Thirteen passengers are stranded at an airport. Tokyo, their destination, is covered in snow and all flights are cancelled. To pass the night they form a huddle by the silent baggage carousels and tell each other stories.
Robert De Niro’s lovechild explores the magical properties of a packet of Oreos; a Ukrainian merchant is led by a wingless bird back to a lost lover; a man who edits other people’s memories has to confront his own past; a Chinese youth with amazing luck cuts men’s hair and cleans their ears; an entrepreneur risks losing everything in his obsession with a doll; a mute Turkish girl is left all alone in the house of a German cartographer.
Told by people on a journey, these are stories about lives in transit. Stories from the great cities – New York, Istanbul, Delhi, Lagos, Paris, Buenos Aires – that grow into a novel about the hopes and dreams and disappointments that connect people everywhere.
Dasgupta’s writing is utterly distinctive and fresh, so striking that it seems to come from the future and the past all at once, but in marrying a timeless mystery to an alert modernity, his cautionary tales manage to be reminiscent of both Ballard and Borges, depicting ordinary extraordinary individuals (some lost, some confused, some happy) in a world that remains ineffable, inexplicable, wonderful.
Reviews of Tokyo Cancelled
‘Only the most gifted writers, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jonathan Safran-Foer, can hold the surreal and the real in satisfying equilibrium. This elite now welcomes Rana Dasgupta to its ranks. He makes magic realism his own, and his debut novel is superb. The novel’s momentum comes from the narrators, though the plot in which they come together is deceptively mundane: their plane is grounded and they tell stories to pass the night. But this is just the structural glue for a series of spellbinding tales composed in a crisp but poetic prose which already has the hallmarks of a signature style. Dasgupta’s gift for inventing stories is quite remarkable: you feel he could go on forever and never get boring. Tokyo Cancelled is profound, but in the humblest and most sensitive way. A treat.’ Andrew Staffell, Time Out ‘Book of the Week’
‘Executed with elegance and charm’ The Guardian
‘This is a very bold, very striking book. In an age when so many first fictions are thinly veiled autobiography, and every other creative writing tutor is peddling the ‘Write what you know’ mantra, it is exceptionally refreshing to read a writer who is daring to imagine, rather than transcribe. Tokyo Cancelled is an unforgettable book, with its own peculiar charms. I shall be fascinated to see what happens next.’ Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman