paralkar (The Afflictions, 2014) does not name his misfit cast of characters. Their anonymity alludes to their perilous circumstances and distressing exile. His prose is sharp and melodious, and within these enchanting passages is a haunting contemplation of life, death, the liminal space in between, and the dogged search for resurrection. Resurrection isn't reserved only for the dead, however. The surgeon, though he possesses a heartbeat and other signs of life, is trapped in a kind of purgatory himself. Three years earlier, in an act of revenge against him, a former colleague sullied the surgeon's reputation, forcing him to leave his large private hospital in the city to practice medicine in the middle of nowhere. His bitterness is palpable and tinges every aspect of his days. And yet, underneath it all, he manages to scrape together some semblance of humanity. "We hope that before we die we'll find some final truth, a magic bulb to switch on and make all the wrong paths disappear. Until then, all we can do is walk through thorns and try not to trip."A beguiling and unforgettable fable. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Paralkar merges folklore and fable, meditative commentary and meticulous detail in telling the story of one night in which a weary doctor in a government clinic in rural India faces personal and professional crossroads. At the end of a day distributing polio vaccines to a long line of patients, the doctor is approached by some very unusual visitors. A teacher, his pregnant wife, and an eight-year-old boy have died, and yet they can beseech him to use his surgical skills to treat their deathly wounds, as it's their one chance of returning to the living world. This is night theater, where the complex business of morality and mortality plays out among characters without names on an ill-equipped stage, while the outside world at dawn hovers in the shadows. Each nameless character is drawn with psychological depth and layered motivations. Paralkar, a physican-scientist, melds medical realism and metaphysical debate, wry humor and somber observations to create a riveting and intriguing tale.--Shoba Viswanathan Copyright 2019 Booklist