- by Jeet Thayil -
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Publisher: The Penguin Press
Publication Date: April 12, 2012
Language: English
ISBN-13: 9781594203305
Synopsis Shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize

Jeet Thayil’s luminous debut novel completely subverts and challenges the literary traditions for which the Indian novel is celebrated. This is a book about drugs, sex, death, perversion, addiction, love, and god, and has more in common in its subject matter with the work of William S. Burroughs or Baudelaire than with the subcontinent’s familiar literary lights. Above all, it is a fantastical portrait of a beautiful and damned generation in a nation about to sell its soul. Written in Thayil’s poetic and affecting prose, Narcopolis charts the evolution of a great and broken metropolis.

Narcopolis opens in Bombay in the late 1970s, as its narrator first arrives from New York to find himself entranced with the city’s underworld, in particular an opium den and attached brothel. A cast of unforgettably degenerate and magnetic characters works and patronizes the venue, including Dimple, the eunuch who makes pipes in the den; Rumi, the salaryman and husband whose addiction is violence; Newton Xavier, the celebrated painter who both rejects and craves adulation; Mr. Lee, the Chinese refugee and businessman; and a cast of poets, prostitutes, pimps, and gangsters.

Decades pass to reveal a changing Bombay, where opium has given way to heroin from Pakistan and the city’s underbelly has become ever rawer. Those in their circle still use sex for their primary release and recreation, but the violence of the city on the nod and its purveyors have moved from the fringes to the center of their lives. Yet Dimple, despite the bleakness of her surroundings, continues to search for beauty—at the movies, in pulp magazines, at church, and in a new burka-wearing identity.

After a long absence, the narrator returns in 2004 to find a very different Bombay. Those he knew are almost all gone, but the passion he feels for them and for the city is revealed.
Jeet Thayil
Indian author Jeet Thayil tells Phil Whelan about his book, Narcopolis, which illustrates the transformation of Bombay to Mumbai - through the change of opium to heroin. He is one of the shortlisted finalists of the Man Asian Literary Prize.
Harrison Kelly, Paul Kenny and Marysia Juszczakiewicz
As the short list for the Man Asian Literary Prize was announced last night, we look at the year ahead for publishing in Asia, with Marysia Juszczakiewicz from the Peony Literary Agency, and Paul Kenny who is boss of the newly opened Hong Kong office for the publisher Hachette.
Professor David Parker
On Morning Brew Phil Whelan chats with Professor David Parker, who is the Executive Director of the Man Asian Literary Prize about this years' long list of the prize.
Jeet Thayil
He is a performance poet, librettist, songwriter/musician and self-confessed former drug addict. His book Narcopolis has been shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize. In conversation with RTHK's Hugh Chiverton, the themes and characters in his tale of opium dens and heroin addiction in...
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