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Playing the Game


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Journalist and nonfiction author Buruma ( Meridian ; God's Dust ) has written often and eloquently of the odd intersections of East and West in Asia. Recently he has evinced interest in the peculiarities of class in England, his adopted home. In his first novel he examines the convergence of these two subjects through a thinly fictionalized biography of cricketer Ranjitsinhji, a transplanted Indian who starred for English teams during the Edwarian period, ``an English folk hero'' who finds himself ``depicted on such articles as matchboxes and chocolate wrappers.'' Alternating between his own search for Ranji's past and lengthy extracts from an autobiographical letter by the athlete to cricketer and classics scholar C. B. Fry, Buruma gradually unveils Ranji's own sense of deracination, his class snobberies and, finally, his presentiment of betrayal by the historical forces that will ultimately free India from colonial rule. Rather than a conventional narrative, however, this most resembles a series of essays on dandyism, the class-race nexus in the Anglo-Indian experience and the nature of Englishness. Unfortunately, Buruma's observations lie inertly on the page. (Aug.)

British journalist Buruma's first novel is a fictional memoir of K.S. Ranjitsinhji (1872-1933), an Indian aristocrat who attended Trinity College, Cambridge, and became, in the years immediately preceding World War I, one of the greatest cricket players of all time. When ``Ranji'' returned to India as the maharaja of Nawanagar, he was a folk-hero throughout the Empire--the very epitome of Englishness, oddly enough, thanks to his effortless mastery of the quintessential British sport. Buruma's unnamed narrator tracks down Ranji's surviving friends in India and Ireland, collects memorabilia, and discovers forgotten diaries. For American readers unversed in cricket lore, the book's main attraction will be its evocation of privileged life in the Edwardian era, a kinder, gentler, and, judging by the evidence presented here, an infinitely duller time. Recommended for serious Anglophiles only.-- Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles

Ian Buruma's 'Playing the Game' is an unusual delight for the cricket lovers -- a novel on the life of KS Ranjitsinhji. -Arunabha Sengupta, Cricket Country

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