Maya: A Novel
"An uncommonly vital book." —Jim Harrison, author of Legends of the Fall
Set in India during the mid 1970's – the period of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency – Maya tells the story of Stanley Harrington, a graduate student from Chicago who comes to India on a Fulbright to do research in Indian philosophy. Once in India, his reservations about academia grow stronger as he finds himself drawn into an international community of young expatriates living in Banaras. As Stanley’s commitment to Buddhism deepens, he struggles with his feelings both for the wife he left behind in the US and for a beautiful British art historian from Oxford with whom he becomes emotionally and sexually enmeshed. Events in Stanley’s life take a disturbing turn when he finds himself witness to a violent accident; swept up in forces apparently outside his control, he begins to question his grip on reality.
The story introduces us to a motley collection of hippies and drifters, as well as to Stanley's teachers: Kalidass, an aged hermit who has been hiding in Himalayan jungle since the days of the British Raj; Shri Anantacharya, an accountant at the Bank of India with a passion for Sanskrit poetry; and Pundit Ravendranath Trevedi, the last in a line of Brahmin scholars, whose only son elected not to carry on the ancient family tradition. Stanley’s path ultimately leads him to a Tibetan yogi, Nortul Rinpoche, who enlists his help in translating a mysterious sutra – a text that threatens to entirely unravel the American’s identity.
Jay Garfield has called Maya “a powerfully honest expression of the enthusiasm and pain that attend passions of all kinds, whether for flesh or for truth… a perfect evocation of the world of illusion we actually inhabit.” The reviewer for The Shambala Sun writes that “the protagonist's exploration of meditation and Buddhist philosophy feels true to life. The frank, passionate love scenes, unflinching views on poverty and cruelty, and Stanley's struggles with illusion make this a novel both of intellect and humanity.”
Intentionally poised somewhere between memoir and fiction – reality and imagination, waking and dream – Maya is a first person narrative rooted in the literary tradition of Henry Miller, Thomas Merton, Jack Kerouac, and Carlos Castaneda. Author David Loy best sums it up: “I’ve been waiting for someone to write a contemporary ‘quest for enlightenment’ novel, but didn’t expect it to be this good.”