Night Theater

Vikram Paralkar (Author)


A surgeon flees a scandal in the city and accepts a job at a village clinic. He buys antibiotics out of pocket, squashes roaches, and chafes at the interventions of the corrupt officer who oversees his work.

But his outlook on life changes one night when a teacher, his pregnant wife, and their young son appear. Killed in a violent robbery, they tell the surgeon that they have been offered a second chance at living if the surgeon can mend their wounds before sunrise.

So begins a night of quiet work, "as if the crickets had been bribed," during which the surgeon realizes his future is tied more closely to that of the dead family than he could have imagined. By dawn, he and his assistant have gained knowledge no mortal should have.

In this inventive novel charged with philosophical gravity and sly humor, Vikram Paralkar takes on the practice of medicine in a time when the right to health care is frequently challenged. Engaging earthly injustice and imaginaries of the afterlife, he asks how we might navigate corrupt institutions to find a moral center. Encompassing social criticism and magically unreal drama, Night Theater is a first novel as satisfying for its existential inquiry as for its enthralling story of a skeptical physician who arrives at a greater understanding of life's miracles.

Product Details

Price: $16.95  $15.59
Publisher: Catapult
Published Date: January 14, 2020
Pages: 224
Dimensions: 5.5 X 0.9 X 8.2 inches | 0.55 pounds
ISBN: 9781948226547
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Vikram Paralkar was born and raised in Mumbai. Author of a previous book, The Afflictions, he is a physician-scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, where he treats patients with leukemia and researches the disease. He lives in Philadelphia.


Praise for Night Theater

Time, 1 of 12 New Books to Read This Month
An American Booksellers Association Indie Next Selection
BuzzFeed, 1 of 83 Books to Keep on your Radar This Year
Literary Hub, 1 of 10 New Books to Look Out for This Week
A Craft New Book of the Month
Thought Catalog, 1 of 20 New Upcoming Books to Add to Your Reading List This Year
Syfy Wire, 1 of 8 Science Fiction/Fantasy Books to Pick Up This Month
Jetsetter, 1 of 10 Books to Read This Year (So Far)

"Paralkar does know how to construct some beautiful lines, just like the opening one. Really, there are too many to quote. He sows lovely lines like someone might sow wildflowers; they're all over the place. At his best, Paralkar also evokes a vivid sense of place, and his knowledge of medical procedures--he's a physician--also shows during the detailed surgical scenes. It's in those moments that Night Theater really blooms . . . Paralkar shows unusual promise . . . First lines may be fun, but even better are writers who manage to intrigue you." --Siliva Moreno-Garcia, NPR

"Otherworldly . . . [Paralkar's] prose is sharp and melodious, and within these enchanting passages is a haunting contemplation of life, death, the liminal space in between, and the dogged search for resurrection . . . A beguiling and unforgettable fable." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Fablelike tale that melds the philosophical with the corporeal . . . Paralkar's novel underscores the arbitrary nature of death, the fact that one can neither prepare for it nor, perhaps, cheat one's way out of it . . . Grotesque, strange, and hopeful in turns, the novel will leave readers marveling at the mysteries of death--and the wonders of life." --Publishers Weekly

"Paralkar merges folklore and fable, meditative commentary and meticulous detail . . . Each nameless character is drawn with psychological depth and layered motivations. Paralkar, a physician-scientist, melds medical realism and metaphysical debate, wry humor and somber observations to create a riveting and intriguing tale." --Booklist

"Having been compared to his idol Jorge Luis Borges in the past, there seems no better author than Paralkar to tackle the conundrum of limbo, and all the gory wonder it might entail." --Jeva Lange, The Week

"Set in rural India, Paralkar's Night Theater is a medical drama that veers into the unearthly . . . This book braids philosophy, magical realism, and the complicated facts of health care in the modern age into a compact and compelling story." --BuzzFeed, 1 of 15 Small Press Books to Kick Off Your Reading Season

"A great mix of creepy ghost story, medical drama, gory body stuff, murder mystery, spiritualism, and parable-esque commentary on humanity and the failings of government . . . The characters are compelling and flawed, and the pace is a fast drumbeat. This is a great one-sitting read for a dark night." --Electric Literature, 1 of 15 New Books for Your Winter Mood

