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Odysseus Abroad

3.11  ·  Rating details ·  263 ratings  ·  51 reviews
A beguiling new novel, at once wistful and ribald, about a day in the life of two Indian men in London, each coping in his own way with alienation, solitariness, and the very art of living.

From the widely acclaimed writer, a beguiling new novel, at once wistful and ribald, about a day in the life of two Indian men in London - a university student and his bachel
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Hardcover, 224 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Knopf (first published September 29th 2014)
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Average rating 3.11  · 
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 ·  263 ratings  ·  51 reviews


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Tanuj Solanki
Joyce set out to neuter the epic-ness of Homer's grand story, to show that the mundane lives of people may mimic that story. And he developed a new way to describe mundanity; his syntatical innovations changed literature for ever. Chaudhuri, one would assume, shares the first ambition, for he too labours to show how a day in the lives of two Indians living in London - uncle and nephew - may mimic Homer. There is an added complexity here, of course, for his conversation with Joyce is definitely g ...more
Filiz
Jun 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
I can see why this book would not be for some people. I love narratives with lovely language and thoughtful rumination, even without a powerful plot. As a woman with a nephew just Ananda's age, I did find the nephew-uncle dynamic very interesting. Although the novel explicitly evokes Joyce's Ulysses And Homer's Odyssey, both of which I have read, I was more reminded of woolf's "mrs Dalloway" in terms of the book's style snd premise. (And length).
Roger Brunyate
May 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
A well-written meditation on culture

This short book gives all the pleasures of a well-written memoir. Yes, I know it is labeled a novel, and if I were to look up the biography of the Indian-born author, now a professor at the University of East Anglia, I would find many differences between his life and that of his protagonist Ananda Sen. But in writing of a budding poet who comes to London University to study English Literature in the Thatcher era, he is clearly drawing on his own experience:
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Stephen Durrant
Oct 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Ananda is adrift in London, where he is a kind of non-heroic Odysseus--or maybe a Telemachus--making decidedly short journeys with his uncle in a world almost as strange, at least to him, as the world through which Homer's Odyssey takes us. His journeys only lead back to his bedsit, where he strives to write poetry and wonders whether one must have the experience of love to write of love. Meanwhile, his real home is very far off--eastern Bangladesh. His current world belongs to the odd English, ...more
Pamela Ferguson
Sep 18, 2019 rated it liked it
An interesting account of nephew and uncle immigrants frim India to England. Speaks of the immigrant condition. Lots of poetry reference. Inyeresting.
Sara
Sep 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
Symbiosis: "Permanent union between organisms each of which depends for its existence on the other as the fungus and alga composing lichen." - Concise Oxford Dictionary.
By the end of this book you're not sure which of these two expatriate characters, the uncle or the nephew, is the fungus and which the alga. In the beginning it seems that the nephew is more healthy but by the end...
They are both gifted poetic types whose gifts have turned inward. This might have happened anywhere but the
...more
BookBrowse
Apr 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
"With his quiet ruminative voice and powerfully crafted sentences, Chaudhuri has carved himself a specific kind of niche, where high art can be found even in one long Sunday afternoon walk, in such everyday “small existential dramas." - Poornima Apte, BookBrowse.com. Full review at: https://www.bookbrowse.com/reviews/in...
Lynn
Jan 24, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the language of this book, and could appreciate echoes of both Homer & Joyce in the writing & structure, but ultimately I could find little in the characters, either the nephew or his uncle, which actually interested me. Ananda's mother, by contrast, seemed much more enticing. A book to be read for what it is attempting to do, rather than for enjoyment.
South Buncombe Library
2 stars for being utterly forgettable but attractively packaged. -Sarah
Anirban Nanda
Almost an epic journey through the streets of London. Perfect adjectives to evoke an exact feeling of a particular moment. I think I can read this book a hundred times to re-experience those moments: wondering how sounds can come through a thin slit, how noises made by the neighbors above can show the mentality of an entire generation. Tiny details. Of huge significance. The mundane can be as exciting as Ulysses' epic homecoming. I was marking each chapter with notations to match the original Od ...more
Mariah
Aug 22, 2017 rated it liked it
A day in the life of an aspiring Indian poet and his uncle and their life in London. Their comical dialogue and interactions and ruminations on life, aspirations, and the immigrant experience make the book. There is no particular "plot" to speak of, just the unfolding of the day and the opportunities it provides to illuminate the experience of being "other" for the reader.
Claire O'Leary
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: college
Actual rating: 2.5 stars
Susan
Dec 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Odysseus Abroad by Amit Chaudhuri Set in the mid 1980s, London, Ananda is a student who has little interest in his studies. Instead, he practices at being a poet. He and his Bengali uncle are occasionally visited by their relatives. In fact, Ananda’s mother recently left and her leaving has spiked his ever-present home sickness. This is the story of a day in Ananda’s life in which he spends it with his uncle Radhesh on their weekly rumble through London.
Ananda is a bit of a hopeless romant
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Susan
Set in the mid 1980s, London, Ananda is a student who has little interest in his studies. Instead, he practices at being a poet. He and his Bengali uncle are occasionally visited by their relatives. In fact, Ananda’s mother recently left and her leaving has spiked his ever-present home sickness. This is the story of a day in Ananda’s life in which he spends it with his uncle Radhesh on their weekly rumble through London.

