14 May, 2021

If On A Balmy Night A Novelist

Amit Chaudhuri revisits Bombay, and collapses into a post-modern echo chamber, where authorship and memory are tossed up. Is this really a novel?

Photograph by Sandipan Chatterjee
If On A Balmy Night A Novelist

This is a detective novel by Amit Chaudhuri. Its main character is a writer called Amit Chaudhuri, someone who wrote a book called The Immortals and anot­her called Afternoon Raag. There is a friendship gestured at in the title, but it is revealed as neither necessary nor satisfying nor even real in the way we expect the ‘real’ in accounts of literary friendships. The friend, Ramu, is a drug addict. At one point, the literary reader finds that the addict is in a rehab programme that will last two years and s/he lets out a sigh of relief: here comes the salutary absent presence, of which Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s play, so beloved of Indian schoolboys, is the best example. No, the relentless writer Amit Chaudhuri bri­ngs him on stage. He is not loveable, he is not loved. The two men do not in their gestalt become bigger because of their relationship. They are both infantilised by its traditions; they indulge in a badinage that is ugly and cum-stained with machismo.

The backdrop, Bombay/Mumbai, has never revealed itself to the...

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