English August: an Indian story

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Click for availability and more information English August: an Indian story, by Upamanyu Chatterjee

This was originally published to much acclaim in India in 1988, and recently made available on these shores by the fine folks at the New York Review of Books. Despite its somewhat stuffy title, this is the ultimate slacker novel.
Agastya (August) Sen, the novel's hero (?) is a product of urban, westernized India. Delhi, to be exact. He is aimless, cynical and comes from a privileged family and is not in the least inclined to count his blessings. He has more than a little in common with the hero of John Kennedy Toole's ''A Confederacy of Dunces," in his egotistical alienation. After searching for a meaningful career he decides to enlist in the Indian Administrative Service (the IAS) and is sent to a small town called Madna. What follows is culture shock as August tries to come to terms with the tedium of small town life and the ridiculousness of Civil Service protocol. Not the least of these challenges is coming to terms with his own lack of ambition. Chronic marijuana use, masturbation and insane bouts of exercise help...for awhile.
The novel is rich in details of Indian life and culture; the oppressive heat in Madna, the mosquitoes, the dubious quality of the water. My guess is that the India of today is a bit different than 20 years ago (when this novel takes place) but, this novel has aged gracefully.

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This page contains a single entry published on October 1, 2006 4:44 PM.

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