"Startling, and very precise prose." --J. R. Ramakrishnan, Electric Literature

"A teacher, his pregnant wife, and their young son walk into a clinic late one night. It sounds like the start of a joke, but it's actually the start of a wildly surreal novel, in which this family tells the surgeon that they have been killed and given a chance to come back to life, if he can mend their wounds by sunrise. (We love an ominous one-night-only challenge!) Written by an actual physician-scientist, Night Theater dredges up ethical/existential questions and a whole lot of wonder." --Katie Yee, Literary Hub, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year

"There are many of these moments where Paralkar seems to speak directly to the reader, imparting the relatable nature of existing in chaos, which strengthens the story and latches us to the destiny of these characters." --Vol. 1 Brooklyn

"A focused, tension-filled, hard-to-put-down story. The world is magical from the start, with its undead walking and talking, but it is also so grounded in the medical workings of these surgeries. The novel has created a beautiful contradictory space where the possibilities of life and death can be explored more accurately, more attuned to the known and the unknown . . . It's no surprise then that his medical imagery is spot-on. The description of the bodies is crisp and detailed and compassionate . . . One of my favorite reads of recent years." --Sarah Blake, The Rumpus

"Vikram Paralkar, a physician himself, is well-suited to tackle questions of healthcare, mortality, and the afterlife in his thought-provoking second novel." --Jetsetter, 1 of 10 Books to Read This Year

"It really challenges perceptions of life and death does Paralkar's new work, Night Theater. Dark, morbid and yet exploratory and compelling, this book is a dreadful yet wonderful read simultaneously . . . Inventive and challenging in nature, this novel charged with philosophical gravity is worth the time. Deeply engaging, the novel investigates earthly injustice and ponderings of the afterlife . . . With vivid prose, and the suspense of the time constraint, it's almost impossible to put this novel down. Magical realism that highlights corruption, Night Theater is an unusual yet fascinating read." --Keira Brown, The Fountain

"Night Theater is an imaginative novel that tackles questions about the purpose of life through characters who, when left to choose, find both pros and cons in the afterlife, too." --Foreword Reviews

"With an ethereal twist, as well as subtle humor, [Night Theater] dismantles the stories people might tell themselves about the great beyond . . . [A] spare, powerful story . . . Paralkar's remarkable first novel will intrigue readers of thrillers and ghost stories alike, exploring as it does a macabre premise with spiritual dimensions as well as a host of terrifying earthly dilemmas facing the poor surgeon. Night Theater unfolds in a meditative, trancelike fashion, culminating in an act of divine grace that will take readers' breath away . . . A story of magical realism set in rural India that boldly challenges ideas about death and addresses the soul-crushing corruption endemic in that country." --Shahina Piyarali, Shelf Awareness

"The well-timed choreography of Vikram Paralkar's Night Theater leads us to interrogate the unfamiliar notes of our personal harmonies . . . Admirably exacting detail and language . . . Paralkar's ending . . . is also pitch perfect, leaving readers questioning their own thoughts and expectations and listening, in a more alert way, for 'those last notes which complete the harmony.'" --Jenny Bhatt, PopMatters

"[Night Theater] invites you to consider life's biggest questions through a propulsive, fantastic tale . . . Paralkar's novel transcends to explore such heady subjects as the existence of the afterlife. Yet he never bogs down his action with soliloquy or speechifying disguised as dialogue. His straightforward treatment, coupled with the surgeon's often-sour assessments, raises welcome questions instead of dispensing feel-good, Oprah-esque platitudes . . . It all makes Night Theater both a thought-provoking fable and a page-turner with a knockout ending. Paralkar has crafted a winner." --Sharyn Vane, Book & Film Globe

"Paralkar's prose is beautiful, sometimes stunning . . . As it must in a story of the supernatural, the doubts, yearnings, and simple humanity of the characters ring utterly true. While vividly depicting human physiology in all its glistening, sinewy, gory glory, the physician writer allows the celestial mystery of the meaning of life to stand. There is no reassuring diagnosis of eternal redemption or prescription for salvation. Though the afterlife be uncertain, we know our existence is real. Be a good person, be kind to others, for that may be your only reward." --Alice Stephens, Washington Independent Review of Books

"Night Theater is written in a completely straightforward style that accepts the magically real as a matter of course. This is the best kind of magical realism, because it emphasizes the real and makes you think that the events that befall the hero could happen to anyone. It could even happen to you. One feels as if Paralkar is retelling a story he might have overheard at a medical conference. This is a story that flows rapidly and is perhaps best enjoyed if read in one sitting . . . Their bodies may be dead, but the personalities of Dr. Saheb's patients are very much alive." --Stacey Ake, Write Now Philly

