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English, August: An Indian Story

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  5,492 ratings  ·  427 reviews
Agastya Sen, known to friends by the English name August, is a child of the Indian elite. His friends go to Yale and Harvard. August himself has just landed a prize government job. The job takes him to Madna, “the hottest town in India,” deep in the sticks. There he finds himself surrounded by incompetents and cranks, time wasters, bureaucrats, and crazies. What to do? Get ...more
Paperback, 326 pages
Published 2006 by New York Review of Books (first published 1988)
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Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Meaning Discoverers in Meaningless Events
Indecision will be your epitaph.
As the statement rung in my ear for more minutes than I cared to count, I stared at the mouth that just uttered it. No, it was not Agastya, the hero of this story but his best friend, Dhrubo, a brain-wracked, stoned, cajoled-to-distinguished young man who spent his time between perusing applications and criticising its submitters in an MNC bank in the megalopolitan city of Delhi. What light was he showing to Agastya, the young conqueror of the Indian Administ
Jun 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
I am surprised that 'English, August' is not better known. It is well-written and is refreshingly funny. While the most outstanding aspect of this novel is its humor, what I like the best about it is that the story is told in such a genuine voice. For once this is not an NRI author trying to bring forth the truth about "real" India. Chatterjee draws heavily from his own experiences in the Indian administrative service to paint a picture of life in rural India, working of Government offices and b ...more
Mar 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My father used to disappear in the evenings.

After supper, when my mother, brother and I would sit in front of the tv to watch Cheers, Moonlighting, Family Ties, this soft-spoken, mild-mannered Bengali man would take the dog and quietly slip out the kitchen door to spend hours walking in the woods behind our house.

I hope that the magic of those evenings spent in the silence of the forest somehow compensated for living thousands of kilometres from his family in India, in a god-forsaken Canadian hi
Arun Divakar
Dec 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A fresh recruit to the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and his friend sit in their car, totally stoned and deliberating the relative merits of being a bureaucrat. Of top importance here is genuine concern of our protagonist's capability in being an efficient administrator. Here is how the conversation goes :

Friend : Out there in Madna quite a few people are going to ask you what you're doing in the Administrative Service. Because you don't look the role. You look like a porn film actor, thin
Sep 09, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars: English, August has often been compared to The Catcher in the Rye, and in my opinion this is entirely to Salinger's advantage—Upamanyu Chatterjee's slacker may be lesser known outside of India, but is infinitely funnier than the infamous Holden Caulfield.

When Agastya Sen—a privileged, deracinated city boy known amongst friends by the anglicised nickname, 'August'—lands himself one of the country's most prized and coveted government jobs, he has to leave a life of easy affluence for t
Vani Vani
Jun 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Upmanyu Chatterjee's English, August is a witty (but in no way pithy!) commentary on the mammoth apparatus of the Indian bureaucracy with its inefficient babus (officials) and their untrained lackeys (minions, urchins, whatever!) and their lives as seen through the eyes of a young Indian civil servant, Agastya Sen. Though the story has been written some twenty years ago, it is still relevant today as gives a snapshot of that reality which countless millions live in this country every day because ...more
Kunal Sen
Oct 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Nearly twenty-five years after it was first published, Upamanyu Chatterjee’s ‘English, August’, remains as contemporary, as relevant and as annoyingly brilliant as it was back then, back when it came out of nowhere to light up the literary fiction scene here that was in a post-Rushdie slump.

If one were to ask me to do that obnoxious job of ‘summing-up’ a literary fiction novel, I would base it more or less, on its old blurb. So ‘English, August’ is a darkly-comic story of Agastya Sen, a young c
Jan 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone and everyone
Shelves: india
'How old are you, sir?'
'Twenty-eight.'Agastya was twenty-four, but he was in a lying mood. He also disliked their faces.
'Are you married, sir?' Again that demand that he classify himself. Ahmed leaned forward for each question, neck tensed and head angled with politeness.
'Yes.' He wondered for a second whether he should add 'twice'.
'And your Mrs, sir?' Agarwal's voice dropped at 'Mrs'; in all those months all references to wives were in hushed, almost embarrassed, tones. Agastya never knew why,
Karan Bajaj
Apr 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My all-time favorite novel. Actually, it's much more than just a book for me, English August inspired me to become a writer. I was living in a village in my sales training with Procter & Gamble and feeling the same sense of utter dislocation that Agastya Sen felt and didn't think a soul in the world would understand exactly how alienated I felt with both my current life and my past life at B-School. Then, I ran into the wise (and wise-guy) Agastya Sen. And suddenly, my world filled up, as I felt ...more
Pawan Mishra
Dec 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
I remember this book as a comic masterpiece. I had read it about 18 years ago - yet remember Madna and the protagonist's hilarious flirt with his own life and the surrounding. ...more
Jan 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, this book was everything I didn't expect it to be. I had very little knowledge about the book to begin with other than the fact that it has bern adapted into an acclaimed movie (which now I need to watch). I had no idea it was a stoner novel, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

