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BREATHLESS IN BOMBAY Paperback – 1 Apr 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Griffin (1 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312372701
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312372705
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 708,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


." "Breathless in Bombay" pulses with desire and dreams and wrong and sorrow, with chaos singular and general, and ultimately, with hope. A marvelous first collection by a writer to be watched."--Janet Peery, author of "What the Thunder Said, The River Beyond the World," and "Alligator Dance""Murzban Shroff's literary exploration of Bombay takes one to parts of the city one seldom sees. His compassion for his characters and their everyday trials comes through vividly in each story." ---Thrity Umrigar, author of "The Space Between Us, If Today Be Sweet" and "Bombay Time""It's a rare thing to see human troubles described with such energetic good humor--Murzban Shroff leads you through the chaos of Mumbai with an avuncular arm around your shoulder and a spring in his step. Not since V. S. Naipaul's "A House For Mister Biswas" has the discomfort of people in their society been so engagingly chronicled--Shroff has written a stellar debut. We could use four or five of him." --J. Robert Lennon, author of "Mailman" and "Pieces for the Left Hand""" "In this excellent debut short-story collection, Murzban Shroff distills the delirious reality of Bombay into a vivid, multi-layered collage that's nothing short of stunning. It's all here -- the beauty, the suffering, the grinding wheel of modernization, the desperate machinations for love and money, plus a cast of characters that in its richness and scope rivals anything we find in Dickens, Balzac, or Tom Wolfe. Shroff writes with an energy and intensity equal to his subject, and has given us an extraordinary book that satisfies on every level."--Ben Fountain, author of "Brief Encounters with Che Guevara" "Like James Joyce's Dubliners, "Breathless in Bombay" is a story collection that has the range and fullness of a novel. Shroff's empathy for his characters is filled with wisdom and great-heartedness, and his people and their city linger in the reader's mind long after the last page is turned."--Ron Rash, author of "The World Made Straight," "One Foot in Eden," and "Chemistry and Other Stories""""" "With a sharp eye and a social conscience, Shroff illuminates the complexities of life at all levels of Mumbai's stratified society. A rich, insightful collection that is part travel-writing and part fiction, reading these stories is like visiting this great and chaotic city on the Arabian Sea." -- Rishi Reddi, author of "Karma and Other Stories"

About the Author

Murzban F. Shroff is a Bombay-born writer. His stories have been published in over 25 literary journals in the U.S., including the Gettysburg Review, the Louisville Review, the Minnesota Review, and the Southwest Review. He has received two Pushcart nominations and is currently at work on his first novel.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Satisfied customer on 21 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
14 brilliant stories set in contemporary Mumbai - `Shortlisted for Best First book Europe and South Asia Commonwealth Writers Prize 2009'

Based on human relationships, each story carries a subtle message and highlights a unique personality trait of the protagonist. Mr Shroff has also taken the effort to not mask the harsh reality and in some cases the poverty is almost hard to believe! All the characters have their own inimitable style of dealing with what the city has thrown them into, no matter how good, bad or ugly it may be. A good compilation of interesting short stories which are engaging and complicated as the city to which they pay homage.
The author uses characters from many walks of life and across age bands to describe the lives that make up the city. With 14 stories, it shows the struggle of humanity, the aspirations that give the city its rhythm, the ability of its citizens to pick up the pieces and move on.
Mr Shroff's writing gives off an air of earnestness and sincerity that is endearing, and his dedication to his subject matter is apparent. Breathless in Bombay deserves attention because of its unflinching focus on the lives of those who are often overlooked in Mumbai's heedless rush towards modernisation
Mr Shroff has clearly done his homework, which shows in his use of everyday detail. He is also confident enough not to provide neat, well-rounded endings.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A truly breathtaking view of Bombay. 18 Mar. 2008
By Vistasp Hodiwala - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a book of literary fiction that should be mandatory reading for anyone who has ever loved the city of Bombay (or Mumbai, whatever you prefer). Easily the most arresting fictional biography of a city and its inhabitants in a long, long time, Shroff's short stories crackle with a sort of nervous energy that makes the familiar, endearing and the seemingly unknown, fascinating. All fourteen stories sing, dance and catapult their way into your heart with a richness of cast and detail that literally takes your breath away.

As with any book of short stories, it's difficult to agree upon the universal gems that everyone loves. In my opinion, the title story Breathless in Bombay along with The Queen Guards Her Own and This House of Mine can hold their own in a galaxy of the finest short fiction you would have ever come across from some the most astute practitioners of this art form.

A word of caution though. This is most certainly NOT India Exotica, what the West, ordinarily loves to peddle in the name of Indian Fiction (and which justifiably irritates the living daylights out of serious readers). This is fiction in all its rawness; contemporary in telling, compelling to read, rooted firmly in the Indian milieu and throbbing with affectionate and intelligent humour.

Shroff's bond with his fellow citizens from all walks of the society, his growing unease with the changing social equations, his unsparing eye on the hollowness that drives the city's prima donnas and his tireless concern for the way the world around him is reshaping to accommodate society's fresh set of rules, permeates through every pore of the story and is in fact a recurring theme that haunts its characters (and as a result of that, his readers) over and over.

