Kumar’s bibliography is, like A Time Outside This Time, a mix of reportage, cultural criticism, and fiction. His books include Passport Photos, a genre-blending investigation of postcolonialism and migration; Husband of a Fanatic, an autobiographical reflection on Hindu-Muslim relations in India; and A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Book—partly an account of two suspected terrorists and partly a study of 9/11’s effect on art and culture.
Kumar’s breakout novel, Immigrant, Montana, published in 2018, laid the groundwork for A Time Outside This Time; it too intersperses its narrative with essayistic digressions. The New Yorker called the book, somewhat perplexingly, a “nonfiction novel” and compared it to the work of autofiction eminences Ben Lerner and Sheila Heti.
Kumar isn’t quite comfortable with the term autofiction. (Novelists charged with writing it tend not to be.) “What is usually presented as autofiction is narrowly a story of the self,” he says. “I wanted to mess with that idea. I’m not someone who is describing getting up from this table, making tea, going into the bathroom, coming out, making a call to my wife.”
The novel comes out on Oct 5. Please pre-order here.
I’m here to reclaim the check mark in its basic form, etched by a human hand using ink or graphite.
We now have a book trailer for the new novel. Out on Oct 5, 2021 from Knopf.
February 23 is the first anniversary of the Delhi riots. When making this painting I was thinking of Bashir Badr’s lines: ‘Log toot jaate hain ek ghar banana mein / Tum taras nahin khaate bastiyan jalaane mein.’ (People go broke in building a home / And you remain unmoved as you burn down whole neighborhoods.)
There is an interview of mine about this painting, and my forthcoming book of paintings, on the Mint Lounge website.
About A Time Outside This Time
From the acclaimed author of Immigrant, Montana, a one-of-a-kind novel about fake news, memory, and the ways in which truth gives over to fiction.
When a writer named Satya attends a prestigious artist retreat, he finds the pressures of the outside world won’t let up: President Trump rages online; a dangerous virus envelopes the globe; and the 24-hour news cycle throws fuel on every fire. For most of the retreat fellows, such stories are unbearable distractions; but for Satya, these Orwellian interruptions begin to crystalize into an idea for his new novel, Enemies of the People, about the lies we tell ourselves and each other. Satya scours his life for moments where truth bends toward the imagined, and misinformation is mistaken as fact.
Sifting through the President’s tweets, newspaper clippings, childhood memories from India, and moments as an immigrant, a husband, father, and teacher, A Time Outside This Time captures our feverish political moment with intelligence, beauty, and an eye for the uncanny. It is a brilliant meditation on life in a post-truth era.
Thanks to Yaddo, I was in conversation with Pulitzer-winner Ayad Akhtar. Listen once, listen twice.
About the Nonfiction Dialogues
The Nonfiction Dialogues is a student-initiated evening series in which Professor and Writing Program Chair Lis Harris interviews distinguished nonfiction writers about their work and careers. Recent guests have included Eula Biss, Alexander Chee, John D’Agata, Ian Frazier, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, and Mary Roach.
A journalist for The Caravan was beaten by the police in North Delhi. I wrote about life imitating art imitating life:
I read in a report that a journalist named Ahan Penkar at The Caravan magazine was beaten at a police station in north Delhi on 16 October. Penkar was covering a protest concerning the alleged rape and murder of a 14-year-old Dalit girl employed as a domestic worker. Penkar was hauled inside the police station along with four protesters. He held his press card in front of him and shouted that he was a journalist covering the protest but to no avail. While they were being beaten, a policeman asked the men: “Why do you all keep doing this? Tumhe nahin pata hai ki desh badal gaya hai?”—Don’t you know the country has changed?