Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil

72%

25 Critic Reviews

he is also a published poet, who wields his words with care. His efforts are there to be seen.
-The Economist

Synopsis

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize
 
Written in poetic and affecting prose, Jeet Thayil's luminous debut novel charts the evolution of a great and broken metropolis across three decades. A rich, hallucinatory dream that captures Bombay in all its compelling squalor, Narcopolis completely subverts and challenges the literary traditions for which the Indian novel is celebrated. It is a book about drugs, sex, death, perversion, addiction, love, and God and has more in common in its subject matter with the work of William S. Burroughs or Baudelaire than with that of the subcontinent's familiar literary lights. Above all, it is a fantastical portrait of a beautiful and damned generation in a nation about to sell its soul.



 

About Jeet Thayil

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JEET THAYIL was born in 1959 in Kerala, India. He was educated in Hong Kong, New York, and Bombay, cities where his father worked as an editor and writer. His four poetry collections include These Errors Are Correct and English, and he 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. Narcopolis is his first novel. He lives in Delhi.
 
Published April 12, 2012 by Penguin Books. 299 pages
Genres: Other, Literature & Fiction, History. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Narcopolis
All: 25 | Positive: 18 | Negative: 7

Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Kevin Rushby on Feb 17 2012

Narcopolis is a blistering debut that can indeed stand proudly on the shelf next to Burroughs and De Quincey.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
Feb 20 2012

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.

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The Economist

Excellent
Feb 04 2012

he is also a published poet, who wields his words with care. His efforts are there to be seen.

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AV Club

Excellent
Reviewed by Ellen Wernecke on Apr 23 2012

Without glamorizing the effects of heroin on Rashid’s market, Thayil locks his characters into their courses and stays with them through their lowest moments.

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The Telegraph

Excellent
Reviewed by Stuart Evers on Feb 08 2012

Thayil creates something original and vital from those blueprints. One yearns for the next hit.

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The Independent

Excellent
Reviewed by Salil Tripahty on Mar 02 2012

The ingenuity of Thayil's novel lies in how he has squeezed this entire universe into an opium pipe.

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DNA

Below average
Reviewed by Ashley Tellis on Feb 12 2012

It is primarily because Jeet Thayil’s shallow, pretentious, pseudo-erudite, gratuitously arcane authorial persona invades the narrative and never lets it go.

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Book Geeks

Excellent
Reviewed by Christopher McKiddie on Jan 31 2012

Narcopolis represents a truly international work of fiction: influenced by and sitting comfortably alongside western works such as Trainspotting or Requiem for a Dream, yet possessing a quintessentially Indian sensibility that suggests more than a simple crude shift of time or place.

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BookTrust

Excellent

This is a poetic book about vice and desperation, and a truly exceptional debut.

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India Today

Excellent
Reviewed by Tom Alter on Jan 28 2012

Language for Jeet, for his alter egos, his characters, is a weapon and a warrior, a blade and a ballad, a source and a scourge. He writes as if the word was, is, truly god or gods.

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Hindustan Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Devangshu Datta on Dec 30 2011

He melds the puke, the violence, the tawdry glamour, and the terrible beauty of the Narcopolis together and transmutes it into what smells like instant cult classic.

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Businessworld

Excellent
Reviewed by Amandeep Sandhu on Feb 21 2012

Thayil viscerally cracks open the underbelly of Bombay... This is rock solid writing about the fragility of the human mind. It shows how a good telling of a tale can create lively literature.

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The Telegraph (India)

Below average
Reviewed by Ipsita Chakravarty on Feb 03 2012

In the end, you are left with a wan novel, the confessions of a reformed opium-eater. A novel that disappears in a wisp of smoke the moment you close the book.

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Palash Krishna Mehrotra on Jan 08 2012

All this poignant coincidence and divine justice might have been okay in a movie but in a powerful book like this, these moments appear a touch tacky and unnecessary.

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Bookmunch

Good
Reviewed by Emma Mould on Mar 07 2012

His evocative language brings a beauty to the darkness within the text and within his characters. Narcopolis is also a genuine page-turner, the kind of novel that you can get comfortably lost in.

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Of Books and Reading

Good
Reviewed by thehungryreader on Jan 09 2012

The writing is packed with punches and more. It will not make you want to keep the book down at any point.

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Unabridged Chick

Good
Reviewed by Audra on Apr 19 2012

Every few pages I came across a passage that was just beautiful -- my copy is tagged with three dozen flags marking lines I found captivating -- and I think anyone who loves gorgeous writing and is interested in exploring an unusual narrative should give this one a try.

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Reading on a Rainy Day

Good
Reviewed by Athira on May 15 2012

It was unconventional, it was different, and it was just as stimulating and entrancing as the characters found themselves to be in after smoking opium. And that is this book's strength.

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Raging Bibliomania

Below average
Reviewed by Zibilee on Apr 19 2012

Thayil’s rendering of this book is very skillful, but as a reader, I kept wondering what the ultimate message of the book was.

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The Year in Books

Good
Reviewed by NancyO on Apr 16 2012

It's unique, a one of a kind book filled with passion; it's gritty and tough, real and surreal all at the same time.

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What She Read

Good
Reviewed by Laurie on May 10 2012

Lyrical, cadenced, it's the work of a poet-cum-novelist without doubt.

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Conceptual Reception

Below average
Reviewed by Karen on Apr 30 2012

"Narcopolis" can feel overwhelming at times, with its flood of verbiage and unfamiliar terminology and transitions.

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A Novel Source

Good
Apr 26 2012

The manner in which Jeeta Thayil forms his sentences, makes every word sound like liquid gold is almost transcendent.

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sen city

Below average
Reviewed by Raja Sen on Feb 19 2012

and this ambitious Narcopolis is left teetering as the writer keeps scrabbling to find room (in a hovel-novel crammed with characters, backstories and dreams) to roll up his unprosaic sleeves and work in another sensationally gaspworthy guitar riff, and the result is painful as each of the book’s undoubtedly colourful multiple narrators...look at the world with the very same open-mouthed sense of wonder

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DSC South Asian Literature Festival

Below average

Perhaps due to Thayil’s background as a musician and poet, Narcopolisis rich with feeling and atmosphere but weak in plot – at times the narrative seems contrived.

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Reader Rating for Narcopolis
68%

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