I have carried within me a book on the novel for as long as I can remember. It
is gratifying to have finally written it. Even as my friends in school were rap-
idly abandoning the novel for television, I refused to give up the pleasure of
losing myself in its printed pages. This habit has stayed with me right through
the evolution of the multimedia and the digital age. The sense of marvel at
the alchemy of words turning into gold, the magic of transport to worlds
distant and different, and my capacity to enter into the lives of myriad fic-
tional characters, none of these pleasurable experiences has diminished over
a lifetime. In some senses, then, my first debt of gratitude is to the shelves of
books that adorned by parental home and to my late father, who urged me
to discover the pleasures of reading. A good book, he used to say, will never
let you down.
I owe a world of debt to many friends and interlocutors who have given
so generously of their time and thoughts to the making of this book. Srini-
vas Aravamudan, Ian Baucom, James Chandler, Joseph Slaughter, Tom Ford,
Ned Curthoys, Desmond Manderson, Fiona Jenkins, Ankhi Mukherjee, Sha-
meem Black, and Gillian Whitlock read early drafts of various chapters and
helped shape my arguments in important ways. I am very grateful to them.
Joseph Slaughter’s Human Rights Inc. and Ian Baucom’s Specters of the Atlantic
were foundational triggers for this book. At a later stage James Chandler’s An
Archaeology of Sympathy mattered significantly. I thank them all for their in-
spiration. Joseph and I were on a panel on the global novel at a conference at
Cambridge University in 2011 at the invitation of Mary Jacobus, the director
at that time of the Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences and Humani-
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