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July 26 , 2008

Hangman's Journal


They say that the hangman's job is an art. Positioning the knot under the prisoner's ear is the most important part of the job; get it exactly right and there's not a quiver from the rope except for that little jerk at the drop, when his neck breaks. A few millimetres off, and the man's neck does not break; he dies of strangulation, slowly painfully. Written with rare power and unflinching directness, this is a compelling, often unsettling account of a life of great psychological and moral complexity. The real life story of the Hangman working for the king of Travancore, a small pre-independence South Indian kingdom unfolds in full detail. 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. He did what he was ordered to do and shut out difficult memories, till an encounter with a writer almost a quarter century after his last hanging forced him to confront his past. This Book takes us into the mind of a Man struggling to come to terms with his Dharma, his conscience, and his shame.

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