12 April, 2021

August In Winter

Agastya Sen returns, high on wit, but thin on plot

August In Winter
By the standing laws of the universe, Mammaries of the Welfare State should have been a hateful book: it's long and rambling, adolescently interested in sex, exhaustingly clever, loses the plot regularly, and says nothing new. But, and I say this with some sheepishness, it's not as bad a ride as you'd think.

One reason is that Upamanyu Chatterjee is one of the few no-holds-barred writers we've got who is as intelligent as he is playful. Not that he's above the odd cheap shot or pure slapstick; but for the most part his humour is killingly deadpan. The cover, featuring a goat's derriere and a heap of mouldering files—absurd, parodic, strangely aesthetic—does justice to the content. (That also goes for the unsubtle reference to piles.)

Plague has hit the district town of Madna, that paragon of nowheresville: everyone is falling over themselves trying to avoid a posting there, with no success at all. The Mammaries of the Welfare State meanders along 400-odd pages, examining the vagaries and machinations of the civil service and all its attendant barnacles in a time...

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