Additional Book Information
Series: New York Review Books
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Friend of My YouthA Novel
In Friend of My Youth, a novelist named Amit Chaudhuri visits his childhood home of Bombay. The city, reeling from the impact of the 2008 terrorist attacks, weighs heavily on his mind, as does the unexpected absence of his childhood friend Ramu, a drifting, opaque figure who is Amit's last remaining connection to the city he once called home.
Amit Chaudhuri's new novel is about geographical, historical and personal change. It asks a question we all grapple with in our lives: what does it mean to exist in both the past and the present? It is a striking reminder that, as the Guardian has said, "Chaudhuri has been pushing away at form, trying to make something new of the novel."
What [Chaudhuri] does in this short novel, with exquisite delicacy, is show disconnection, vacancy and the physical world's imperviousness to human action, even of the most violent kind.
Friend of My Youth is a taut, efficient book: part novel and part manifesto. It presents itself as a work of fiction about friendship, the experiences of youth and the city of Mumbai, but really it's a kind of anti-novel: a book about the failures of fiction to account for the realities of memory.
Chaudhuri is an exceptionally subtle writer, a skeptical seeker rather than a postmodern show-off. However you classify it, this journey through the traces of his past earns its literary sleight-of-hand.
This novel is "an assemblage of moments, of different kinds of awareness of the world, and even of writing." Like [Henry] Green's novels it offers delight, it shimmers, you seek to catch hold of it and it slides away.
Fiercely intelligent [and] elegant. [Chaudhuri] combines a serious reflection on psychology and friendship with an examination of the artist's relationship to real life.
A common, and false, complaint leveled against Chaudhuri by some critics is that nothing ever happens in his fiction. This is as untrue as saying that nothing ever happens in Waiting For Godot. He's at his best with surfaces, stacking and overlaying them to create startling effects.
What his work exemplifies is somebody who views the canon as everything, that there isn't a form of canonical literature that makes him cleave to one culture or the other.
I realized that I had no terms in my critical lexicon to communicate the delight and the pleasure that his writing had given me. I haven't encountered such joyous and playful writing about walking or eating...as I have in Chaudhuri's books.
—Sumana Roy, Los Angeles Review of Books
Amit Chaudhuri is a master. This book is a hymn to our present and our past. In today's noisy world, Chaudhuri's words provide a home wherein we can contemplate the essential things in life.
One of our most entertaining and artful writers.