Love in a Dead Language is a love story, a translation of an Indian sex manual, an erotic farce, and a murder mystery. The hero of this protean comedy, Leopold Roth, complains, "I am a tenured full professor of Indian studies and a Sanskrit scholar, and yet never, never in my life, have I made love to an Indian woman." Imagining that such an intimacy would provide a deeper and truer understanding of what he has spent his academic life mastering, a happily married Roth becomes obsessed with Lalita Gupta, nubile student and avatar of his fantasies of a sexually idyllic ancient realm. Although this California-born Indian girl has no interest in India, the past, or him, Roth sets out to seduce her and, at the same time, to teach her who she is in terms of the history of Indian culture. To that end he begins to translate the Kamasutra for her, interspersing that translation with a confessional commentary. By inventing a bogus summer study abroad program, the professor is able to abduct Lalita to the land of her ancestors. After an emotionally tumultuous summer, Roth returns home only to be suspended from teaching, left by his wife, and beaten to death with a Sanskrit dictionary.
Roth's murder leaves the completion of his translation to graduate student Anang Saighal. The voices of Saighal, Roth, Professor Lee Siegel, Vatsyayana, author of the Kamasutra, with a chorus of other victims and celebrants of sexual desire, constitute an outrageous operatic portrayal of romantic love. Love in a Dead Language exposes the complicities between the carnal and the intellectual, the erotic and the exotic, the false and the true. It is as raunchy as it is erudite, as hilarious as it is poignant, and as entertaining as it is profound. 40 line drawings