"This book will be a great addition to your reading list." --Unwritten

"Paralkar takes aspects of speculative fiction and uses them to bind the plot that is rooted in the limitations of human reality. The novel's social criticism is so biting it's impossible not to draw parallels between the surgeon's plight and any primary health center in rural India . . . Often, the morbidity of the subject matter is counterbalanced by the exquisiteness of Paralkar's prose that's gently meandering and cynical, yet urgent, droll and deft at once. In evocative prose peppered with alluring aspects of surrealism that blends the supernatural with human reality, Paralkar's Night Theater takes its reader on a feverish ride. These are the early days of the year for a literary prophecy, yet this short book may be one of the most talked about books this year." --Open

"Yes, Night Theater is an exquisite fable about what we need and what we want, and a beautiful meditation on what it means to be alive. But it reads like an urgent thriller, full of characters pumping with blood and guts, twisting and turning and twisting again. This novel actually kept me up all night and then some, clutching my mortality, listening to my heartbeat, drawing that line between the living and the dead until it blurred." --Aja Gabel, author of The Ensemble

"In rural India an unnamed surgeon uncovers old secrets: What do angels look like? Why are tears denied to the dead? Is the afterlife run by bureaucrats? The surgeon's indifference to death is like God's, only more terrifying because it is human. I read this book in a single addictive sitting. It will stay with me for a long time." --Jeet Thayil, author of the Booker Prize-short-listed Narcopolis

"Haunting and irresistible. I cannot wait for you to read this book." --Wayétu Moore, author of She Would Be King

"A haunting, hallucinatory fable, Night Theater wrestles with the deepest mysteries of morality, death, and the afterlife." --Rachel Heng, author of Suicide Club

"Night Theater hypnotized me, held me on the line between life and death, perfectly grotesque in its discussion of the body, perfectly heady in its depiction of the afterlife. Paralkar has created my favorite kind of story: morbid, magical, and enthralling." --Sarah Blake, author of Naamah

"Night Theater is mesmerizing, strange, and frightening. Paralkar masterfully captures the thrill and desperation of humanity's oldest struggle--to escape death itself." --Peng Shepherd, author of The Book of M

"Night Theater is astonishing--stark and luminous, nimble and tensile, powerful and propulsive in the moment, but also full of lingering wonder." --Leah Hager Cohen, author of Strangers and Cousins

"Magic realism is a difficult genre to pull off but Paralkar has managed to do so with aplomb." --Deccan Chronicle

"A book that delivers one hundred per cent in terms of thrill, drama, atmosphere and eeriness." --Financial Express

"Equal parts speculative fiction, medical drama and a philosophical treatise on death . . . Perceptive and absurdly humorous in ways I hadn't expected. By the time I reached its smashing final line, I was hoping Paralkar would resurrect the dead for a sequel." --The Hindu

"A beautifully fearsome meta-fiction on death, the dead and the living." --BusinessLine

Praise for The Afflictions

"Disease is made into something new and strange through the eyes of writer-scientist Vikram Paralkar . . . Paralkar shares with Borges a collector's delight in details." --Brenda Wang, The Believer

"Paralkar's tragicomic imagination, sly sendup of pseudo-Latinate medical prose and fine sense of irony make for an arresting read . . . A haunting take on the ills of flesh and soul." --Kirkus Reviews

"The beauty of The Afflictions comes from the fact that it is an unabashedly entertaining narrative that revels in weirdness and impossibility while also packing a much more profound layer in which Paralkar explores the frailty, failures, and absurdity of human nature . . . Vikram Paralkar is a talented author with a knack for the fantastic. He knows medicine, but it's his understanding of the relationship between diseases and the human mind and spirit that make The Afflictions a great read." --Gabino Iglesias, Atticus Review

"A surgeon in a remote clinic must bring the dead back to life by dawn in this fantastic, wholly unique read filled with existential angst, magical realism . . . Set in rural India, Night Theater is such an exquisite read unlike anything I've read before . . . [Paralkar's] expertise absolutely shines . . . Night Theater braids together and active story (can the surgeon mend this family within the time period), with a sort of existential questioning, ruminations on life and death. I was held captive in the glimmering but grotesque descriptions of the body, decay, the surgical procedures, and the magical essence of not fully knowing, palpating that luminal space between sleep and wakefulness, life and death. I was undone by this book." --Leslie A. Lindsay