Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “All About H. Hatterr” as Want to Read:
All About H. Hatterr
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

All About H. Hatterr

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  313 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Wildly funny and wonderfully bizarre, All About H. Hatterr is one of the most perfectly eccentric and strangely absorbing works modern English has produced. H. Hatterr is the son of a European merchant officer and a lady from Penang who has been raised and educated in missionary schools in Calcutta. His story is of his search for enlightenment as, in the course of visiting ...more
Paperback, 316 pages
Published 2007 by New York Review Books Classics (first published 1948)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
Feb 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Short review - This is bona-fide Shandian Spawn, full of wonderful textual fun and games, an early entry in the Indian post-colonial literary movement, and a bloody riot of words.

It is subtitled:

Being also a mosaic-organon of life, viz., a medico-philosophical grammar as to this contrast, this human horseplay, this design for diamond-cut-diamond...H.Hatterr by H.Hatterr

And, for your delectation and enjoyment, here is a lengthy quote from the start of the text which I found online. If you are
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis


'Melodramatic gestures against public security are a common form of self-expression in the East. For instance, an Indian peasant, whose house has been burgled, will lay a tree across a railway line, hoping to derail a goods train, just to show his opinion of life. And the Magistrates are far more understanding...' --Anglo-Indian writer

Indian middle-man (to Author) : Sir, if you do not identify your composition
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
I am through reading this book. Now I will go back to its first page. I will start searching and copying by hand, with my pen and my Kama Sutra journal where I keep similar treasures.

I have seen several novels already with a lot of word plays. Some engage in word plays with apparent uncaring whimsicality; others deliberately seek obscurity to confound the readers and be talked about. This one does neither. The author Govindas Vishnoodas Desani(1909 - 2000)--haha, couldn't resist putting his year
Aug 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
He is back, back in the print, back in literary discussions and back to his madcap adventures, H Hatterr is back. The Good Ol' Daddy of Indian novel in English, the one who added 'post' to the colonial, who took the micky out of everything in the ocean of humanity called India and moved on, crossed the ocean and found himself in "Blackpool, Lancs. The most unimaginable hell-hole I had ever unimagined." I read this book about 15 years ago when a friend lent me his precious but decomposing and dog ...more
keith koenigsberg
Jun 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A tour de force, one of the great obscure books of all time. Desani wrote this wildly funny short novel in '48, a post-colonial Indian shaggy dog story. You will immediately recognize that you are reading something new here. The language is a paste-up, a farrago, a dog's dinner of the "'babu English,' the semi-literate, half-learned English of the bazaars, transmuted by erudition, highbrow monkeying around, and the impish magic of Desani's unique phrasing and rhythm into an entirely new kind of ...more
A layered and complex text that launches a scathing critique aimed at both colonial India and the British Empire via picaresque, pseudo-18th century philosophical treatises, mimicry, doomed spiritual journeys, and a magnificent hybrid language that often matches the heights of Joyce’s wordsmithery (and to which Salman Rushdie is admittedly indebted). A powerful postcolonial argument, it’s also, perhaps, the funniest book I have ever read thanks to H. Hatter’s series of (mis)adventures throughout ...more
Anirban Nanda
Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It is matter of utter despair that a book like this, of such caliber and quality, is long forgotten. This is the first major attempt to break the pure English and mix it with oriental colloquial. Desani did something for Indian literature as Joyce did for Irish literature. Though Desani never wrote another novel, and though he published few short stories and a poem (Hali) apart from this, he was immediately recognized by the likes of T.S. Eliot and Saul Bellow.

This novel is essentially a polyglo
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Things won are done, joy’s soul lies in the doing.
I would challenge you to a battle of wits, but I see you are unarmed.
Stephanie Marie
Nov 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: global-novels
"This is the Twentieth Century! This is the Medical Man's Century. No sentiment, no dog-cat or Romeo-Juliet imaginative stuff, but realistic brutal true-to-life pictures! What dam' use is there in reading what the Stratford-on-Avon feller wrote so long ago, and is himself dead and gone? Besides, hell, they say Bacon did it! I tell you, the Bacon-Shakespeare pictures won't tally with Life today! I know Life. I have experience..."

Some of the most gorgeously textured words to come out of modern lit
Katherine Furman
Dec 13, 2007 rated it did not like it
I don't get this book. I heard so many great things about it, but I kept reading it and reading it and never once cared even a little bit about it. So I stopped after about 200 pages. This is what I get for listening to the New York Times Review of Books.

The problem is that this book's beauty is supposed to be in the words and not the plot, and I generally don't like books like that. Give me a story, not a poem. It was supposed to be hilarious, but I never got the joke. Some of the situations w
Dec 19, 2007 marked it as to-read
"Imagine a schnockered Nabokov impersonating The Simpsons' Apu while reeling off tales of an Anglo-Indian Don Quixote, and you get some sense of Desani's wacko masterwork—a hilarious mix of slapstick misadventure and philosophic vaudeville, voiced in a manic Hindu-accented English so jagged and dense it makes you dizzy. A 1948 bestseller in England, sporadically reissued since then, and now in the NYRB home of the almost-forgotten, the author's only novel follows the idealistic naïf H. Hatterr o ...more
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The greatest English language novel from an Indian writer. Yes, its even better than Rushdie's Midnight's Children. First heard of this jewel back in 2003. Have read it several times since then. Couldn't believe this is Desani's only novel!!!.....English language writers from India barring Rushdie and maybe Amitav Ghosh can polish Desani's shoes......check this website out
Jeffra Hays
Dec 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Nothing no book that I know of is anything like this. English is crunched up and tossed out reformed -- into hilarity. When it is so obvious that the author is enjoying his verbal antics, the reader has to enjoy too. If you like your fiction 'spoon-fed' don't go near this. But if you love wacky with underlying true tongues in cheeks, cheers!
Sep 01, 2015 marked it as could-not-even-finish
GV Desani: All About H Hatterr Nilanjana Roy review

There are literate, widely-read booklovers in this world who have not read All About H Hatterr. I know of their existence; I have even met some, but the thought that they exist is chilling. It’s like meeting people who have never read Tristram Shandy, or Gormenghast, or found themselves hallucinating, as Hatterr fans do, about swamis and multiple exclamation marks.

