English, AugustAn Indian Story
by Upamanyu Chatterjee, introduction by Akhil Sharma
Agastya Sen, known to friends by the English name August, is a child of the Indian elite. His friends go to Yale and Harvard. August himself has just landed a prize government job. The job takes him to Madna, —the hottest town in India,— deep in the sticks. There he finds himself surrounded by incompetents and cranks, time wasters, bureaucrats, and crazies. What to do? Get stoned, shirk work, collapse in the heat, stare at the ceiling. Dealing with the locals turns out to be a lot easier for August than living with himself. English, August is a comic masterpiece from contemporary India. Like A Confederacy of Dunces and The Catcher in the Rye, it is both an inspired and hilarious satire and a timeless story of self-discovery.
[An] affectionate yet unsparing slacker view of modern India likened to John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces and J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Unlike many of the other Indian writers we read these days, Chatterjee has remained in India...He's a writer worth discovering, and English, August is the place to start.
— Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
This is a very funny novel, but a humane one as well.
— Katherine Powers, The Boston Globe
Comparing Upamanyu Chatterjee with any other comic novelist is like comparing a big fat cigar with a menthol cigarette. Page by page and joke by joke, English, August shimmers in a way that is hard to believe. To read about India from the point of view of this new writer is like discovering India for the first time.
— Gary Shteyngart
[A] witty and lyrical first novel...it is hard to believe that it has taken this book so long to reach American readers, but once they finish it, they will agree it was well worth the wait. A contribution not just to Indian literature but to world literature; highly recommended.
—Library Journal, Starred Review
A slacker seeks career success and sexual fulfillment in Chatterjee's 1988 first novel, since proclaimed a contemporary Indian classic...This beautifully written book strikes a nifty balance among satiric comedy, pointed social commentary and penetrating characterization. Widely considered India's Catcher in the Rye, it also echoes both R.K. Narayan's Malgudi novels and J.P. Donleavy's classic portrayal of rampant, unrepentant maleness, The Ginger Man...Excellent stuff. Let's have Chatterjee's other novels, please.
— Kirkus Reviews
By the highest serio-comic standards, this novel marks the debut of an extraordinarily promising talent.
— The Observer