Saturday, October 2, 2010

Satire to savour

Humorous, subtle, wicked… a combination that makes the book a good read.

Serious Men; Manu Joseph;
Fourth Estate; Rs.499
After Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger we have yet another novel on Indian satire, Manu Joseph's debut Serious Men. With its provocative wit, realistic portrayal of characters and humour, the book is a sure winner. Manu Joseph's novel hammers in the hopelessness, boredom and desperate ambitions of suburban Dalit community in Bombay, and he weaves an interesting and funny satire on the academia of science, love and revenge. Relationships form an important part of the novel and Manu provides a stark insight into the workings of the human mind. He strings together the powerful, comic and pungency of eccentric people who are blind instruments of a dominant passion for quick money, fame and social aggrandisement.

The devious Ayyan Mani is stuck in a boring job as personal assistant to the head astronomer named Arvind Acharya, at the Institute of Theory and Research, Bombay. Acharya is powerful, conceited and intelligent but too engrossed in his own scientific world. Although Mani belongs to the Dalit community, he is not subdued but one who stands out in a world moved by self interest and political design. Wanting to associate himself with the heightened sense of life and fulfillment he draws up a concoction of events and surreptitiously achieves his goals. Mani spins an outrageous fiction around his partially deaf, ten- year- old son Adi, forcing him to say things like, “Prime numbers are unpredictable, D-e-c-i-m-a-l s-y-s-t-e-m and Fee bon a chi” Into this kind of plot, however another dubious character Oparna , the attractive young astrobiologer is introduced. Acharya is enamoured by her and soon his fiefdom and Mani's politics begin to surface. Acharya's career is shattered by an office scandal and he is accused of forging scientific data. It is here that the suspense builds up and one marvels at the author's treatment and superb flexibility in the psychological development of the dramatic situation.

Full review here Hindu

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