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For over thirty years, Janardhanan Pillai was the aratchar, the hangman, on call for the prison authorities in the kingdom of Travancore and, after Independence, the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. After the courts had passed a death sentence, it was left to him to put the condemned man to death, swiftly and clinically. Each time he returned from the gallows, he told himself that it would be the last time. But he went back, a hundred and seventeen times.
Based on Pillai’s life, The Hangman’s Journal takes us into the mind of a man struggling to come to terms with his dharma, his conscience, and his shame. A meditation on life and death and what it means to end a life, this haunting novel is one of the finest works of contemporary Indian fiction.