A Nax­alite rebel motif weaves through Mukherjee’s seem­ing­ly frag­ment­ed lives A State of Free­dom grows more urgent and com­pelling as it pro­ceeds. In his third nov­el, Neel Mukher­jee con­flates the themes of his pre­vi­ous books, A Life Apart and the Man Book­er-short­list­ed Lives of Oth­ers : the fig­ure of the Indi­an expa­tri­ate, edu­cat­ed in Europe, who finds him­self a “tourist in his own coun­try”; the ongo­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary Maoist-Nax­alite insur­gency, which start­ed in West Ben­gal and has been in con­flict the Indi­an gov­ern­ment since the late 1960s; and attempts by mar­gin­alised indi­vid­u­als to achieve self-deter­mi­na­tion despite the iniq­ui­ties of a vast, rau­cous­ly messy soci­ety. It is this last ele­ment that has the great­est impact in a work of exact­ing, tac­ti­cal­ly bril­liant, inter­linked nar­ra­tives. Mukher­jee, born in Cal­cut­ta in 1970, homes in on the rest­less, the dis­in­her­it­ed, the social­ly trapped, insist­ing that a life of should be their grasp, no mat­ter how des­per­ate the cir­cum­stances. Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, he sub­verts the expec­ta­tions of pro­tag­o­nists who often, in mak­ing last-ditch efforts to achieve auton­o­my, dis­cov­er ulti­mate­ly that what they most desire proves most con­fin­ing. Mer­ci­less­ly obser­vant, he does spare the read­er but leav­ens scenes of sav­agery, squalor and despair […]