Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

Indian fiction

Translated by Srinath Perur

Source – library book

I miss the old Man Asian prize because this is the sort of book I would have found via there longlist when it was running. I have always enjoyed the other books from around India I have read that have been translated. I know this one made a few end of year longlists. Vivek Shanbhag has written eight novels and a few plays, He is currently a writer in residence at the University of Iowa in America this is his first book to be translated into English.

Vincent is a waiter at coffee house, It’s just called that – coffeee house, The name hasn’t changed in a hundred years, even if the buisness has, You can still get a good cup of coffee here, but now it’s a bar and restaurant. Not one of those low-lit bar with people crammed around tables, where you come to suspect drinking may not be such a wholesome activiity after all.No this place is airy, soacious, high-ceilinged, Drinking here makes you feel cultured and sophisticated. The walls are paneled in wood to shoulder hieght. Old photographs hang on sturdy squarre pilars in the center of the room.

The coffee house is old but still hasn’t missed the changes in Modern India.

This book is narrated by an unnamed person talking about his family. we meet him initially in one of his favourite haunts a coffee shop, where he is a regular by the way he talks to the Waiter. The place is oak panelled and has a feel of the old India with old pictures of Bangalore where the book is set.The narrator is trying to untie what has happened to his family as he drinks his coffee Then we discover his father there spice business which has suddenly become the one everyone uses that has brought in wealth to him and the family. Then there is his wife Anita.She is the one that comes up with the title of the book a made up phrase her and her brother used when the Kite string got tangled up. That she uses when her new husband struggles to untie her clothes on their wedding night. This is a family sag in the piece the relation between wife, sister in law, father all have little tales in this lovely novella.

My impatient hands couldn’t get anywhere with the stuck knot. She tried, too, but to no avil.”Tchah”she said,” This string has become all ghachar ghochar.Wait” I stood there as she sat up, bent over the knot, and carefully teased it apart.

It came back to me later when we were lying there catching our breaths,”What was that you called the underskirt string?” I asked her.

She giggled” Ghachar Ghocahr” she said

The made up words of the title she used to uses with here brother .

Sometimes the best books come in around hundred pages.  The Great Gatsby, Heart of darkness. This is one of those vbooks that capture the Zeitgeist of there times and that is what happens when people move between classes in Modern India. This is a classic novella about people moving up the class ladder. Like Gatsby people feeling out of place, but I also feel at times Dickens is more apt there is something more in line with his work moving into the middle classes. What Vivek captures is a world that has changed it isn’t the male-centric world on the coffee shop walls no this is a new India was woman speak more than they use to and this is showing the waves that happen from a male point of view. He has constructed a number of strong female characters in this book. I pleased I read this one shame there is no man Asian prize to bring it to a bigger audience still

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. TravellinPenguin
    Jan 07, 2018 @ 21:31:07

    This book sounds wonderful. It is a shame there is no award for Asian books.
    Asia is such a fascinating place for stories.

    Reply

  2. Resh Susan @ The Book Satchel
    Jan 08, 2018 @ 10:17:48

    Glad you enjoyed the read. Ghachar Ghochar was one of my favourite books of 2017. It was bite sized yet had the right punch. And I thought the translation was done pretty well too

    Reply

  3. 1streading
    Jan 08, 2018 @ 19:25:45

    It was also one of my favourite books of last year. I read it as part of a book group and everybody enjoyed it (though enjoyed is not really the word given its theme).

    Reply

  4. Lisa Hill
    Jan 11, 2018 @ 03:35:16

    I miss the Man Asian too. Do you follow the DSC prize? It doesn’t have the same reach but it’s still good for south Asian authors.

    Reply

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