Know Your Booker!: Jeet Thayil’s Narcopolis

NarcopolisSo you think you know everything there is to know about Jeet Thayil’s Booker nominated novel Narcopolis? Test your knowledge against our GoodReads quiz here!

What’s it about?

Narcopolis is described by the book’s publisher Faber and Faber as follows:

Shuklaji Street, in Old Bombay. In Rashid’s opium room the air is thick and potent. A beautiful young woman leans to hold a long-stemmed pipe over a flame, her hair falling across her dark eyes. Around her, men sprawl and mutter in the gloom, each one drifting with his own tide. Here, people say that you introduce only your worst enemy to opium.

Outside, stray dogs lope in packs. Street vendors hustle. Hookers call for custom through the bars of their cages as their pimps slouch in doorways in the half-light. There is an underworld whisper of a new terror: the Pathar Maar, the stone killer, whose victims are the nameless, invisible poor. There are too many of them to count in this broken city.

Narcopolis is a rich, chaotic, hallucinatory dream of a novel that captures the Bombay of the 1970s in all its compelling squalor. With a cast of pimps, pushers, poets, gangsters and eunuchs, it is a journey into a sprawling underworld written in electric and utterly original prose.

Who is Jeet Thayil?

According to his official bio on the Faber and Faber website:

Jeet Thayil was born in Kerala, India in 1959 and educated in Hong Kong, New York and Bombay. He is a performance poet, songwriter and guitarist, and has published four collections of poetry. He is the editor of The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets (2008). He currently lives in New Delhi.

What does BookerMarks think of Narcopolis?

Michelle (Review): “…read in its entirely, it is a disturbing; yet, fascinating picture of into the mind of those controlled by addiction.”

Penny (Review): “This is a book I would never consider reading.”

Jackie (Review): “It had a rhythmic timbre as you read, extremely poetic and yes, it gave you an overall feeling of breathing in and out the opium smoke.”

Karli (Review): “It’s not always pleasant or comfortable, but Thayil’s masterful, poetic prose is impossible to ignore – primarily because it will make you squirm and cringe.  But at the same time, Thayil’s language is honest, sorrowful, and filled with simple, but wise observations about the relationship between freedom and addiction.”

Elizabeth (Review): “Jeet Thayil writes with great purpose.  While the subject matter is unpleasant from start to finish, Narcopolis does an impressive job depicting an unholy time in Bombay.  Readers will surely come away from this debut novel understanding a very base side of life; one which makes no apology or attempt to make circumstances palatable.  It’s not an easy read, but at the same time, it’s a powerful novel of observations.”

Aaron (Review): “From the opening word “Bombay” to the period at the end of its first sentence a full seven pages later, it’s clear that poet Jeet Thayil’s debut novel Narcopolis is anything but your standard piece of fiction.”

What do YOU think of Jeet Thayil’s Narcopolis? Sound off below or visit our GoodReads forum to submit your official rating for the book which will be added to our community long list standings!


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