Book Review: English, August – Laugh Factory

This book is one of the most hilarious books we have ever read so far!!! English, August: An Indian Story  by  Upamanyu Chatterjee is a story of Agastya Sen’s hit-reality-and-discover-oneself. He becomes a civil servant and is, in his own words, posted (cum-training session) to ‘Madna’ a ‘tiny dot’ on the Indian map.

The book, though released in 1988, in the 21st century can be very realistic and one can still relate to Agastya. His friends go to Yale and Harvard whereas he decides to be more patriotic and stay in India to serve the nation by being a civil servant (later realizing that this chosen career would require him to be an ardent servant of the folks). He is a city boy who is in for a culture shock when he sets foot in Madna.

He is highly fascinated and influenced by Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. He is who is very modern and secular but not religious or romantic. He is lonely, has fantasies daily, and has endless love for booze. In fact, shares beer and marijuana at a temple with his friend’s.

Had it not been Chatterjee’s book the world would have never found out what it is like to be an Indian. His prose is witty, entertaining and very contemporary. He can and does turn serious self-talk into humor without making it sentimental or boring. The prose of the book is not hard hitting but a very simple yet amusing journey of Agastya. It is not a paging turning laugh riot but it definitely has sections where you would want to keep the book aside for a bit and laugh to your heart’s content.

The book is very open and frank in both language and ideas. Here are some lines that may give you an insight on the laugh factory that it is:

“Your going to get, hazzar fucked” (fucked a thousand times) his friend suggests when Agastya accepts the IAS posting to Madna

Talking to himself he says, “The mind is restless, Krishna!”

“They’re turning modern without warning, these bastards” while opening a domestic gas cylinder which has a new type of seal;

“He’s the sort who’d love to get AIDS just because it’s raging in America” talking about Mandy one of his college mates he meets at Madna;

Do pick this book, you would want to add this to your library collection.

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