Sunday, October 14, 2012

Reading: Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil

Let  me confess it: I had no interest in Jeet Thayil, the author of Narcopolis, until recently. In fact, I took him for  yet another of  Indian novelists who are now swarming over the literary scene like bugs on dirty, smelly beds.

But Thayil is  not really one of them. He’s different and if you read him, you can easily distinguish him from the herd. He is a stand- out with his own voice. He’s sophisticated, cosmopolitan, knowledgeable and has great tastes for art and other classy things, his penchant for opium notwithstanding.

Narcopolis is about a seedy world where you see a line-up of characters, from different regions and religions of the planet, involved as consumers or sellers or intermediaries, in the business of opium in the not too distant past in Bombay. The opium den is a melting pot, and showcases a life which is in many ways a mirror of the larger world outside. Thayil chronicles and evokes the world in all its fine details in a fascinating way.

 This is a novel about real people, based on the writer’s raw life-experiences, authentic, rich with innuendos and insights, but full of empathy for its characters. Sometimes it reads like a memoir, but it’s actually a  novel done in a different mode.

I’m stunned by Thayil’s prose which is precise, lucid, fluent, lyrical, abrasive, even bawdy. The text is always right for its context.

So, here is a novel for you if you love reading for purposes other than just entertainment. 

1 comment:

Rahul SMS said...

Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil is one of the worst books I have ever read. Set in 1970's Bombay the book has weird characters and their stories make you puke and ponder if such people do exist in the world. With words in both hindi and english; the author is successful in weaving a hallucinatory novel that takes you to the dirtiest drug snorting dens to shady sex bars. The pages move slowly at times and I must say not worth the dope! DO NOT BUY OR BORROW!

A Caveat: Just in case your willing to take the risk and read this book... ensure you are in a state of trance!

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