Serious Men
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Serious Men

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3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  1,072 ratings  ·  157 reviews
Ayyan Mani, one of the thousands of dalit (untouchable caste) men trapped in Mumbai’s slums, works in the Institute of Theory and Research as the lowly assistant to the director, a brilliant self-assured astronomer. Ever wily and ambitious, Ayyan weaves two plots, one involving his knowledge of an illicit romance between his married boss and the institute’s first female re...more
Paperback, 310 pages
Published August 2nd 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2010)
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Paul
Comic and sharply witty novel which has so many targets in its sight that it can be rather confusing. Joseph does however hit many of the targets rather well.
Joseph targets the layering of Indian society; Brahmins and Dalits, education, marital relations, political corruption, particularly deliciously the scientific community and the search for extra-terrestial life (along with the future of physics)and the nature of love.
Ayyan Mani works in administration in a scientific institute where there a...more
Srinidhi
Thank you, Manu Joseph, for this gem.

What tickled me the most about Manu Joseph's 'Serious Men' (apart from the humour of his witty and observant sarcasm), are two retrospective qualities (that i felt the book has after i finished it) - the amazing simplicity of the story and its complete plausibility. It is a powerfully written tale of a man (and a few serious men) that is not entirely impossible, and i almost secretly wished these men and that man existed already, that the story were true. Man...more
Payal Das
I really feel that I should have read Serious Men first before going on to Manu Joseph's second book, The Illicit Happiness of Other People. Not to take anything away from Serious Men, which is an exceptional, and a very courageous debut at that, but Joseph's second book is a tour de force which takes you to an entirely different level of cherished literary hangover.
Serious Men is a work, where so many things happen at so many levels, so many issues are tackled or brought forward, that you tend...more
Kaustubh Kaluskar
Book is fun to read. You will not find something expressed beautifully in a page or two. What you will find is a sentence here and there rich in wisdom/satire and crafted in perfect way.
Author has succeeded in not giving any extra space to any sentiment than it needs. This is perhaps one of the few books of which I have read every printed word.
There are many instances in the novel where one thing is compared to other for example brahmins vs dalits. In most of the books/stories I have read, when...more
Erwin
After a slow start (too slow) and several moments when I almost gave up, the story finally picked up the pace and a deviously funny story unfolded. This book will get a positive rating. His second novel, The Illicit Happiness of Other People, is way better, though!!
Marie
I found this book to be disappointing and sexist. Read my full review here: http://mariesbookgarden.blogspot.com/...
Gayatri
What a ride! Its a story of one man and his devious little plot to get back at a particular community, who he thinks has wronged him and his community for decades! Loved the incisive writing and thoroughly enjoyed the plot! Manu Joseph's portrayal of the Brahmin-Dalit divide is witty and humorous. His observations of people at Worli Sea face, life at the chawl, the clashing personalities and beliefs amongst the scientific community, and the arrival of a woman in a male dominated profession are a...more
switterbug (Betsey)
SERIOUS MEN combines serious charm, salacious wit, and combative, scientific cogitations that will appeal to lovers of subversive drollery. It is a comedy of manners, spotlighting the age-old caste consciousness of Brahmins vs. Dalits (formerly Untouchables), taking place primarily in a Scientific Research Institute and also in a Maharashtran chawl, an Indian tenement housing for the poor and lowly.

Two aging, eccentric Brahmin scientists at the Institute of Theory and Research in Mumbai vie for...more
Mal Warwick
In his debut novel, Indian magazine editor Manu Joseph takes on the caste system, Big Science, love, marriage, and sex, corruption in government, the news media, office politics, loyalty and betrayal, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, and the fate of the Universe — yet it all hangs together somehow. This is Black Comedy, Indian-style.

Serious Men — the book’s satyrical title — refers to Aravind Acharya, the world-famous cosmologist who directs the Institute of Theory and Research in M...more
A. S.
Manu Joseph knows how to spin a story from the most mundane and boring professions in his debut novel Serious Men. The title can be taken to mean the Brahmin scientists for whom the "protagonist" (and I use that term loosely here) labors as a lowly assistant or the two major male characters, Ayyan and his boss the brilliant Arvind Acharya.

