Updated: July 26, 2012 01:33 IST

Jeet Thayil on Man Booker Prize long-list

  • Hasan Saroor
Comment (6)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
Jeet Thayil, author of 'Narcopolis'
The Hindu
Jeet Thayil, author of 'Narcopolis'

The Guardian: his novel Narcopolis is a “blistering debut”

Jeet Thayil, noted Kerala-born poet and novelist, has been long-listed for the 2012 Man Booker Prize for his debut novel Narcopolis, built around the opium and heroin dens of Mumbai.

The Guardian hailed it as a “blistering debut” likening it to William Burroughs’s Junky and Thomas de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater.

A self-confessed former drug addict, Mr. Thayil is thought to have drawn on his own experiences of Mumbai’s “seedy underbelly,” as one critic put it. In an interview, he described Narcopolis as “Bombay’s secret history” as distinct from its “official” history of “money and glamour.”

“You can sanitise… as much as you like, but… can’t get rid of the grime,” he told the interviewer.

Mr. Thayil (53) is among 12 writers long-listed for the £50,000 Prize, arguably the most prestigious literary honour in the English-speaking world.

A shortlist of six will be announced in September, and the winner at London’s Guildhall on October 16.

If Mr. Thayil goes on to win, he will join a select band of India or India-born writers such as Salman Rushdie, Kiran Desai and Aravind Adiga, who have won a Booker.

Others on the list include Nicola Barker for The Yips; Ned Beauman (The Teleportation Accident); André Brink ( Philida); Tan Twan Eng ( The Garden of Evening Mists ); Michael Frayn (Skios); Rachel Joyce (The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry); Deborah Levy (Swimming Home); Hilary Mantel (Bring up the Bodies); Alison Moore (The Lighthouse); Will Self (Umbrella) and Sam Thompson (Communion Town).

Peter Stothard, Editor of The Times Literary Supplement who chaired the judges, described “goodness, madness and bewildering urban change” as the dominant themes of this year’s list

“In an extraordinary year for fiction the ‘Man Booker Dozen’ proves the grip that the novel has on our world. We did not set out to reject the old guard but, after a year of sustained critical argument by a demanding panel of judges, the new has come powering through,” he said.

The list includes four debut novels, three small independent publishers and one previous winner.Mr. Thayil, who spent his early years in Hong Kong and lived in America, returned to India after 9/11. In an interview with him in The Hindu Literary Review in 2006, critic Nilanjana S. Roy noted that the former’s return to India coincided with “one of the most productive phases of his life.”

About the time he spent in Mumbai or what was then Bombay, Mr. Thayil said: “I spent most of that time sitting in bars, getting very drunk, talking about writers and writing. And never writing. It was a colossal waste. In two years, I've done more than I did in 20 years. I feel very fortunate that I got a second chance.”


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Great! It is a pleasant surprise to read about Jeet making the list.

Best Wishes to win the Booker this year.

Ommen (Ex-Andrews Hse.)

from:  Ommen Mathew
Posted on: Jul 26, 2012 at 22:16 IST

Story based on author own experience certainly narrates in pragmatic way with real incidents would might impress to the selctors to choose but its depends on the criteria which they fixed to choose. Now India writers are making sounds across the world and had chances of winning to join the elite group of Indians those who already achieved that. We can say good luck and pray for god it will incrases the tally of Indian winners.

Posted on: Jul 26, 2012 at 15:53 IST

Mr. Suroor has missed the most famous Indian Booker winner of them all -- a certain Ms. Roy.

from:  Anita
Posted on: Jul 26, 2012 at 09:02 IST

Where is Arundhati Roy in the list of Indian/ Indian born Booker prize
winners? She received the same for The God Of Small Things in the year

from:  Ganesh Babu S
Posted on: Jul 26, 2012 at 08:35 IST

Mr Saroor, perhaps it was a freudian slip to miss out on Ms Arundathi Roy's (again
Kerala born) name from the 'select band of India or India-born writers' who won the
Booker? (Chuckle!)

from:  S Vaidyanathan
Posted on: Jul 26, 2012 at 06:47 IST

Experience is d best teacher, Thayil deserves it this time or never ever?

from:  Sameer Kavad
Posted on: Jul 26, 2012 at 06:18 IST
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