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Judge Spotlight: Rabindranath Maharaj

By Shivanee Ramlochan, 2012 Bocas Lit fest blogger


I’ve been on the verge of beginning Rabindranath Maharaj’s most recent novel, The Amazing Absorbing Boy, since I received it as a thoughtful birthday present, last year. (By thoughtful, I mean that the giver of the book obeyed my fairly explicit suggestions for its specific purchase.) I think my reluctance has nothing to do with hesitation, and everything to do with the fact that I’m certain I’ll love the book, so I’m heightening the anticipation by drawing out the encounter. Maharaj’s novel was longlisted for last year’s OCM Bocas Prize, and he’s one of this year’s fiction judges, so I think it’s in my best interests to read The Amazing Absorbing Boy before April 26th, when this year’s festivities are launched. That way, I can bookmark one or three pertinent questions to ask him about his coming of age fable that’s been hailed as a realistic love ode to Toronto, gilded in a Caribbean sensitivity.Here are some thoughts from readers and reviewers on The Amazing Absorbing Boy:

From The Globe and Mail (full review accessible here) Donna Bailey Nurse says:

“Maharaj’s greatest achievements lie in his glistening, jewel-like depiction of Mayaro and his striking portrait of Sam. Sam is an ordinary, nice kid, resourceful and quietly determined, absorbing everything around him, eager to listen and learn. He is just one of the amazing, absorbing boys – and girls – who now call Canada home.”

From The Star (full review accessible here) Alex Good says:

“A novel as sharply observed and entertaining as this is obviously a lot more fun than the latest entry in CanLit’s Giller-bait sweepstakes. Maharaj tells the story of Samuel’s inaugural year in Canada at a brisk pace, with a lean, episodic structure that only carries over a handful of essential characters between chapters.The language has a charming, natural ease, casually dropping articles and prepositions in a colloquial rhythm and delivering comic punchlines with dry, understated effect. But it is also a novel with deeper layers.”

From Now Magazine (full review accessible here) Susan G. Cole says:

“Think you know Toronto? Then try getting another perspective. You won’t find a fresher one than in The Amazing Absorbing Boy. […] The title chapter is a bravura piece of writing. It could stand alone as a terrific short story about a young boy in Trinidad whose skin disease has forced him to hide in his home near the swamp, where Sammy visits and shares his passion for comic books.”

Further Reading (Reviews/Interviews/Features):
♦ John Metcalf interviews Rabindranath Maharaj for Canadian Notes and Queries
♦ Interview at Maisonneuve
♦ Review of A Perfect Pledge at
♦ Rabindranath Maharaj’s Website

Have a look at the author discussing the sources of inspiration for The Amazing Absorbing Boy, at the Toronto Public Library last year. We eagerly look forward to everything he’s got to share at this year’s festival.
Author photo copyrighted to Glenn Lowson, here.