Vikramajit Ram’s novel, Mansur, has been longlisted for the 2023 JCB Prize for Literature. Scroll spoke to Ram about the origins, themes, and writing of this novel.
At the heart of Mansur is a jewel-like verse book whose pages Mansur has illuminated and filled with lifelike butterflies. On reaching Verinag, the royal summer retreat in Kashmir, the painter must present the book to its author, the empress Nur Jahan, who had commissioned it as a keepsake for her husband, the emperor Jahangir.
A delay in the book reaching Mansur from the bindery adds to his apprehensions that its very existence is no longer a secret, coupled with dread that so precious an artefact might fall into the wrong hands. What must the painter confront before his masterwork is conveyed safely to Verinag?