The book gets off to a slow start but shapes up beautifully, and some parts are beautiful. Its one of the few Indian novels that I have read that touched upon existentialism, although it does come across as the ramblings o
May 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021, indian-lit
English, August gives an unfiltered peek into Agastya's mind. He is a city bred who somehow manages to crack the most difficult exam of the India,IAS and is now posted in a rural area.

His thoughts are chaotic but at the same time very assuring. You realize you are not only one who is sometimes jealous of a stray dog because you think they have it easy.

I enjoyed the book in its relatibility. Agastya's sense of dislocation and aimlessness is representative of most of people in their 20's and his c
May 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The frivolously rude book is written with humor and candor. Cheeky, sarcastic and impregnated with the characters, recognizable to anyone familiar with bureaucracies - sycophant colleagues, overbearing boss, infamous police inspector and unreliable servants makes it convincing and gripping.

The book builds around, Agastya, a half-Bengali, half-Goan guy, who procures a bureaucratic post in the Indian civil service and is posted to a rural village for his training. However, the book doesn’t feature
Maura Finkelstein
Aug 30, 2007 rated it liked it
while possibly the most brilliant book I've encountered about bureaucracy, this novel crashes and burns around page 100, sadly dragging out it's swan song for another 200 pages.
Don't get me wrong: I truly appreciated the humorous story of a young Bengali man who, after enlisting in the Indian Administrative Service, finds his life directed to a small depressing dusty town 500 km from nowhere. How better to construct a backdrop for Sen's long hot days of locking himself in his stifling room, smok
Lee Anne
Feb 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
Agastya "August" Sen is in training with the Indian Administrative Service. He is sent to the remote town of Madna to learn the job.

The back cover blurb for this book suggests it is the Indian equivalent of The Catcher in the Rye or A Confederacy of Dunces, but I think it is instead the fictional equivalent of the Indian Administrative Service: dull, repetitive, confusing.

Agastya pays no attention to the job, gets stoned a lot, masturbates, calls in sick, lies for no reason, visits other places
A slap stick comedy with a rude, weird and twisted sense of humor! Abundance of crazy laugh out loud moments thrown around in small chunks here and there... which are bound to catch you off the guard. In spite of all this, the overall plot and story didn't work out well with me and slowly the protagonist became kinda repulsive!!!

"Agastya! That's a wonderful name. What does it mean?"
"It's Sanskrit for one who turns the flush just before he starts pissing, and then tries to finish pissing before t
Annette mathews


I am not annoyed , but guilty for dragging two of my friends to read this book. One of them finished it and the other well, let us just say i followed her suit .

The story was not going anywhere . I didn't like the language used . It was rude and the lead was just an ordinary guy.There was nothing special about him.Why should i waste my time reading about him when i see the same set of people in my day to day life. He saw women in a different way .No, this book is not my cup of tea and never
Rishav Agarwal
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As the title suggests this is a very Indian Story and remains to be so even 30 years after it was first penned. It is heartening as well as uncanny to find having vile, vulgar and vague thoughts is an integral part of any generation and that existential anxiety runs in vein with the incredible experiences (only in Indian can you be shit upon by three different animals while being burnt to a crisp by the midday sun) that sum up our lives making us truly Indian. That being said, I find a lot of se ...more
Suswagata Mukhaty
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jul 12, 2009 rated it really liked it

I know English, August came a long time ago, and though I remember catching glimpses of the film and being intrigued by it, I never got around to reading the book. I finally did read it and was amazed at how fresh and timeless this Upamanyu Chatterjee book still feels. The book was written in the late 80s and recounts the author's stint as an IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer in a small district town in Madna. At that time, it got a great cult fo
Rahul Bhaskar
Apr 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
"The mind is indeed restless, Krishna."

