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Narcopolis: A Novel Paperback – September 26, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; F First Edition Thus edition (September 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143123033
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143123033
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #219,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A brilliant first novel . . . Nothing like this exists in Indian literature."
(The Sunday Guardian (London) )

"In ambition, Narcopolis is reminiscent of Roberto Bolano; but it is Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son—the best junkie book of the last quarter century—that is its closer kin. Thankfully, Thayil creates something original and vital from those blueprints. One yearns for the next hit."
(The Telegraph (U.K.) )

"A reformed addict, Mr. Thayil has had personal experience with the world he describes. But he is also a published poet, who wields his words with care. His efforts are there to be seen."
(The Economist )

"Thayil’s precision and economy distill what could be a sprawling and uneven saga into an elegant tapestry of beautifully observed characters and their complex lives."
(Publishers Weekly (starred review) )

About the Author

Jeet Thayil is the author of four poetry collections, including These Errors Are Correct and English and is the editor of The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets. As a musician and songwriter, he is one-half of the contemporary music project Sridhar/Thayil. He lives in Delhi, India.


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Customer Reviews

He seemed to have a modicom of dignity and I learned enough of his story to feel for him a little, although he is sketched very sparsely.
docrankin
The narrative is peppered with so many Marathi and Hindi words and phrases that I felt it would have been appropriate to include a glossary at the end of the book.
Alan L. Chase
Bombay,or Mumbai, as it is known today, is brought to life by Jeet Thayil in this engrossing novel of sex, drugs and love in the underbelly of this sprawling city.
asiana

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By asiana VINE VOICE on March 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Bombay,or Mumbai, as it is known today, is brought to life by Jeet Thayil in this engrossing novel of sex, drugs and love in the underbelly of this sprawling city.

The characters in this book include the amazing Dimple, who was born a boy but who was castrated at a young age and works as a prostitute in a brothel next to an opium den, where she prepares the pipes. Although she has no formal education she is able to read and is always looking for beauty although she doesn't find it in the streets of this huge metropolis. Among others who frequent the opium den are the Chinese refugee/businessman, Mr.Lee, who has his own tale of woe and Rumi, a working man who is addicted to violence. Opium gives way to heroin as the years go by but the cast of characters seeking relief from whatever ails them only increases in number.

Mr.Thayil, a poet, whose use of language is so vivid that the city and its inhabitants really come to life, also portrays, vividly, the violent riots between Muslims and Hindus which erupted in 70s, 80s and 90s and which hatred still exists today. I highly recommend this book and will attempt to read other of his books.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Gary Severance VINE VOICE on April 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Jeet Thayil's novel Narcopolis is the story of Bombay, the old city that changed its name and destroyed part of its history. It is told from the point of view of a man who travels to the city from New York in the 1970s. He is fascinated by the poor areas where criminals provide drugs and prostitution as an alternative way of life for a variety of Indian people. The common denominator of these people is psychological and physical pain. Sex and intoxication disconnect the neurons from the individuals' pain receptors. In this depiction of Bombay, many residents have found a life of the senses in rhythm with the life of the old city.

The underworld is accepting of characters who deviate radically from normal expectations. These marginalized souls include an opium den operator, a transgender opium pipe preparer, a violent day worker and family man who visits the den, an alcoholic artist who acts out the expectations of deviance by his admirers, a Chinese expatriate businessman mourning the loss of his culture, and other survivors determined to connect without pain to the immediate life of the subcontinent, the mysterious Eastern metropolis of Bombay.

Although the old Bombay and its people seem doomed to the squalor of small lives and little motivation to improve their lot, there is remarkable freedom for the adventurous in the life of the immediate senses and easy gratification of desires. There is plenty of opportunity for consideration of morality, religion, art, personal responsibility, reincarnation, violence, rebellion, and the soaring illusion of freedom induced by intoxication. It is all there in the ancient city for people with the courage to immerse themselves in its uplifting and destructive life.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By not a natural on March 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Narcopolis is a first-rate literary achievement. The author's lucid and versatile prose style bespeaks mastery of language, and lends itself to finding the richness and value in the surreal, the mystical, the natural, the haunted, the stuff of vivid dreams and hallucinations, and occasionally collides with the world of the restless dead. Before all else, however, though its words are well-chosen, it's sentences well-wrought, and its paragraphs mesh neatly from one illuminating, sometimes beautiful, page to another, Narcopolis is about the brutally chaotic meaninglessness of life in Bombay, the enormous city now known as Mumbai.

If there is a character whose life typifies the poverty, chaos, and unthinkable suffering of Bombay, it is Dimple. Her real name is something else that she's long forgotten, having been given away by her mother when she was six or seven. While the name Dimple seems feminine enough, one suitably coupled with our use of the pronoun "her," this is misleading. Dimple, by whatever name, was born a boy, but after being given away or sold, who knows, when she reached age eight or nine her scrotum and penis were cut off, a sort of double castration suitable to an over-determined eunuch, someone who has been surgically designated to live out her days as a prostitute. If her customers are kind, they will apply lubricant before using her rectum as a vagina. She spends the rest of her working day preparing and serving pipes to those who frequent the opium den that shares a floor with her brothel.

In spare moments, Dimple teaches herself to read, just because she likes to, and she smokes opium, snorts cocaine, and eventually learns to appreciate heroin. In time, the dissolute life for which she was foredoomed takes its toll and her beauty fades.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Case Quarter VINE VOICE on March 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
the narrator, dom ullis, begins by informing the reader his story is about bombay, told to him by the opium pipe. ullis is a bit of a faker (spell it either way), reliable, but with a penchant for exaggerating effects and describing his realms of bombay with language from lurid and sensationalized magazines. don't be taken in by him. his prologue, written to give the impression of someone deep in a opium state of mind, is a six page run on sentence. his sentence isn't the type of run on sentence of molly bloom's stream of consciousness. ullis's run away prologue is coherent and easy to read, of a series of sentences lacking periods and the following capital letters which, conventionally, begin sentences. after a few lines, the reader can catch on and follow ullis's initiatory style on his own terms, a style to which the narrator never returns.

and so with the story--really about dimple, the prostitute born male who underwent a painful sex change at the age of nine to work in a bordello. once ullis disappears early from the story and dimple becomes protagonist, the style changes and the reader is guided by her around the khana, the opium room, and introduced to the regulars of the room, rashid, the owner; bengali, who acts as a kind of manager, sharing his thoughts, one of them: would the fate of opheus had turned out differently had he chosen a more pleasant tune; mr lee, a competitor, a refugee from china, his interesting back story told in detail; and, of course, dimple, hijra, eunuch, prostitute and preparer of pipes in the khana.

this is a closed world, a world that cannot hide from time and progress. near the conclusion of the story, decades have passed and ullis returns to a changed bombay.
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