Set against the backdrop of conflicting cultures, political turbulence, and a deep sense of belonging to the contradictions that form Malaysia, Agni is struggling to comprehend her relationship with the land she calls home.
Abhik – her childhood friend and new lover, is supportive of her quest to unbolt dark secrets from her past about her mother’s death, but the only man who can answer her questions is Jay Ghosh – for he still wears her mother’s demon’s teeth around his neck. Jay had been there with Shanti the evening she died. When Jay lands in Malaysia after thirty years – summoned by Colonel S, his mentor and father figure – Jay realises, as does Agni, that nothing is as it seems. Each must fight larger demons, for there are greater things at stake.
From the Author
I remember that I had a thought about a woman drowning while her infant daughter watched the scene. I used to go for long walks and Agni, the protagonist of TD, started to talk in my head. At that time, I was also co-editing “The Merlion and the Hibiscus” for Penguin India, and I think that editing this collection made me think that I should write. In my twenties, with the kids and the dissertation, I stopped writing prose -I felt I could only do poetry, and that too in short bursts. I had no time for the sustained focus that writing a novel required. Thunder Demons went through various name changes and I showed an earlier version to my editor in Penguin India who was very encouraging, but the story took a long long time to achieve any coherence -first novels are hard! I wrote my second novel in five months -really -and have been editing it for 3 years now, but TD has been a nine-year process.
Thunder Demons has been challenging to market -it is such a niche book, and my American agents & publishers would say that there is very little interest in Malaysian politics out of Malaysia. But I kept working on Thunder Demons -as a Malaysian permanent resident with a son and a husband who hold Malaysian citizenship, the inequities of Malaysia are something I wanted to address. My academic research is also in the field of Malaysian language planning and policy (my co-edited book, Language Shifts Among Malaysian Minorities as Effects Of National Language Planning: speaking in Many Tongues was published by the Amsterdam University Press in April 2011), so I know Malaysia very well.
Then Thunder Demons, as an unpublished novel, was longlisted for the Man Asia Lit Prize in 2009. Before this, I was getting published in magazines like the Asia Literary review and all that, but suddenly, WOW, I was in a list with Su Tong, whose novel “Rice” I first read as a teenager! I am such a fan of Su Tong and just being in the same longlist as him felt like winning. As soon as I read his excerpt I knew that no one else on that list had a chance, but it didn’t matter. The Man Asia listing gave me a lot of confidence and an agent. I found Gyaana Books as a friend had recently published with them, and the rest is history.
From the Back Cover
From Preeta Samarasan, award-winning Malaysian author of “Evening is the Whole day”
With astonishing honesty, Dipika Mukherjee’s Thunder Demons exposes modern Malaysia’s ugliest secrets in a page-turner of a tale about loyalty, love, family, memory, and the role of politics in the lives of ordinary human beings. This book will open the eyes of non-Malaysians and break the hearts of Malaysians by forcing us to confront what our country has become.
From Kishwar Desai, author of Costa First Novel Award 2010 for her novel “Witness by Night”:
With a strong cast of characters, Thunder Demons unveils Malaysia as it grapples with tradition in the face of globalization, especially over the issue of who is a bumiputra . Combining themes of communal violence, religion and identity, this is a racy and dramatic story of love and betrayal.
Dipika Mukherjee’s fictional and academic work has focused on Southeast Asia, and especially Malaysia. Her debut novel Thunder Demons (Gyaana, 2011) is based on the current socio-political situation in Malaysia and was long-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize. She has edited two anthologies of Southeast Asian short stories: Silverfish New Writing 6 (Silverfish, 2006) and The Merlion and Hibiscus (Penguin, 2002). Her recent academic work in Malaysia examined the effect of the national language policy on different migrant groups in Malaysia in her co-edited book, Language Shifts Among Malaysian Minorities as Effects Of National Language Planning: Speaking in Many Tongues (Amsterdam University Press, 2011).
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