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Odysseus Abroad by Amit Chaudhuri [in Library Journal]

Odysseus Abroad by Amit Chaudhuri on BookDragon via Library JournalThis latest from Amit Chaudhuri (Freedom Song; The Immortals) offers minimal plot: a 22-year-old homesick Indian literature student and aspiring poet wakes in his shabby London studio, practices his singing, meets his university tutor, delivers his rent, and visits his uncle Radhesh, with whom he shares an afternoon tea, a sweet shop foray, and a restaurant dinner before ambling home.

The novel’s pages, of course, contain much more: a single July 1985 London day (think Margaret Thatcher, hum “Karma Chameleon”) in the life of an artistic wannabe reveals multiple lives within that single day, expanding from the quotidian to universal explorations of identity, sexuality, colonialism, immigration, politics, and more. Beyond what (little) happens is an insistent metanarrative that with few words asks us to consider and elucidate beyond the page: from the classically inspired title to chapters marked “Telemachus and Nestor” (Odysseus’s son and his son’s attentive host), “Eumaeus” (Odysseus’s loyal swineherd friend), and “Ithaca” (home sweet home).

Verdict: This Odysseus requires patient readers who are partial to internal epics and enjoy discovering clever references to classic and modern texts, from the Mahabharata to James Joyce’s Ulysses, from Homer to Stephen King. For other British Asian “stranger-in-a-strange-land” narratives with more … well, narrative, try Nadeem Aslam’s Maps for Lost Lovers or Monica Ali’s Brick Lane.

Review: “Fiction,” Library Journal, April 1, 2015

Readers: Adult

Published: 2015


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