The Small Wild Goose Pagoda: An Almanack

By Irwin Allan Sealy | Published by Aleph Book Company


A social and cultural history of 433 square yards of India written in the form of an almanack The Small Wild Goose Pagodais a natural and social history of 433 square yards of India. On this piece of land in the foothills of the Himalaya, the Sealy family have a small brick house with one-and-a-half bedrooms, two-and-a-half gardens, front, back and side, an old Fiat, an internet link with the world and a terrace roof for walking on under the sky. Here surrounded by trees: litchi, rosewood, magnolia, silk cotton, jacaranda, a reluctant pear, a profusely flowering peach Allan Sealy looks back on his life as he turns sixty and goes from Householder to Forest Dweller (the two middle stages in the life of a man – as set out in Indian philosophical tradition). Lending depth and texture to a narrative written in the form of an almanack is his experience of building, after a visit to China, a pagoda on his roof.

As the pagoda takes shape we are introduced to a host of extraordinary characters who drift in and out of the 433 square yards: Dhani, family retainer and mali, bent in half by age; Habilis, master brick-layer and contractor with a roving eye; Beauty, part of Habilis’ s crew, who may or may not be his lover; Victor, stoic assistant to Habilis. In this remarkable book, his first in a decade, award-winning novelist and travel writer, Irwin Allan Sealy, gives us an evocative account of the drama of small town life; at the same time it is an extraordinary meditation on work, family history, nature, Indian society and the passage of time.

Irwin Allan Sealy was born in Allahabad in 1951 and educated in Lucknow and Delhi. He is the author of The Trotter-Nama, The Everest Hotel, The Brain fever Bird and other novels and a travelogue, From Yukon to Yucatan. He lives in Dehradun, where he is apprenticed to a bricklayer.