Harold's Reviews > Narcopolis

Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil
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's review
Apr 10, 2012

really liked it
Read in May, 2012

Narcopolis is an Indian version of such drug inspired literary classics as De Quincey's "Diary of an English Opium Addict"; Burrough's "Naked Lunch" and, perhaps the closest kin, Johnson's "Jesus' Son".
As a former opium addict, Jeet Thayil faithfully and coherently recreates the opiate induced consciousness that reflects the experience in Rashid's "chandu khana" (opium room) on Bombay's Shuklaji Street.
Mr. Thayil deftly weaves his story with that of two other major characters: Dimple, the "hijra" (transvestite) "garaduli" (heroin addict)and Mr. Lee, a Chinese emigre to Bombay, who befriends Dimple and bequeaths his faultlessly exquisite opium pipes to her. Hi sonly dying request is to have his ashes reburied in China. Dimple vows to honor his final request but fails to fulfil her oath. Dimple's guilt and her ironic contraction of the same fatal disease that fells Mr. Lee reoccurs frequently throughout the book.
Using poetic imagery and mirage-like dialogues, Mr. Thayil raises a controversial question. In choosing to use one of the most addictive substances known, is the addict, perhaps, the freest of humans? When the whole of existence is stripped of all other extraneous desires and there remains only the total devotion to opiates, is this compulsion a form of secularized sainthood. Perhaps, the lonely ecstasy and excruciating pain of existential addiction a contemporary version of the saint's search for God?

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