The city of Bombay has got herself a stellar storyteller. Take a bow, Mr. Shroff.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Fresh Voice from India 15 Feb. 2008
By Joseph R. Furshong - Published on
Format: Paperback
Avid readers of fiction have their favorite Indian authors. The sub-continent has provided English readers with some of the best fiction of the last 30 years: Rushdie, Mistry, Desai, Seth to name a few. These authors have opened our eyes to a fascinating culture and landscape, seemingly another world. We will soon be adding Murzban F. Shroff to the list of exemplary fiction writers and his first collection of short stories, Breathless in Bombay, will prove that his inclusion is deserved.

Murzban provide characters, backgrounds and story lines in14 deftly expressed stories. One story, titled The Queen Guards Her Own, contains as many vivid characters as if it was written by Dickens: Chacha the carriage driver, Simran the young prostitute, Amir Jwaab the beggar. This House of Mine, tells the story of a houseful of tenants who unite to save their homes from demolition, each tenant a completely portrayed individual. In Maalishwaala, the Hindi term for masseuse, we learn the complex story, past and present, of a young man from a rural village trying to earn money to support his wife back home. Each story delivers, none disappoints.

The most fascinating character of course is Bombay itself, the city that is the home to these characters and millions of others. Dense neighborhoods that were rural 30 years ago are now being leveled for high-rises. Many thousands live and work in slums with corporate headquarters as the backdrop of their labors. The new Indian and the India of centuries of tradition rub shoulders continuously every day. The tension and the contrast between the ancient and the modern, rural and urban, Muslim and Hindu, affluence and poverty are all here. Murzban F. Shroff is a skillful and accomplished writer who has won recognition for his short stories. I believe that this collection heralds the wider arrival of his unique voice and ample talent. He is deserving of taking his place among his worthy contemporaries.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Captivated! 29 Jun. 2008
By Julie Brickman - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
BREATHLESS IN BOMBAY by Murzban Shroff is a stunning collection of stories, linked by a love of the city and a truly unusual and diverse portrait of its inhabitants. Each story tantalizes, captivates, lingers because of the unresolvable conflicts that haunt the characters' lives, conflicts as much part of culture as character. The richness and depth of the collection left me feeling as though I'd journeyed through a novel, rather than a story collection, which in my experience are usually uneven. Part of this was the unity created by the city - oh, the city! -- and the motif of clash between the rich and the poor, but most was the empathy of Shroff's narrative voice, the love he instilled for his characters in whatever emotional or moral dilemma they floundered. The dhobi Mataprasad struggles to keep the collective life of his laundry trade afloat; the Bollywood producer's assistant, Vicki, contends with her love for an artist who disdains all she does; the masseur Bheem Singh finds his talent greater than that of his wealthy clients on Chowpatty Beach; the victoria driver, Chacha, risks everything to rescue the daughter of his friend from the neighborhood brothel. What made BREATHLESS IN BOMBAY novelistic, not to mention a page-turner, was how much I cared for the characters and their fates, along with the beauty of the language. Shroff made me yearn to stroll through Bombay, like I might stroll through Paris, as no other Indian writer has been able to do.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Well Written, Interesting, Promising Author 11 April 2008
By Sam A. Mawn-Mahlau - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a solid, well written book that offers a series of short stories and vignettes about life in contemporary Bombay. The writing is for the most part strong and straightforward, with the tone mixing the tragic, the melodramatic and the amusing.

For me, the best parts of this book are the places where the author lets himself go and takes a few risks. The best example is a story ("The Queen Guards Her Own") that revolves around a retired champion horse that now pulls a tourist cart and his owner, as well as a couple of small girls lost in the world, one the daughter of a wealthy tourist who the cart driver has in his carriage and one who is the daughter of a prostitute whom the cart-driver has befriended. This story weaves from image to image, a sort of verbal montage, to build toward its conclusion. It deftly mixes humor, sometimes ironical, sometimes slapstick, to keep the situations from declining into the overly melodramatic. This writing has the mark of greatness on it.

On the other hand, in the title story and in other stories Schroff indulges himself in an excess of melodrama; the rich/poor contrasts and comparisons become too easy to anticipate as you read through the stories. He needs to take them a level deeper in a number of places. The result is a series of good stories with occassionally memorable images that, in the end, fall a bit short of what we hope for them.

I enjoyed this book; I hope to enjoy his next even more.
The essence of Bombay, vividly captured 16 April 2012
By kdoyle - Published on
Format: Paperback
Three and a half stars. Shroff's debut collection of short stories paints a vivid picture of Bombay that captures its essence very well. This isn't a glossed-over, sanitized portrait of a city. It's the real thing, complete with liquor dens, whores, gangs, and the familiar contrast between the very wealthy and those living and dying on the streets in abject poverty. My favorite story was The Queen Guards Her Own, a tale of a victoriawalla and his horse, set against the backdrop of Marine Drive.
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