Ananda is a bit of a hopeless romantic when it comes to poetry.
...more
Courtney
London Transplant: Odysseus Abroad by Amit Chaudhuri

By Courtney Allison
Though it takes place in only one day, Odysseus Abroad, by Amit Chaudhuri, is full of a lifetime's worth of ambitions, unrequited or forbidden loves, family histories, resentments and attachments. In a novel that appears to be loosely based on James Joyce's Ulysses, the award-winning Chaudhuri creates a recognizable character in Ananda, a twenty-two-year-old aspiring poet who has left India to study at unive
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Toto
Jun 14, 2015 rated it liked it
This is an intelligent, interesting book, but it is not for everyone. It is told from the omniscient and all-judging point of view of the author, who observes the inner life of a smart Bengali immigrant lad in university life in England in the 1980s. There is not much of a story here as there is a lot of understanding of what such a kid would have to go through. Anander, who fancies himself to be an important and wise poet finds himself in the middle of the English speaking world that treats him ...more
Karen
Feb 17, 2017 added it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I really wanted to like this book, but it was not for me. It wasn't a relaxing read and came across as too intelligent for me to enjoy, so I decided to abandon it.
Leah
Feb 08, 2015 rated it liked it
poetic prose; very little action

Amit Chaudhuri's probably partly autobiographical Odysseus Abroad describes days in the life of an Indian student living and attending school in London during the Thatcher Era. "Beguiling, wistful, and ribald?" not quite, but Chaudhuri's poetic prose expertly evokes time, place, scent, sound, colour, and total atmosphere to place the reader right there and then.

I especially loved the conversations between young South Indian student Ananda and Nestor D
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Johanne
Oct 26, 2015 rated it liked it
This was another read out loud long slow read. Reading books aloud gives me an entirely different feel for them, more appreciation of the language and description but I do lose the plot sometimes and it is often a struggle to keep going for the last third or so. However this really had no plot so that was fine! It follows Ananda, a UCL student in the early 80's, on a single summer's day. For around half the day he is accompanied by his uncle Rangamama whose apparent fall from promise and his ecc ...more
William
Jun 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I really wanted to like this book. It's well-written, both literate and literary, and it promised interesting cultural insights. Some of it is charming, and Ananda's uncle Radhesh is a pretty interesting character. So why did this not work for me, and why did it take me over a week to finish such a short book?

The central problem for me seems to be that Ananda never becomes a very interesting character. In addition, nothing much happens; there is no plot to speak of, and nothing grows
...more
Sunjay
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
A humorous take on a 1980s immigrant story. Chaudhuri has a great memory of Thatcherite London, and his description of a city on the threshold of a gentrification revolution is evocative of a time wherein which we all could perhaps think about affording a small let flat in London. Ananda's uncle is a great portrait of the last full generation of middle class workers who were able to retire comfortably on a pension that was never in doubt of going away, and his frivolity with his cash is both end ...more
Kkraemer
Apr 10, 2016 rated it liked it
This is a snapshot of a very lost and lonely young man who has come to London to read literature from his home in India. He is passionate about poetry, immersed in the language and vision of the 19th century poets even while he is proud of being very modern.

He is alone.

