The Viceroy’s Artist – Anindyo Roy


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Somewhere in the foothills of the Himalayas, a sixty-two-year-old English painter falls off his sketching stool. Overweight, asthmatic and prone to attacks of epilepsy, Edward Lear is nevertheless on a mission – to paint the mighty Kanchenjunga for his patron, the Viceroy of India.

Lear is an oddity, an outsider, simultaneously fascinated and repelled by the world the British have built in India. Even as he battles the fatigue of travelling on pony carts, jampans and trains, Lear reflects on those who run the vast machinery of the Empire – administrators and missionaries, kitmutgars and kamsamahs.

Duelling pompous British officers with his wry humour, Lear turns his ear to the polyphony of local languages to compose nonsense poetry with a uniquely Indian flavour. Woven into this vivid account are flashes from Lear’s own life – deep-seated fears stemming from an unhappy childhood and the memory of unfulfilled adult relationships.

Inspired by the journals of this celebrated artist and poet, Anindyo Roy brings to life Lear’s little-known Indian sojourns. In lyrical prose, and occasional verse, The Viceroy’s Artist paints a picture of an exceptional man who inspires by his unhindered imagination, curiosity and compassion for the world.


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