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Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil


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Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012.

Stretching across three decades, with an interlude in Mao's China, it portrays a city in collision with itself. With a cast of pimps, pushers, poets, gangsters and eunuchs, it is a journey into a sprawling underworld written in electric and utterly original prose.

Sir Peter Stothard, Chair of Man Booker Prize 2012 judging panel, on Narcopolis...

'Narcopolis is by the Indian poet Jeet Thayil. This was a year of many fine novels on the mystery of the modern city. ‘Bombay’ is the first and last word of this first novel, an urban history written by a former drug addict through the changing composition of opiates and the changing character of their users. Poetry is not often a stepping stone to the novel. But we much admired his perfumed prose from the drug-dens and back streets of India's most concentrated conurbation, its mix of the domestic and exotic, the nearly infinite and the nastily defined.'

Edna O'Brien - 'In sumptuous language, Jeet Thayil's Narcopolis (Faber) depicts the hallucinogenic sensibilities of those trapped in the opium rooms of Mumbai and by extension, the city itself, with its assortment of broken and stranded people, doomed to live in the shadows.'

If you like Jeet Thayil you might also like to read books by Aravind Adiga, William Burroughs and Will Self.


Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil

Wait now, light me up so we do this right, yes, hold me steady to the lamp, hold it, hold, good, a slow pull to start with, to draw the smoke low into the lungs, yes, oh my...Shuklaji Street, in Old Bombay. In Rashid's opium room the air is thick with voices and ghosts: Hindu, Muslim, Christian. A young woman holds a long-stemmed pipe over a flame, her hair falling across her eyes. Men sprawl and mutter in the gloom. Here, they say you introduce only your worst enemy to opium. There is an underworld whisper of a new terror: the Pathar Maar, the stone killer, whose victims are the nameless, invisible poor. In the broken city, there are too many to count.

About the Author

Jeet Thayil

Jeet Thayil was born in Kerala, India in 1959 andeducated in Hong Kong, New York and Mumbai. He is a performance poet, songwriter and guitarist as well as a writer, and has published four collections of poetry. He is the editor of The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets (2008). He currently lives in Bangalore.

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Book Info

Publication date

2nd February 2012


Jeet Thayil

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Faber and Faber


304 pages


Literary Fiction
All Shortlists and Winners
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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