Lori Theis's Reviews > Londonstani

Londonstani by Gautam Malkani
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's review
Mar 15, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: sexdrugsrock
Read in March, 2008

The psychologically explosive twist ending of Gautam Malkani’s Londonstani detonates like a literary landmine. With only a page and a half left in the novel this bewildering salvo critically deconstructs the assumptions of the reader in the flash of an eye. Malkani ambushes his readers so effectively that they will likely find themselves ruminating on the tiny suggestive shrapnel still lodged in their psyches long after the book is closed.

At its core Londonstani is about identity, or more precisely, supplanted identity. The reader encounters Jas and his “bredrens” in medias res, in the middle of what amounts to a racially motivated schoolyard (albeit graphic) beating. In the Malkani’s own words this is the moment the novel introduces the “anti-assimilation, aggressively assertive ethnic identity embraced by South Asian boys (in west London) in the early 90s.” In this opening scene Hardjit (a hyper-masculine Sikh) is giving a gora (white boy) a visceral lesson on the appropriation of the term “Paki” while his buddies Ravi, Amit, and Jas stand by posturing, and hurling racial invectives, and hosannas from the sidelines.

Malkani in an NPR interview says the twist ending “shows that the sub-cultural identity has supplanted the ethnic identity. What was once a kind of fundamental racial identity is now part of pop culture.” And we remember the irony of Jas’s words, “It’s all bullshit, all in The Matrix, all part a some illusion created by people who want power over others” (231) as we watch the rudeboys, who have been so thoroughly assimilated into Urban Youth Culture, ferociously resist assimilation into society. The twist ending of Londonstani is a terrifying case study of retail anthropology, and reveals the far reaching implications of the virus that is the marketing and advertising of Urban Youth Culture.

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