Manu does an excellent job of making the characters funny, flawed, and relatable, even in the midst of a setting foreign to many Goodreads users. Those who are...more
Shilpi Jain
Thank you Manu Joseph for writing such a complex yet gripping novel. I can't stop to marvel at the sheer brilliance of the plot, the strong narrative, and the spontaneity of it all. Story of Ayyan and Oja Mani and their 'prodigy' son- Adi. Ayyan is not your typical run-of-the-mill hero, he has shades of grey, in fact, he's purely a grey character. He works as a personal assistant at the prestigious Institute of Theory and Research to the renowned physicist and the director Acharya who is equally...more
Ted
Another story set in India, this novel is like-able right from the star, with a sharp eyed narrator hungry to climb the steep caste/class staircase, with echoes of my Adiga and Mistry.

Midway though now, I'm starting to love this book. I'm starting to think I have a literary brown fever. Joseph writes with ease and grace. Consider these two sentences I"ve earmarked, from different pages:

"The success of an old man lies in not wishing for company." p.61
"He saw in her the unmistakable insanity of...more
Lauren
I'm sad. I wanted to like this book, because I LOVED the author, Manu Joseph's, second book, "The Illicit Happiness of Other People." But like one of the three Amazon reviewers of the latter work, I too felt like the character development in this first novel paled in comparison to the brilliant development in the second one. And the plot -- though perhaps intricate (I didn't get far enough to fully judge -- felt staler.

"Serious Men" is told from the point of view of Ayyan Mani, a slum-dwelling m...more
Vijai
Not as enjoyable as "The Illicit Happiness of Other People". I wish I could say different, considering Mr. Joseph was fucking awesome in the second (he says it was supposed to have been his first) book but this was like listening to that drunk friend (everybody has one) who has this excellent story he wants write about but ends telling up you a mildly interesting gossip or how he hates his siblings.

Some dude who nurses a deeply entrenched hatred for the caste system is the central figure of a f...more
Karen
I loved the first half of this book, but thought the novel lost its way. There was a major problem with pacing and plot development. The story of Ayyan, his family, and his brilliant attempts to conquer historical exploitation was the "hit" here, and the subplot about Acharya's affair and subsequent demise was the "miss". I thought the writing was noticeably weaker in the second half of the book, with the author telling the story instead of allowing it to unfold, and, like in The Illicit Happine...more
Neha
When one starts reading a book - the story, the characters, the plot, the language, the author are prime factors to deicide your like or dislike of the book. But as you continue to read there are certain characteristics which leave much stronger impression on you. Like sometimes it is the cover of the book, sometimes it's the spacing, or the font, or the paragraph and construction of sentences, As for me, and note that this is a self-observation over my short reading journey, love to discover li...more
Ashwini Sharma
http://thalukinglass.blogspot.in/2014...

My interest in the book began with the title itself and I dug through the book in a single reading looking for the master-stroke that will emerge in the denouement after realizing within the initial few pages that this is a book that paints one of many ever-present contradictions present in Indian society, which makes it oh-so exciting to read for me. India's poor and the caste-victims have increasingly received a sympathetic eye in fictional narratives, m...more
Kevin Tharayil
Illicit Happiness happened to me before this and I covered this half knowing that i would be entertained and would get my wit cells polished more than the usual. The serious men are realistic men yet when seen at a distance from the so called real people do they behave like this? Perhaps, only the comic insights allow this to hold true. Although, some of the sits seemed contrived, overall the book is gripping and highly observant, as The Guardian reportedly reviewed - 'Sophisticated Entertainmen...more
mugglemuse
My main reaction to "Serious Men" (Manu Joseph,2010), is an intense curiosity about the genesis of the characters. Where did Joseph meet the Dr. Acharya with his round pink face and baldness, Oparna Goushamalik who laughed at jokes that she did not find funny, observe the guys worked on their laptops in taxi rides to increase the sales of soft drinks, and laugh at the "timepass" provided by International School students who volunteer in chawls?

