My rating: 5 of 5 stars
this review refers to the audiobook version of this novel.
i understand this book was controversial for its portrayal of India… i can certainly see why.
i’m not sure i would have actually believed certain of the scenes in this book had i not recently read Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. it pretty much bends my brain to consider a society that corrupt, even if it were that corrupt only in patches here and there, which it begins to seem is not the case. it’s corrupt everywhere.
the book is an incredibly funny satire of corruption and its effects (reminds me of Riotous Assembly). the voice of entrepreneur, murderer, and writer of letters to foreign heads of state Balram Halwai is utterly unique, a fabulous mix of hubris and subservience, wisdom and ignorance, cunning and cluelessness.
his relationship to his soon-to-be murdered employer Ashok gives the book its dramatic tension. Balram confesses to this murder in the first chapter of the book, and spends the rest of it offering up his rationale for having done so. the relationship is a distillate of how things stand between the rich and the poor in India, and it’s not a pretty sight.
the book is quite chilling in its portrayal of where poverty, corruption, entitlement, and righteous anger intersect. if this indictment is even half-accurate, i fear for the future of a stable India. Balram is in many ways a repulsive character, but possibly less so than Ashok. i imagine Gandhi would roll over in his metaphorical grave at this book, but Buddha might just sigh in recognition.
re: the narration of this audiobook–the reader does a spectacular job. i think he gives Balram’s voice just the right characterization, giving him a very mordant wit.