The book is a storehouse of relics that Tharoor infuses with resonance ... Tharoor probes the flaws of language when paired with technology, but he also playfully dwells on the way modern media allows us to sift through the world and see it however we wish ... In explaining this framework, Tharoor's preface states that 'the purpose of the romance was never to tell a straightforward story. Its stories offered variously a vision of ideal kingship and courtly behavior; a cautionary tale about arrogance and ambition; prophetic revelations; a description of fantastical adventures; and a sense of the deep, conflicted past of the world as well as its fundamental impermanence.' Cleverly and with no small amount of chutzpah, Tharoor is telegraphing his own checklist for the stories in Swimmer. It's a testament to the author's empathy, rich voice, and immaculate craftsmanship that the book succeeds in being all these things — even as it comforts, illuminates, and unnerves.
...remarkably crafted and imaginative debut collection of stories that span space and time ... Tharoor’s themes are complex, his insights philosophical and his characters haunted by longing and the sting of futility. Still, the stories are imbued with a humor that comes through in dialogue, in droll observations and even in a story’s construction ... the experience of reading this collection is like watching a contemplative, concerned — yet playful — observer leafing through its volumes.
Kanishk Tharoor’s cosmopolitan short story collection Swimmer Among the Stars reminds me of [Italo] Calvino’s brand of storytelling — airy, whimsical and disinterested in the specific minds or motivations of individuals...It seems evident, however, that Tharoor’s international background — time spent in New York, India, London and elsewhere — informs his fiction, which is shaded by melancholy, a strong awareness of things lost ... In a time and place where immigration is a fraught political issue, these freewheeling stories appeal by disregarding conventional boundaries — they zigzag across nations, ethnic identities and linguistic traditions. Most notably, they transcend traditional notions of time.