If that is the rarified world he knows, how is so f...more
Vinayak Makale
Honestly I cannot remember when I read it but its been long time and I cannot recollect all the details either. But I clearly liked this book very much. The father son relationship and their games, the scientists and the institutional politics are all very interesting to read. It is a kind of book which lingers in your mind long after you have read it and makes one wonder what could have happened to all those characters, making the readers feel as if they were really existing.
Christiane
Two worlds

The serious men of the title are the Brahmin scientists of the Theory and Research Institute in Mumbai where a funding war is going on between those in favour of the „Giant Ear Project“ to capture messages from intelligent beings in outer space and proponents of the „Balloon Mission“ to harvest microscopic aliens in the earth’s stratosphere.
While the scientists pursue their lofty tasks in a kind of parallel universe shielded from the trivialities of life, their less fortunate fellow-ci...more
Praveen Peethambaran
Manu Joseph with his sarcastic prose ventures into the Indian hypocritic mind, where caste always is a factor..
One may can read this book as a normal, humorous fiction..But if we dwell deep, it opens up a lot of inhumane, prejudices of this caste-based stratified society we live in...
The story revolves around Ayyan Mani, a Dalit clerk of IQ 148 in a Research organisation where all most all of the scientists are Brahmins.
It turns out that even after the long journey after independence and even a...more
Nupur Hukmani
Un-put-down-able! A fictitious story that weaves in threads from science, religion, philosophy, caste system, culture & education to weave a beautiful tapestry that is embellished on the background of life in Bombay.
Shuba Krishnan
Serious Men is seriously a very good read! The book or rather one of the 2 protagonist does not take a very charitable view of Brahmins and their perceived superiority in the pursuit of truth, and this makes for some very sharp and funny observations. The book pairs physics with more mundane pursuits such as love, excitement and fame and leaves you wondering which is more interesting and real. I loved the dynamics of the relationship between Acharya and his wife Lavanya, though it is something w...more
Hari Menon
There are few writers who can possibly describe explicitly how exactly an emotion feels inside the head. Manu Joseph is definitely one such writer. The situations created in the book seem simple, only until you take a step back and let them hit you. How the story intricately weaves its plots together is a spectacle to watch in itself. Here's an excerpt from the book...
Boy-"Other boys tease me because I'm deaf."
Father-"Tell them "But I can hear you! But I can hear you!". If they still tease you,...more
Ankayarkanni Prasad
A hilarious and thought provoking satire of our times. Absolutely loved it...
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

When I read a wonderful book like Serious Men that actually debuted in 2010, I wonder how many amazing books slip through the cracks. This one certainly did.


Our main character, Ayyan, is poor and low-caste in India. His boss teeters on the edge of ruining the reputation of the entire institute where he works by pursuing a wacky attempt to prove the existence of aliens. His wife is nervous and his son is anonymous. Ayyan decides to embark on a crazy scheme to change his life.

Beautifully written.
Manu Prasad
"All a man really wants is to be greater than his friends"- Ayyan Mani's belief is indeed the theme that runs through 'Serious Men' though it manifests in different ways across classes. The jacket pitches the plot as the ramifications of Mani's efforts to raise himself above his peers by creating the myth of his son's genius, but the story belongs as much to the scientist Arvind Acharya as well - an eccentric genius heading the Institute where Mani works, and whose contempt for his peers and vie...more
Sridatta
I wouldn't have read this if it wasn't selected for Hindu Literary Award. And I’m not sure how to respond after reading it. It sure is an interesting take on the Indian poverty and caste system which are often depicted in a polarizing manner. Manu Joseph does manage to avoid some common problems found with Indian fiction especially that of dalits, but he too ends up disappointing in the end refusing to cross the realm of predictability and never bothering about eloquence.

The protagonist (Ayyan)...more
Prateek Agarwal
Don't be mislead by the title. 'Serious Men' is nothing serious. At one level it is a story of men who have a purpose (or so they think) in their life. At another level it is a story of people who are at the extreme ends of India's caste society. We have a dalit who thinks that brahmins have always had it easy, and it's just their stratum who have been left to face the World in all its challenging glory. He plots a script in which his 11-year old deaf son is transformed into a child prodigy who...more
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The Illicit Happiness of Other People

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“Scientists want to search for alien signals because that's what gets them publicity. They are like Jesus Christ."

"Jesus Christ?" Nambodri asked, with a faintly derogatory chuckle.

"Yes. They are exactly like Jesus Christ. You know that he turned water into wine."

"I've heard that story."

"From the point of view of pure chemistry, it is more miraculous to make wine into water than water into wine. But he did not do that. Because if he had gone to someone's house and converted their wine into water, they would have crucified him much earlier. He knew, Jana. He knew making water into wine was a more popular thing to do.”
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“The fate of every love story, he knew very well, is in the rot of togetherness, or in the misery of separation. Lovers often choose the first with the same illusory wisdom that makes people choose to die later than now.” 10 likes
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