Elephants with Headlights

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Transit Lounge Publishing, 2020 - Australians - 304 pages

An encounter with Elephants with Headlights is a collision between east and west, modernity and tradition -- between driverless cars and ancient lore -- and a world that needs revolutionary reappraisal. In this world, Savitri, named after a Goddess, refuses outright to marry anyone. Her brother, Neel is intent on marrying an Australian girl called Mae, much to the displeasure of their mother, Tota, and father, Siddarth. But do they have the power to command love or destiny? Only the family astrologer, Arunji, knows, yet his truth is tempered by obligations to the family that transformed his life.

Characters we come to love and care for teeter on the brink of a radically altered future, leaving questions in their wake. What is the generative legacy of tradition? Can spiritual values survive amidst personal challenges, the tragedy of a death foretold, and the momentous changes of our times? A warm and engaging novel touched with love, wisdom and soulfulness, Elephants with Headlights is a breathtaking story for the threshold era we all navigate.

'Bem Le Hunte is quite simply, a wonderful novelist.' -- Geraldine Brooks

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A luminous novel that should be in the spotlight
Over a century and a half ago, Madame Blavatsky introduced the West to the spiritual possibilities of India: the ‘spiritual path’ (which turned into
a bit of a highway) headed to the feet of thousands of gurus – but finally, in ‘Elephants With Headlights,’ it leads the other way. This story explores a spiritual about turn – what India can find in the unfolding high-tech stories emerging from Silicon Valley or from the hippy hills of the Mullumbimby hinterland in Australia. This has all the richness we know from Le Hunte’s other novels (‘The Seduction of Silence’ and ‘There, Where The Pepper Grows’) – but this time, it’s delivered with a new rhythm; in this novel, it’s clearly the theme song of REM’s ‘Losing My Religion’.
Le Hunte’s Elephants With Headlights raises a question: what values of the past are needed for the future? It turns Marie Condo to the world of ideas and religion, mysticism, futurism, hippiedom, marriage, gender and even death – the are all in the firing line. As the past is carted away, Le Hunte reveals ancient gems that glow with hope, love and joy. The things we hardly know, yet really shouldn’t do without.
The dedication reads, ‘To the women of the world – the eternal flame of the sacred feminine, to the transformational hopes of our mothers, and to my mother who inspired in me the love of literature.’ Amid the characters of the novel are generations of women, each of whom carries the mantle of another era of feminism – leaving the youngest (Savitri) to invent her own by quietly putting aside the expectations and obligations of her parents, her stars, her brother, her caste, class, religion and nationality to find herself as an authentic and yet committed soul.
‘Elephants With Headlights’ is rich, all-consuming and challenging yet humorous and as fresh as rains after a drought.

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About the author (2020)

Bem Le Hunte was born in 1964 in Calcutta, India. She was educated in India and England and is a graduate of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge with a BA in Social Anthropology and a doctorate in English Literature. Her books include The Seduction of Silence and There, Where the Pepper Grows. She works at the Centre for Journalism and Media at the University of New South Wales.

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