For Pepper and Christ
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In his first novel noted poet and short story writer Keki N. Daruwalla brings alive a world of tumultuous voyaging during the time of Vasco da Gama an era when the quest for exotic spices triggered a passionate desire for exploration. Legends of a magnificent Christian dominion, nestled in the heart of the East and ruled by the fabled Prester John, also generated an intense curiosity about the lands bordering the Indian Ocean. Traversing the ocean from the African coastline to Calicut on the Malabar Coast, and zig-zagging through the streets of Cairo, For Pepper and Christ takes the reader on a voyage of discovery with a singular cast of characters Brother Figueiro, the fervent missionary, constantly in a tussle between felt reality and envisioned ideal; Taufiq the eternal voyager, quick to board ship and even quicker to fall in love in a strange land; Ehtesham the artist who cannot stop painting even when his life is in danger; and the Muhtasib, the Zamorin and the Abbott, three men of power, but with vastly different ways of using that power. The flight of silver doves over a church spire causes riots in Egypt; the discord between Islam and Christendom intensifies; and the individual destinies of the characters collide and coalesce in this atlas of shifting geography and looming history to form an intriguing web of power and ambition, humility and sacrifice, greed and betrayal, love and redemption. Blending historical fact with richly imagined fiction, For Pepper and Christ is imbued with the creative brilliance of one of India s finest poets.
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