“Chance is the pseudonym of God which He uses when He does not wish to put down His signature” could probably be described as the theme of this absorbing novel. But “everything about The Escapist has the irony of a magician who hides his true face behind a mask and drowns everything in a peal of laughter”, observed Dr. H.P. Shukla in his deep study of this work in the ‘Visva Bharati Quarterly’.
By the time one completes reading the novel, one would have felt the title revealing a sense quite different from its ordinary meaning—something akin to the escapism of Francis Thompson in The Hound of Heaven.
This not-too-long novel stirs a reader’s sensibility at various planes—from the one that shows the play of unexpected forces in our normal life to the plane where we reflect on the very purpose of life. A saga of soul’s journey through life’s darkness into the infinity of the blue… Why do our dreams get shattered?
Why are we confronted by the unexpected and the inscrutable?
The turbulence of our passion—the pangs of their frustration—do they play and role in our life’s journey - and journey towards what? How distant is that goal?
The Escapist is not just an absorbing novel—but a voyage and an exploration.
Born in a remote village on the sea in Odisha in 1934, Manoj Das has travelled not a very short way through vicissitudes of life, standing a helpless witness to a devastating famine accompanied by epidemics sweeping away innumerable familiar faces and his affluent house being plundered twice by brutal gangs of bandits. Turning into a radical youth leader in his college days, courting jail, playing a role in the Afro-Asian Students’ Conference at Bandung in 1956, he ultimately became a student of mysticism.
His first book in his mother-tongue getting published when he was fourteen, he is an author “whose writings have enchanted a long range of readers, from the village boys to Graham Greene” as the Ravenshaw University citation read while conferring on him D.Litt. (Honoris Causa). The numerous accolades he has received include the country’s national recognition—the Sahitya Akademi Award—the most prestigious Saraswati Samman, the Padma Award and D.Litt. from about half a dozen universities.