Synopses & Reviews
Agastya Sen, the hero of English, August, is a child of the Indian elite. His father is the governor of Bengal. His friends go to Yale and Harvard. He himself has secured a position in the most prestigious and exclusive of Indian government agencies, the IAS.
Agastya's first assignment is to the town of Madna, buried deep in the provinces. There he meets a range of eccentrics worthy of a novel by Evelyn Waugh.
Agastya himself smokes a lot of pot and drinks a lot of beer, finds ingenious excuses to shirk work, loses himself in sexual fantasies about his boss's wife, and makes caustic asides to coworkers and friends. And yet he is as impatient with his own restlessness as he is with anything else.
Agastya's effort to figure out a place in the world is faltering and fraught with comic missteps. Chatterjee's novel, an Indian Catcher in the Rye with a wild humor and lyricism that are all its own, is at once spiritual quest and a comic revue. It offers a glimpse an Indian reality that proves no less compelling than the magic realism of Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy.
"[Chatterjee's] book displays a world rarely seen in modern Indian writing, revealing a detailed knowledge of the heartland that can result only from personal experience....[A] classic." New York Times
"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." Library Journal
Published for the first time in the United States, a satirical look at Indian society by an internationally acclaimed writer.
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.
About the Author
Born in India, Upamanyu Chatterjee attended St. Stephen's College in Delhi. He joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1983, later moving to the United Kingdom to serve as the Writer in Residence at the University of Kent. A writer of short stories and novels, he was appointed Director of Languages in the Ministry of Human Resource Development for the Indian government.