(Cuckold) is a work of substance that exists on many levels and has much to say about our own times as it has about the past. It is an exploration of the nature of kingship and statecraft. It offers a fresh vision of sainthood. It questions sexual identities. It contains graphic depictions, deftly drawn, of the confusion and mayhem of the battlefield. It is a panegyric to the power of music. It plays on the theme of cuckoldry with many a variation.In the course of events, remarkably compelling personalities come to the fore. They love, hate, manoeuvre, conspire, engage in intrigues and deceptions. They tantalize, lust after and shamelessly manipulate one another. Amidst some of the most despicable betrayals, they demonstrate the profoundest loyalty and display the rarest of courage. All this might suggest that what we have here is yet another swashbuckling saga reminiscent of some flamboyant ‘historical’ TV serial. Nothing could be further from the truth. Each character – no matter how minor – is distinct, unpredictable, capable of surprising us, and fully rendered, from the Maharaj Kumar of Mewar, the Maharana’s eldest son, to Sunheria, a washerwoman, fleshed out in a memorable cameo of a part…And finally, a word about Nagarkar’s language. He employs a distinctive yet unobtrusive narrative voice which comes as a welcome relief from recent novels whose styles call attention to themselves and trivialize the material in the process, whose relentless quirkiness soon becomes a bore. Likewise we have to thank him for the absence of magical realism, a device that has been flogged to death by every writer aspiring to be another Marquez or Rushdie.