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Epic novel set in India sparks bidding war

Deal involving Vikram Chandra’s novel reportedly worth $1 million
/ Source: The Associated Press

An untitled, 1,225-page epic set in India and billed as a combination of “The Godfather” and a Victorian Gothic novel will be released next year by HarperCollins after a bidding war involving six publishers.

“It’s an extraordinarily compelling page turner that also happens to be a major work of literature,” HarperCollins publisher Jonathan Burnham told The Associated Press on Monday.

A source close to the negotiations, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the deal was worth $1 million.

Author Vikram Chandra’s previous books include “Red Earth and Pouring Rain” and “Love and Longing in Bombay.” He worked seven years on his current novel, which centers on organized crime in modern Bombay and takes on “religion, politics, money, corruption, idealism, family, loyalty, and betrayal,” according to a HarperCollins statement released Monday.

Chandra’s novel ranks among the longest fiction works in recent years, although a book published last summer, Paul Anderson’s historical novel “Hunger’s Brides,” topped it at 1,300-plus pages.

Such girth may appear a commercial risk, but, like “Gone With the Wind,” “Gandhi” and other marathon movies, length can be an advantage, giving the project the aura of an “event,” a mountain to climb.

David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest,” Vikram Seth’s “A Suitable Boy” and Norman Mailer’s “Harlot’s Ghost” are among the 1,000-page novels that have made best seller lists.

“I think those books do have the same feeling as the big movies,” Burnham said. “You know you’re going to get lost in this world. A shorter book can’t quite do that.”