Gregory David Roberts, the author of Shantaram and its sequel, The Mountain Shadow, was born in Melbourne, Australia. Sentenced to nineteen years in prison for a series of armed robberies, he escaped and spent ten of his fugitive years in Bombay--where he established a free medical clinic for slum-dwellers, and worked as a counterfeiter, smuggler, gunrunner, and street soldier for a branch of the Bombay mafia. Recaptured, he served out his sentence, and established a successful multimedia company upon his release. Roberts is now a full-time writer and lives in Bombay.
With the grand sweep and scale of a Bollywood movie, Shantaram is unlike any other Australian novel for quite some time. It recounts the experiences of Lin, a loosely fictionalised character based on the author, the so-called Building Society Bandit who escaped from a Victorian maximum-security prison in 1980 and fled to India. Lin moves in different circles in steamy Bombay, from indolent expats on the run from reality to ever-smiling slum dwellers who cannot escape from their plight. His adventures take him to the homes of Bombay Mafioso, through the hellhole of the Colaba police station and into Afghanistan running guns to the mujaheddin. Although at times Roberts' text is over- written and his dialogue stilted, this is a rip-roaring read. At 933 pages the book stands out, but it is all the more remarkable because it is based on second-to-none, first-hand experience. Full of jailhouse philosophy, human frailty and resilience, Sufi wisdom and street-fighting tactics, Shantaram is by turns inspiring, hair raising and poignant. This warts-and-all Indian epic details the myriad struggles, triumphs, heartbreaks and joys of life on the subcontinent-- expect it to become a must-read for backpackers and long-haul airline passengers, as was The Beach. William Gourlay is a Melbourne-based editor, reviewer and sometime travel writer. C. 2003 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors
"Shantaram is a novel of the first order, a work of extraordinary art, a thing of exceptional beauty. If someone asked me what the book was about, I would have to say everything, every thing in the world. Gregory David Roberts does for Bombay what Lawrence Durrell did for Alexandria, what Melville did for the South Seas, and what Thoreau did for Walden Pond: He makes it an eternal player in the literature of the world." --Pat Conroy "Shantaram has provided me with the richest reading experience to date and I don't expect anybody to unseat its all-round performance for a long time. It is seductive, powerful, complex, and blessed with a perfect voice. Like a voodoo ghost snatcher, Gregory David Roberts has captured the spirits of the likes of Henri Charriere, Rohinton Mistry, Tom Wolfe, and Mario Vargas Llosa, fused them with his own unique magic, and built the most gripping monument in print. The land of the god Ganesh has unchained the elephant, and with the monster running amok, I tremble for the brave soul dreaming of writing a novel about India. Gregory David Roberts is a suitable giant, a dazzling guru, and a genius in full." --Moses Isegawa, author of Abyssinian Chronicles and Snakepit "Shantaram is, quite simply, the 1001 Arabian Nights of the new century. Anyone who loves to read has been looking for this book all their reading life. Anyone who walks away from Shantaram untouched is either heartless or dead or both. I haven't had such a wonderful time in years." --Jonathan Carroll, author of White Apples "Shantaram is dazzling. More importantly, it offers a lesson...that those we incarcerate are human beings. They deserve to be treated with dignity. Some of them, after all, may be exceptional. Some may even possess genius." --Ayelet Waldman, author of Murder Plays House