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4.09  ·  Rating details ·  222 ratings  ·  42 reviews
A thought provoking novel, in which the normal and the abnormal, the ordinary and the extraordinary, illusion and reality, resignation and desire rub shoulders.
Paperback, 176 pages
Published January 15th 2008 by ORIENT PAPERBACKS (first published 1971)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  222 ratings  ·  42 reviews

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Dec 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's fascinating, and yet a tad shameful, that almost everyone who's read this book had never heard of it until someone happened to tell them about it. It's so obscure when it should be downright popular.

I get completely put off when I see that Indian literature is written by authors who spend half, less, or none of their time in this country. They live, usually, in the UK and the US, but they write about India and Indians. I don't understand that. You don't see the country fit to live in
Krishna Venkitachalam
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was surprised at the quality of writing and I was hooked on to it. The concepts explored in the book, including belief/religion, patriotism, societal parochialism, escapism, anarcho-primitivism, are things that I have been contemplating in the recent past. In addition, I was able to relate to the protagonist's idiosyncrasies in rather disconcerting ways. The anecdotal nature provided sufficient unreliability to the narrative to make things more interesting. Although I felt that the end was ...more
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the books recommended in an online reading group for offbeat books. While this did not get selected to be read together, I was so charmed by the cover and theme that I ended up buying it. It took me 2 years though to get around to reading it.

In come ways I found the theme similar to the books 'Razor's Edge' and 'Moon and the Six Pence' by Somerset Maugham. The protagonist is someone who is frustrated with the banality of high society living of a big city and seeks a deeper
Rohit Pande
Mar 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Would have never come across this book had a well read bookseller not thrusted it upon me, assuring that - "In sahib ne 1970s mien wo sab likh ke chod diya jo aap log abhi dhang se samajh bhi nahi paa rahe hain" - which roughly translates to "This guy could pen down the very stuff (so beautifully) in 1970s which you are grappling to even come to terms with".

Chances are that you will identify in bits and pieces with the main character Billy Biswas who is an explorer of the life as they say it
Mar 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i borrowed the book because i thought it looked interesting. Little did i know that it would transform me. I found it hard to even put the book down. Arun Joshi is an excellent narrator and the book gripped me from start to end. Billy's character deserves a place equal to Zorba in the land of literature. Everyone should read this book.
I await the day when the primitives will call out to me to join them.
Apr 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this book almost seven years back as part of my English class and I am eternally grateful to my teacher for introducing me to it. It is a poignant masterpiece of Indian literature that takes you on a man's journey from following norms (or trying to) to eventually breaking free on his own terms in a society that has always followed convention. Told from the point of view of Billy Biswas's friend this book remains etched in my memory as one that I thoroughly enjoyed and will read again and ...more
Apr 20, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Truth be told- it did leave me dazed and confused immediately after finishing it. However, plotted against the backdrop of India in the 70s, with its flawless english and vivid imagery, this book did leave a mark.Strange it may seem for one to abnegate the luxuries of modern life, and lead a tribal life, but that's what billy biswas' story is all about.A good and a quick read, with the message - "The most futile cry of man is his wish to be understood"
Amith J
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I stumbled upon this book accidentally at a book store and almost picked it up out of instinct and I am glad I did it.
Once I started reading , I couldn't hold back.
Set in 1950's-60's , published in 1971. The story is relevant even today. It touches so many topics, capitalism, Tribalism, Spirituality, Socialism, Primitivism, Magic, Reality, Superstition, Gun violence in USA etc. Not being preachy and not taking sides. The story itself is incredibly interesting and every page you turn you want
Anirban Nanda
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
It is one of those books that paid off all the expectations that I had and more. I am writing this review in a hurry. I hope to write something in my blog soon. But I have a lot to say about it. Like Lispector, Nabarun Bhattacharya, G.V. Desani, Arun Joshi is another of my discovery of writers little known but who were actually great and had the power to positively change the world.
Mar 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own, indian
Billy was treated by the humdrum society like it treats its rebels, hermits and seers.

This is a poetic tale of Billy, the man with strange obsessions and stranger ways of the world. It takes the reader through the surreal, supernatural and fantastic with great ease and beauty.

