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An Indian Dubliners,
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This review is from: Between the Assassinations (Kindle Edition)
The title of this book refers to the time between the assasination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi in 1984 and the assasination of her son and successor, Rajiv Ghandi, in 1991. The substance of the book is a tourist guidebook to a fictional Indian town, interspersed within a collection of short stories. Each chapter is independent from the next, though they share the geography of the town and its environs.
Each story is essentially about an individual and how their lives are lived in the town. The characters are mainly drawn from the marginalised and the poor, occasionally reaching into the lower middle-class. The rich and the powerful are largely minor bit-part players whose motives and stories we do not know; the corrupt local MP makes a cameo appearance in a few of the stories but doesn't have a chapter of his own, which is a shame since the corruption of the Indian political class features strongly in the stories of the other characters.
This book reminded me strongly of James Joyce's Dubliners, doing for an anonymous half-baked Indian town (to borrow a term from Adiga's previous book, The White Tiger) what Joyce did for turn of the century Dublin. Stretching the comparison with Joyce a little, where Homer's the Odyssey served as a framework to Ulysses, Adiga borrows the framework of a late 20th century travel book.
Set in the lat 1980s, this books describes everyday Indian life at a turning point - after the idealism of early post-independence socialism had died and started to rot but just before the destabilising turbo-capitalism of globalisation began to reimagine India, a story of continuity, change and dislocation that Adiga has already told in The White Tiger.