Cobalt Blue

A Novel

A literary sensation in South Asia, this memorable novel confronts issues of sexuality in India through a love triangle between a brother, sister, and their family’s lodger

“A mesmerizing novel of heartbreak, memory, and the ease of falling in love set against the impossibility of fully knowing other people.” —Kamila Shamsie, author of A God in Every Stone

Cobalt Blue is a tale of rapturous love and fierce heartbreak told with tenderness and unsparing clarity. Brother and sister Tanay and Anuja both fall in love with the same man, an artist lodging in their family home in Pune, in western india. He seems like the perfect tenant, ready with the rent and happy to listen to their mother’s musings on the imminent collapse of Indian culture. But he’s also a man of mystery. He has no last name. He has no family, no friends, no history, and no plans for the future. When he runs away with Anuja, he overturns the family’s lives.

Translated from the Marathi by acclaimed novelist and critic Jerry Pinto, Sachin Kundalkar’s elegantly wrought and exquisitely spare novel explores the disruption of a traditional family by a free-spirited stranger in order to examine a generation in transition. Intimate, moving, sensual, and wry in its portrait of young love, Cobalt Blue is a frank and lyrical exploration of gay life in India that recalls the work of Edmund White and Alan Hollinghurst—of people living in emotional isolation, attempting to find long-term intimacy in relationships that until recently were barely conceivable to them.

Praise

“I found the book’s fragmentary, collage-like structure intriguing and original, as was Jerry Pinto’s translation, and felt that here was a refreshing new voice for a new generation.”
—Anita Desai, three-time Booker Prize nominee and author of Clear Light of Day, In Custody, and Baumgartner’s Bombay
Cobalt Blue reads like a love song . . . Kundalkar’s writing is masterful in its play of voice, capturing through his characters the claustrophobia of a small town, their longing to escape a middle class existence, and how love, and being in love, has the ability to transform every small detail from the mundane to the magnificent.”
Scroll.in
“One of the most shocking and brilliantly worded stories of love. . . . The story will stick with you, and long after you read it, the novel will play on your mind, forcing you to revisit it from time to time.”
—Andre Borges, "34 Books by Indian Authors That Everyone Should Read," Buzzfeed
“A mysterious and enigmatic tale of a homosexual Marathi brother and his rebellious sister, and an artsy renter who permeates their sexual lives unbeknown to either. A riveting read that haunted me.”
—Bapsi Sidhwa, author of The Crow Eaters
“A finely wrought, lyrical debut novel about three young people who represent the changing mores of modern India. Told with a subdued intensity, Cobalt Blue reminds us that matters of the heart are mysterious, unpredictable and thrillingly unknowable.”
—Thrity Umrigar, author of The Space Between Us and The Story Hour
“This is a slim, sensual book written in a direct conversational style that makes for very pleasurable reading. I’m passionate about regional Indian fiction, and this unusual and important narrative, so controversial when it was first published many years ago, and the equal of which you won’t find in Indian English, is one reason why.”
—Sonia Faleiro, author of Beautiful Thing
“In the sense of navigating the inner world of an adolescent in the first person, Cobalt Blue may be considered a high-quality ‘coming-of-age’ novel. It also explores the discovery, resulting confusion, and bravado of homosexuality in a hostile environment. . . . This book could be read in one sitting, over the course of one enjoyable day. However, the impact of its characters and what we learn from them would last quite a while longer.”
The Hindu
Cobalt Blue is the kind of book that Franz Kafka called the 'axe for the frozen sea within us' . . . this novel, with its complex narrative design and daring imagination, easily surpasses most English-language fiction that has appeared in India so far this year.”
Livemint
“A mesmerizing novel of heartbreak, memory, and the ease of falling in love set against the impossibility of fully knowing other people.”
—Kamila Shamsie, author of Broken Verses and Burnt Shadows

News and Reviews

Electric Literature

Read an excerpt from Sachin Kundalkar's debut novel, Cobalt Blue, newly translated from the original Marathi, in Electric Literature

Kirkus

Kirkus reviews Cobalt Blue, writing: "This novel neatly establishes an emotionally complex situation and presents its characters with difficult decisions to quiet but devastating effect."

Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly reviews Cobalt Blue, saying: "In his debut novel, Kundalkar combines two distinct and complementary voices to deliver a complex and intricate story about love, family, and making one’s own path."