Crimson Spring: A Novel Longlisted For The Jcb Prize 2022
by - Navtej Sarna
On 13 April 1919, about twenty-five thousand unarmed Indians had gathered in Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, an open area enclosed by the high walls of flat-roofed houses in a densely populated part of the city. Many of those in the crowd were listening to speakers denouncing the iniquities of the Rowlatt Act, which had recently been imposed on the country by the British, while others, including several children, were simply there to rest, relax, and catch up with friends. A little after five in the evening, a detachment of soldiers, led by Brigadier General R. E. H. Dyer, entered the Bagh. Without warning the crowd to disperse, Dyer ordered his troops to open fire. At least 1,650 rounds were fired. Several hundred died and several hundred more were injured. The massacre was universally condemned by all Indians and even shocked many Britons, who thought it one of the worst outrages in all of British history.
In this masterpiece, Navtej Sarna brings the horror of the atrocity to life by viewing it through the eyes of nine characters—Indians and Britons, ordinary people and powerful officials, the innocent and the guilty, whose lives are changed forever by the events of that fateful day. Set against the epic backdrop of India’s freedom struggle, World War I, and the Ghadar movement, Crimson Spring is not just a powerful, unsettling look at a barbarous act, but also a wider meditation on the costs of colonialism and the sacrifices and heroism of ordinary men and women at a time of great cruelty and injustice. It is a book that will leave no reader unmoved or unchanged.
About the Author
Navtej Sarna was India’s Ambassador to the United States, High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, and Ambassador to Israel. He has also served as Secretary to the Government of India and as the Foreign Office Spokesperson. His earlier diplomatic assignments were in Moscow, Warsaw, Thimphu, Tehran, Geneva, and Washington DC. His literary work includes the novels The Exile and We Weren’t Lovers Like That, the short story collection Winter Evenings, non-fiction works The Book of Nanak, Second Thoughts, and Indians at Herod’s Gate, as well as two translations, Zafarnama and Savage Harvest. He is a prolific columnist and commentator on foreign policy and literary matters, contributing regularly to media platforms in India and abroad.
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