The two heroes of this "novel without fiction" seem to have lived several lives. The young London lawyer Mohandas Gandhi, in his black frock coat and top hat, became a tireless walker in white cloth, while Pandurang Khankhoje, also an Indian independence activist, travelled all over the world, from Japan to California, fighting in the Middle East during the First World War, and was later exiled to Mexico, where he became close to Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.
He went on to become a famous scientist, conducting research in agronomy like Alexandre Yersin, the main character in Plague and Cholera, who came to India during the great plague epidemic. Samsara" defines the great wheel of successive lives through reincarnation. And it is on this wheel that Patrick Deville takes us in this new novel, a vast fresco of colonial and then independent India, painted at a breathless pace by the two key figures of Gandhi the pacifist and, even more so, Khankhoje the cosmopolitan revolutionary.
During another recent epidemic, the narrator travels through a country that has become the most populous in the world, from the foothills of the Himalayas to the extreme tip of the subcontinent, at Kanyakumari in southern Tamil Nadu. He meets historians and geographers, writers and students, and through them tries to understand a little of the history of the mud.