This has nothing to do with literary snobbery. GV Desani’s 1948 classic appears wi
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Desani G. V. is a lofty lion of literature. The best work on cultural receptio that ever has been written by any feller Oriental or Occidental.

And any suggestion to the contrary will be reviewed by Y. Beliram, legum vir, and published as an appendix.
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: india
A book written it seems for the pure delight and playfulness of language.
Heather Ames
Mar 14, 2017 rated it did not like it
If there was less than one star, I would give it to this book. I couldn't get further than the first chapter, and I really tried to do so since it was the monthly selection for the Eclectic Readers on Hawthorne. Arriving at our meeting, I found out I was not the only one who couldn't get through this book. There was only one member who read it, and he was far from impressed with what he slogged through.
Harry Rutherford
Jun 26, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: asia
All About H. Hatterr is a novel I bought after seeing it recommended somewhere — the complete review, I think. It is a modernist novel written in 1948 in a colloquial Indian English laced with bits of slang, Shakespeare, legal jargon and so on. I’m not in a position to judge the relationship between the language of the book and the English of India, but Salman Rushdie is quoted on the back cover:

Hatterr’s dazzling, puzzling, leaping prose is the first genuine effort to go beyond the Englishness
Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Damme, what a vernacular explosion! All About H. Hatterr is sui generis -- an extraordinary melange of Indian dialect, crass humor, literary references, neologistic extrapolations, postmodern noodling, and philosophico-religico-moralistico meanderings.

Set in late British Empire India, it tells the story of an Anglo-Indian orphan who engages seven false gurus and loses much for each encounter. But while the story is thin, the language is thick and piquant, sauced with wit, spiced with Indian cult
Jul 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another one of those less-often-read than it should be somewhat obscure classics. Almost everything that the subcontinental magic realists do (Rushdie, foremost among them) was pulled off in terms of sheer linguistic facility several decades before by the all-too-imitable G. V. Desani. The novel details the (mostly mis-) adventures of one H. Haterr. Most of these encounters ends with him naked or nearly so in some utterly compromising situation--perhaps the most entertaining of which involves a ...more
Pawan Mishra
Oct 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Desani is a master of language, wit, and absurdity! Almost every sentence in this book is a masterpiece.

The book takes us through a magical journey that Hatterr embarks on -- spiritual search of truth through hilarious examination of eastern & western worlds.

It's a difficult book as the language can get really ultra-creative at times, yet one of the funniest books I have ever read.
Jul 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: indian
Amazing play with language. Desani throws references to literary works from every culture into this, with puns, foreign languages, linguistic gymnastics and outlandish scenes. Lots of fun, but also a challenging read.
Chris Holmes
Apparently this is the Indian Ulysses, or Ulysses is the Irish All about H. Hatter; either way, it's a very hard book to get one's hands on. I am thinking about "holding on" to Brown's copy for "a while".
Sep 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing


Until a few months ago, even the old trade paperbacks were seventy-five bucks a pop. I miss the old cover art though... caricature of a neatly mustachioed Indian man cradling some books, running naked from a lion.
May 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: lion tamers, bums and philosophers
An extremely curiously weirdly goofy yet erudite sort of novelish thing. I liked it.
Jul 25, 2012 rated it liked it
The book has its moments but, for the most part, I didn't get it despite all the rave reviews. I'll try reading again another day to see if I have a different take on it.
Nov 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
A Tristam Shandy-esque/Tom Jones-y novel set in India. The language play is quite incredible, but the politics are hard to pin down. Read quickly, will probably have to return.
Åñbü Çhélvåñ
Nov 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
damme!!i have never read a book like this before!!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
NYRB Classics: All About H. Hatterr, by G.V. Desani 1 12 Oct 18, 2013 12:49PM  
  • Jejuri
  • Kanthapura
  • Samskara: A Rite for a Dead Man
  • The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian
  • Small Remedies
  • Seven Men
  • Mawrdew Czgowchwz
  • Born Under Saturn: The Character and Conduct of Artists
  • Sheppard Lee, Written by Himself
  • The Radiance of the King
  • In Parenthesis
  • Victorine
  • English, August: An Indian Story
  • Blood on the Forge
  • Niki: The Story of a Dog
  • A Handbook on Hanging
  • Memoirs of Hecate County
  • The Queue
Govindas Vishnoodas Desani or G. V. Desani, (1909–2000) was a Kenyan-born, British-educated Indian writer and Buddhist philosopher. The son of a merchant, he began his career as a journalist, and achieved fame with the cult novel All About H. Hatterr (1948), considered one of the finest examples of literature in English and a novel that compares favourably with Joyce's Ulysses. He was for a time a ...more