Calcutta: Two Years in the City by Amit Chaudhuri - review by John Keay

John Keay

Paribartan Now

Calcutta: Two Years in the City

By

Union Books 307pp £16.99 order from our bookshop
 

Indian book reviews are not for the faint-hearted. Amit Chaudhuri likens the literary sections of the newspapers to a lawless part of town from whose thuggery the author is lucky to escape with life and dignity intact. My own first book, an inoffensive introduction to the country from a diffident novice, was incinerated in The Hindu as though it were infected offal. The same thing happened to Chaudhuri’s novel Freedom’s Song; the reviewer in the respected Statesman apparently found it no more enticing than an ‘entomologist’s notebook’ and compared its characters to stick insects. In his new book Chaudhuri gets his own back. Noting a still greater insult, he recalls that the review was ‘quite poorly written … bristling with bad syntax and self importance, and unaware of its missing articles’.

This shot across the bows may encourage some syntactical revision and an embarrassment of articles when Calcutta: Two Years in the City

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