His only "friend" is his uncle, who came from India some 23 years before to work as a mid-management officer in a company. He, too, was alone, and he has filled his years with mailing money to relatives and
...more
Samuel
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourites
I recently re-read this after having just about completed my first year of English at UCL and I can conclude that reading it a second time after this experience has improved my opinion of it massively. Chaudhuri writes so wittily and vividly of an alienated student's life in London, capturing the minutiae of thought and existence with skill and humour. There are aspects of Ananda that are embarrassingly similar to myself. His interactions with the professors (and, indeed, the characters of the p ...more
Ann
Mar 05, 2016 rated it liked it
This deceptively simple novel charts the course of one day (with flashbacks) in the life of India-born Ananda, who is attending University in London during the Thatcher era. Homesick and yearning to be a poet, Ananda attempts to deal with faculty advisors, flat mates, and Indians who appear more adept at 'fitting in' with their colonizing nation. Ananda's one true connection in London is his uncle, with whom he enjoys a mildly Joycean night on the town. Ananda is consumed with the Odyssean desir ...more
Manjul Bajaj
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Odysseus Abroad is a slim, sparsely populated, thinly plotted novel. It follows the life of Ananda Sen, a twenty-two-year-old Bengali student living in a flat in London’s central district as he pursues a degree in English literature and nurses ambitions of becoming a modernist poet. Ananda is young, shy and disconcerted by the move from India to England, which abruptly robs him of his social class and simultaneously saddles him with the burden of race. Read the complete review here http://www.outlookindia.com/article/T... ...more
Rosalind
Aug 23, 2015 rated it liked it
One of the reviews on the back cover of this book (by Caryl Phillips) proposes "Naipaul meets Amis" as a way to describe it. I agree. This is well written, droll, sharply funny in places, and presents a particular immigrant experience which, I would imagine, provides some insight into the experience of any non-white, non-Christian person trying to adjust to life in London or any major Western city. The character and personality of the narrator and his uncle are very fully fleshed out. Not a lot ...more
Nick
Aug 31, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not really a novel, more on the order of twin character sketches of a would-be writer from Bengali living in London and his peculiar uncle. Quotidian, sapped of drama and conflict, this is a low-boil rant with no discernible target. (Also, annoyingly, the narrator on the audio recording had perhaps the most peculiar pronunciation I've ever heard. I thought initially that this was simply the English version, or maybe the Anglo-Indian, but after dozens, I think it was simply ignorance and sloppy p ...more
Bookforum Magazine
"While it need not be viewed as documentary or autobiography, what a novel like Osysseus Abroad offers is authenticity. A part of this authenticity is that Rangamama isn't a celebrated figure from history; he is an ordinary person, cantankerous and opinionated. He is real, and therefore interesting."

–Amitava Kumar on Amit Chaudhuri's Odysseus Abroad in the April/May 2015 issue of Bookforum

To read the rest of this review, go to Bookforum:
"While it need not be viewed as documentary or autobiography, what a novel like Osysseus Abroad offers is authenticity. A part of this authenticity is that Rangamama isn't a celebrated figure from history; he is an ordinary person, cantankerous and opinionated. He is real, and therefore interesting."

–Amitava Kumar on Amit Chaudhuri's Odysseus Abroad in the April/May 2015 issue of Bookforum

To read the rest of this review, go to Bookforum:
http://bookforum.com/inprint/022_01
...more
T P Kennedy
May 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
It's an engaging but rather slight book. The narrative structure of an uncle/nephew stroll through London is a good one but these characters weren't sufficiently interesting to carry the book. The uncle is a thorough going eccentric and the nephew is almost a caricature of a university student of literature. He is very good on the oddness and embarrasment that arises from a clash of cultures but I did not detect any other themes opening out. It passed the time but nothing more.
Lucy
Sep 06, 2015 is currently reading it
Despite a glowing review from James Wood, I had such a difficult time finishing this book, and in fact set it aside for almost 6 months. In theory, I'm all for brilliant divagations and sparkling prose in lieu of plot--bring on the plotless novel! I'm such a sophisticated contemporary reader!--but wow did I struggle with Odysseus Abroad.
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Amit Chaudhuri was born in Calcutta in 1962, and grew up in Bombay. He read English at University College, London, where he took his BA with First Class Honours, and completed his doctorate on critical theory and the poetry of D.H. Lawrence at Balliol College, Oxford, where he was a Dervorguilla Scholar. He was Creative Arts Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford, from 1992-95, and Leverhulme Special R ...more
“The Roman Catholic portrait at the reception of the Indian YMCA displayed the generic Christ, the timorous, blonde-haired, blue-eyed face upturned to the heavens, a lost middle-class student searching for guidance in an inhospitable world.” 1 likes
“A customs man at JFK had asked them to open the suitcases (in case they were smuggling in Indian fruits or sweets, perhaps). ‘Ulysses!’ the large bespectacled disbelieving customs man had said. ‘Are you a student?’ Ananda had nodded, though he was in the equivalent of high school. ‘I wouldn’t read Ulysses unless I was a student!’ said the customs man, shutting the suitcase after his glimpse into the tantalising freemasonry of studenthood. A potentially incendiary book then—on the verge of being, but not quite, contraband. And near-unreadable. Ananda” 0 likes
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