Arnab Nandy’s “On The Road To Tarascon”, Niyogi Books

“Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.”  – Vincent van Gogh

Arnab Nandy, who considers himself a dreamer got first published in 2004 in The Statesman Voice, a school students’ supplement. Arnab is now a journalist with The Telegraph where he primarily edits news stories and sometimes writes on travel.

Nandy, to some extent has proven through his book On The Road To Tarascon “present is directed by the past and the past is altered by the present”. Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘The Artist On The Way To Work’ also known as ‘The Painter On The Road To Tarascon’ is assumed to be destroyed in the fire at the Stassfurt Salt Mine, Magdeburg, Germany (1945) during the period of Second World War. Nandy has interestingly used this crucial piece of information intelligently to weave his plot aesthetically. The painting is the nucleus of the tale.

Suddenly, after two generations Eva Schiektanz gets a letter from her grandmother Claudia (wife of curator of the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum,  Joans Bormann) because of which the whole chain of incidents and events start over again in search of painting.

The novel is a beautiful blend of historical facts, geographical knowledge and creative thoughts. The narrator takes his readers back to the period of Second World War from where the story begins. The curator along with Bates, the British Intelligence Officer plans to save the painting from the looters who could have been American Soldiers, Nazi’s Officials, German Civilians or the forced laborers.

The letter takes Eva to Kolkata where she meets the narrator Neil and with a few other characters like  Shankar Bose, Narendra, etc the story progresses. Patel and Richard also arrive Kolkata in the search of the same painting.  All the characters are interlinked with each other and is a part of the chain which will take them to the painting.  But no one knows about their role completely which they were already into and continue playing in keeping the secret of the painting and finding it. The continuous twists and turns keep the readers in awe, to some extent bewitched by the story.

The book contains everything –
Suspense – What’s going on and what will happen next? Mystery – Where the painting is and what does the phrase ‘From Arles to Kolkata ‘ mean? Romance between the narrator and Eva, extra marital affair, action,escape, adventure, love for art which becomes very evident when the curator to the painting number #395 says “stay safe my friend” etc.

The climax of the story is undoubtedly nail-biting, when everyone believes that finally the world would be able to see the magic that Vincent Van Gogh had created on the canvas, the painting is mislaid again. The situation is cleverly presented by the author which undoubtedly proves his genius. Everyone is again after the painting. Whether they are able to trace the painting or not is the question or the conundrum that readers have to unravel themselves (by reading the book!). Once Vincent Van Gogh said, “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” And in the book the characters are in quest of finding the painting, which if is found will add a new page in history of book of art.

If someone is planning to read a thriller this summer, one must go for On The Road To Tarascon. The gripping plot, amazing narration, suspense, mystery and a lot more keep the readers on the edge of their seat. If I’m asked to describe Arnab Nandy’s ‘On The Road To Tarascon’ in a single word I would simply say ‘Incredulous’.

Hailing from Dhanbad (Jharkhand), Ghanishtha Verma is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in English. She is a calm thinker and observer.

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