The story starts with the narrator meeting Billy Biswas as anthropology students in New York, continues to their journeys into becoming a professor and a civil servant and culminates in them meeting each other in
Raksha Bharadia
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Made many things clear. Why do we crave for the simplicity that probably people who live in tribes still have!
May 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
I ended up reading one of the most compelling, contemplating and thought provoking Indian novel by a writer who for godforsaken reason remained quite unknown to mass or even literature loving crowd. Looking at its queer and interesting title, don’t consider it as a tale of fantasy; rather it’s something very opposite. It’s one of finest existential novel grounded on roots questioning the façade of civilized world. It’s something where normal & abnormal, illusion and reality, rational and ...more
Suhasini Srihari
A beautiful and an amazing read this story was! Arun Joshi has very effectively written of how a man frustrated from the 'civilized' society seeks refuge in the 'primitive' life. The hero of the story, Billy Biswas (Bimal Biswas)is in a constant search for his 'actual' purpose on earth and the force of the primitive voice is very strong in him that he leaves his luxurious life style and moves into the forest. He is attracted to the unaltered lives of the tribal people and the love and affection ...more
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fast moving story of a man's quest to rid himself of civilization in favor of 'going primitive', with the to be expected tragic results. Joshi is certainly an accomplished writer and it is sad that he never attained the fame that a person of his many talents certainly deserved. The one thing that drove me crazy is that the narrator is always apologizing for not remembering the exact details of a conversation that happened 10 or 15 years ago... and then proceeds to put down a verbatim ...more
Jerrymel George
Oct 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh! What a book! I googled Arun Joshi and still dont know as to why this man has gone into an oblivion.This book is an absolute gem.The language and craft is unbelievable.This is one writer who shouldn't go unread.Get a copy people!
Arpit Gupta
Apr 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Compelling conversations throughout the book. A light but thought provoking book.
Our reading life
Just finished reading "The Strange Case of Billy Biswas" by Arun Joshi, a Sahitya Akademi Award Winning author. Published in the 1970s, the novel is the story of Billy, a guy that doesn't belong in the bourgeoisie everyday world of yours and mine. Much like the protagonist of Arun Joshi's last novel that i read, the Foreigner, Billy too, suffers from a sense of lack of belongingness. The story is narrated from the perspective of Romesh Sahai, a friend of Billy's.
The novel is quite intriguing,
Tathagat Majumder
This book describes the inner meaning of life. Through the character, it has pointed out the shams of Indian high society, a pointless system made by social animals and how some human beings are misread.

There are people around us who are different, different from so called cultured men/women. We need to understand them, think like them, nurture them and if possible - be like them. I believe that is one way to make this planet a beautiful place.

Mr. Arun Joshi is one kind of a person who
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The basic instincts of a human being are explored by means of a character called Billy Biswas. The story is strickingly interesting, though its main drive is to explore the hidden instincts of a human being from the point of view of music, love, sex and freedom from the so called civilised way of living itself.
Oct 21, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
All important points
Kukku Siva
Aug 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
into the wild.......................
Arshi Saxena
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It turned out to be a serendipitous read for me. Probably the best from indian authors that i've read so far. Loved it.
Dec 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The most futile cry of man is his wish to be understood”

First thing first- The novel has been very nicely written. The language is simple and the articulation is neat. I admired the vocabulary and sentence forms the author used in his narration.


The narrator meets a person called Billy and becomes friends with him instantly. Both of them were students in America when they first meet. Billy is an affable guy with an aura of charm, delighting every one with his quick wits and engaging
Akshay Yardi
Sep 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very catchy and carrying novel. It has a good insight into the passionate human mind. The story tells us how one's passion drives a person to reach his destination.
The story of the Anthropology professor at Delhi University being transformed into a completely primitive tribal man is something really strange. The narrator's emotional attachment to the hero of the novel is commendable. The story has strange incidents that tell us something very peculiar about human mind.
Billy Biswas, his
Jun 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
intriguing story of peculiar man chasing solace--- told by the sheer brilliance of a greatt story teller.
The Role of Romesh Sahai, IAS officer is also interesting. Though Billy turned to a tribal, still he is supported by Sahai, who never leaks out his secret. "FRailty thy name is woman", o 'Situ', u revealed the secret identity of Billy and in the aftermath what happened was doomed to happen for Billy....
Good read.
Kunal Kumar
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is one of the most amazing books I read in recent times. A transformative story put in flawless narrative by Arun Joshi. The depth of philosophical pursuit of the narrator is amazing. It opens up new line of thinking when get engrossed in it and the narrator literally put us into his place with his style of storytelling we keep flowing with each page into a different world which is is pure and free from all artificial emotions.
A must read for discerning reader.
Santhosh Kamath
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Devdoot De Roy
Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
To be honest, I was a little bit disappointed with the way it finished so fast in the later chapters, but overall, this is an amazing novel. Really moved by it a lot. A must read for everyone who wants to do something different with their life, other than the normal routine monotonous things one does everyday.
Dipu Darko
Aug 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book took me by surprise and blew me away with it's language, narrative style and of course the confounding yet bewitching story of Billy Biswas. I've yet to come across another Indian author who can write so well. Such effortless writing!
Tara Chklovski
Jan 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very quick and enjoyable read. My first fiction book in years! It is similar to Neils Lhyne in the protagonist's search for meaning, but the cultural setting of India make this book much more alive and vibrant - especially to Indians!
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