Hajaar Fucked Book. My All Time Favorite. Chatterji tells the story of a young civil servant posted in a nondescript district in the hinterland. His feeling of dislocation and self-pity strikes a chord. And of course, there are the funny encounters. Sathe, the cartoonist, Mandy, the Pseud-American and Dhrubo-the "mother fucker".
The time period in which the book is set adds to the mood of it all. Early 80s. The unrest in the society is clearly reflected in t
Nov 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviews, favorites
Actually a revisit; I am reading now with a friend, travelling across India ( Ah!! joy of reading aloud a passage on an Indian beach);

Had read it first time when I was a spring-chicken, hardly grasped its essence; Now having met so many Shrivatsavs, Kumars, Bhatias, Sathes, Mrs Rajans, even Vasanth, why even that bastard Tamse, I feel at home here, It is like returning to a childhood lover who has grown more gorgeous, on whose sweet shapely belly you can lay your head and wonder ... Why, The min
Sairam Krishnan
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a story! Upamanyu's Chatterjee's 1988 novel is an absolute delight, and so is Agastya Sen's terrible aimlessness. Seldom have I been made to laugh and think so much, and almost never have I read something this seeped in self-mockery. English, August is nothing short of a modern classic, and I will definitely come back to it again and again for the sheer dark enjoyment it brought me. ...more
This book keeps you in a trans. It is something which I didn’t like reading but at the same time I couldn’t keep it down or stop.

Apart from the constant philosophical torments that brewed in the mind of the protagonist, there was unnecessary and not-so-needed sexual and pervert thought injected. May be the intention of the author was to make it funny or wry but given the era in which the story has been set, the monologue thoughts, a few conversations & dialogues seemed completely abrupt and vulg
Gagandeep  Singh
Jul 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a great, refreshing (ohh the irony) read this has been.

To me, August isn't a character and more like my 3am voice being the existential dramatic person I can be.

I found this book to be very resonating and certain passages in the book were very LOUD. For example,

He had never had any ambition, perhaps because he had never before been unhappy. Now he was surprised by the memory of those earlier desires of what he felt had been his innocence — to choose colours for the bogeys of trains; such w
Joseph Rai
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
English, August by Upamanyu Chatterjee - funny and highly recommended! If you are disgruntled with your jobs please read on:

Indian Administrative Services (IAS) is unarguably one of the most coveted jobs in India. Thousands burn the midnight oil and flock the test preparation centres to crack the supremely competitive civil servant exams.

Sadly only a handful succeeds. If you’re one of them who missed the mark and still nursing the wound of rejection, Upamanyu Chatterjee’s English, August is the
Mar 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
a classic modern indian novel of a young man starting his career in the IAS indian admin service. many funny and cynical jokings of country folk and bureaucrats, our protag august is in training in madna, a hot, dusty, very out-of-the-way town where he learns the ropes of running the biggest free country in the world. cynical in that his heart really isn't in it and bides his time smoking doobies and jacking off, while drinking and cadging suppers off his bosses and friends. after this stellar s ...more
Pratibha Suku
Jan 31, 2016 rated it did not like it
Filth disguised as 'humor'. And Yes, you read is right.

This story is about an IAS Probationer put on District attachment duty in a rural remote area.Put on ground he starts having doubt about his career choice. He starts passing his time wandering from this office to that. By using so called 'sarcasm' and all derogatory remarks the inefficiency of bureaucratic and govt serveries as a whole is tried to be shown.Here and there some facts about the backwardness of place is thrown in. The Naxal hit
Nov 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
Where do I even start! If there is a book that's struck a chord instantly and through the entire 300 pages, it has to be English, August.

A very very simple premise about that one year the protagonist spends in a remote place in rural India, and how his mind works. Having been in a similar situation battling loneliness amidst other career uncertainties, at time it felt as though I was reading something that I'd penned down.

A joyous read with some good writing.
abandoned after 200 pages. :-/
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Upamanyu Chatterjee is an Indian author and administrator, noted for his works set in the Indian Administrative Service. He has been named Officier des Arts et des Lettres (Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters), by the French Government.

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