Carolyn Stevens Shank's Reviews > Narcopolis

Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil
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's review
Sep 16, 2012

it was amazing
Read from September 14 to 18, 2012

Jeet Thayil's NARCOPOLIS has made the Booker Award short list for best book of 2012, and I can certainly see why. Set partially in a 1970's Bombay opium den , its characters include a eunuch, a poet, gangsters, pimps, prostitutes, atheists, the maimed, unwashed, unwanted and unloved -- and the haunted. They are Muslim, Hindu, and Christian. Thayil's Bombay, before the age of technology reinvented it, is that of a poverty-ridden, deteriorating society, one which is an almost exact parallel to the bodies and spirits of the addicted characters.
The novel has a hallucinogenic quality: sometimes dream-like; sometimes nightmarish. Squalor, impotence, crime, amorality, decay and death follow in the trail of then newly developed imports from Pakistan: heroin, chemical and synthetic drugs, and new and ever stronger combinations, as we follow the interwoven lives of the addicted over a 20 year period: Dimples, Rashid, Rumi, Mr. Lee, Bengali, Shankar, and the poet-narrator, Dom Ullis. But somehow, out of all this ugliness, comes the affirmation. It is all the more beautiful for having thus grown. I found something very poetic and universal about this book. In terms of real literary value, it is a winner.
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