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And the Word Was
Cover of And the Word Was
And the Word Was
A Novel
Borrow Borrow
When the tragic death of his son compels Dr. Neil Downs to flee New York City for India, he takes a job as the resident physician at the American Embassy, where he is introduced to the paradoxes of Indian social and political life. Unable to mourn, and angry about a betrayal on the part of his wife, Sarah, Neil seeks philosophical refuge in the writings of Levi Furstenblum, whose work grapples with the nature of language and god after Auschwitz. At the same time, he becomes involved with a prestigious Indian family and forms a bond with Holika, the rebellious, activist niece of the family's industrial and political doyen. With this relationship, Neil discovers the intrigues and the horrors that plague a society not dissimilar to the one he left behind. Through a complex interplay between the external and internal, foreign and domestic, the promises of faith and the ineluctability of evil, Neil slowly unravels the lies and misrepresentations that had woven the texture of his life.

This tightly plotted novel will be irresistible to anyone who yearns for affirmation in spirituality and matters of the heart. A stunning reinterpretation of the Abraham and Isaac sacrifice myth, And the Word Was is guaranteed to leave readers profoundly moved.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
When the tragic death of his son compels Dr. Neil Downs to flee New York City for India, he takes a job as the resident physician at the American Embassy, where he is introduced to the paradoxes of Indian social and political life. Unable to mourn, and angry about a betrayal on the part of his wife, Sarah, Neil seeks philosophical refuge in the writings of Levi Furstenblum, whose work grapples with the nature of language and god after Auschwitz. At the same time, he becomes involved with a prestigious Indian family and forms a bond with Holika, the rebellious, activist niece of the family's industrial and political doyen. With this relationship, Neil discovers the intrigues and the horrors that plague a society not dissimilar to the one he left behind. Through a complex interplay between the external and internal, foreign and domestic, the promises of faith and the ineluctability of evil, Neil slowly unravels the lies and misrepresentations that had woven the texture of his life.

This tightly plotted novel will be irresistible to anyone who yearns for affirmation in spirituality and matters of the heart. A stunning reinterpretation of the Abraham and Isaac sacrifice myth, And the Word Was is guaranteed to leave readers profoundly moved.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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    I LIVED ALONE. In New Delhi. Before moving there, I lived my whole life, thirty-nine years, in New York City. Please, no Second Avenue New Deli Borsht-Belt and famed, Holy Cow bagel chip jokes. I've heard them all.

    I did not choose Delhi because I was a Pepsi-Generation hippie turned dyspepsia generation yuppie, who long ago got stoned and laid to the ragas of Ravi Shankar and yearned for the gloried conquests of youth; no, his music bored me into stupefaction; I did not choose Delhi because I was a midlife-crisis New Ager with a self-indulgent belief that I'd find a drivethru guru who would instantly end my emptiness and infuse me with internal peace; no, because I must've set a record when I was, ever so politely, asked by the enlightened Desiree Prana (born Rene Kerstein of Roslyn, Long Island) never to come back to her yoga class because I disruptively murmured "shit" and "fuck" every time I couldn't contort my body into Gumbyesque position; I did not choose Delhi because I craved Indian food and hung out in the dingy restaurants on East 6th Street; nope, because even the odor of curry upset my delicate digestive system. I did not choose Delhi because I was infatuated by the literature, the art, or the movies; I knew almost nothing of the Indian arts. I did not choose India because I wanted to conquer the languages of Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, or any of the hundreds of other languages and dialects spoken by over one billion people; no, I wanted to be deaf to the world around me. I did not choose Delhi because of my lustful desire to experiment with the innumerable sexual entanglements of the Kama Sutra; I almost never expected to have sex again after I left New York. Nor did I choose Delhi because of my mystical belief in the reincarnations of Hinduism.

About the Author-
  • Bruce Bauman's work has appeared in Salon, BOMB, Bookforum, and numerous anthologies and literary magazines. He is an associate editor of Black Clock magazine and is adjunct professor in the CalArts MFA Writing Program. He is married to the painter Suzan Woodruff, and lives in Los Angeles.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 28, 2005
    Bauman's ambitious, uneven debut novel travels from New York to India to explore overwhelming loss, faith and belonging. Neil Downs is a Jewish emergency room physician whose only son, Castor, is shot in a Columbine-like massacre and then dies under Neil's care. Further complicating the tragedy is the possibility that Neil's wife, Sarah, a painter, may have cheated on him with a famous artist at the time of their son's murder. Unable to cope with Castor's death and the ensuing media frenzy, Neil flees to New Delhi, where his friend Charlie Bedrosian, the American ambassador, gives him a job as embassy physician. There he searches out Levi Furstenblum, a Holocaust survivor whose writings serve as a kind of guidebook for angry bereavement. Neil also falls into an affair with Holika, a beautiful, well-connected Indian woman whose politics challenge Indian social mores. With these new companions, Neil searches for meaningful direction for his life amid the brutal poverty of New Delhi. At its best, Bauman's prose evokes with a staccato fierceness Neil's alienation and desperate need to find meaning. At other times, Bauman relies on clichés ("How could I have been so blind," Neil utters during one crucial exchange) that sink the novel in melodrama. Despite the bumpy narrative, the book explores some difficult emotional and theological territory.

  • Rebecca Goldstein, author of The Mind-Body Problem and winner of a MacArthur Fellowship, the Jewish Book Award, and a Whiting Award. "[And the Word Was] is utterly absorbing, a page-turner in the most literal sense of the phrase. Seamlessly structured, it is at once intellectually ambitious and emotionally alive. Bruce Bauman is one of the most engaging and engaged writers and thinkers that I know."
  • - Joanna Scott, author of Arrogance: A Novel and winner of a MacArthur Fellowship and the Lannan Foundation Award "This book in its entirety is deelpy moving, sophisticated, intricate, elegant, with a neatly woven narrative and powerful culminations. It is a loving, sensitive novel, which asks many hard questions about life and faith."
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