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The Revenge of the Non-Vegetarian by Upamanyu Chatterjee

The Revenge of the Non-Vegetarian Title: The Revenge of the Non-Vegetarian
Author: Upamanyu Chatterjee
Publisher: Speaking Tiger Publishing Pvt Ltd
ISBN: 978-9387693562
Genre: Novella, Literary Fiction
Pages: 128
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

So, here’s the thing. I never took a shine to Upamanyu Chatterjee’s books. Especially, English, August. I somehow never could see myself in that place and time. And yet, as I turned the pages of this novella, I could not stop till I was done. I devoured it in one sitting and that’s perhaps the only way to read this book. Might I also add that I have also enjoyed “Way to Go” a lot.

Upamanyu Chatterjee’s work may seem linear and pretty straight-forward but it so isn’t. There are many layers to the narrative – some for you to mull over and reach your own conclusions and some that are perhaps in your face and easy to understand.

The book is about an entire family being wiped out in a fire. Who did it and why forms the crux of the tale. I could speak about the characters and motives and more but I have often realized that when it comes to a novella, it is the writing that is of the essence. Sure, characters matter the most and some do stand out in this one as well, like Madhusudan Sen, ICS who turns vegetarian until justice has been served. To me, the setting also was very important – 1949. And not to forget that the book fits the times we live in where a person’s eating habits are of most important in our country.

The structure of the novella is also such that it is fast-paced, moreover, Chatterjee has written this in really short chapters, which works even better. “The Revenge of the Non-Vegetarian” is a tale for our times. It is sad but true. Chatterjee’s writing of this one is surreal (maybe because it hits home). It is the kind of book that will be read and not forgotten.  You might not think about it regularly but it sure will resonate every now and then.


Way To Go by Upamanyu Chatterjee

I did not like Upamanyu Chatterjee’s, “English, August”. I did not like it one bit and I had good enough reasons for not liking that book, when my friends and family loved it and raved about it endlessly. When for instance, the movie released and there was Rahul Bose grinning at me from the cover of the book, or rather it was a sullen face I think he was trying to make, sitting comfortably on the shelves of Crossword, waiting to be picked by an eager reader. Sadly that book did not do it for me.

Having said that, I loved reading Way to Go. It is nothing like his earlier books, yet there are some characters who come back from The Last Burden – Shyamanand, Burfi and Jamun, Joyce, Kasturi, Pista and Doom – the entire clan is back in this one. But let me not get carried away – the review is about Way to Go and not The Last Burden.

The novel opens with a very strong sentence, “For not having loved one’s dead father enough, could one make amends by loving one’s child more?” – that being the essential crux somewhere down the line of the book as well. Jamun, the protagonist is now in his mid-40’s, his father who is the 85-year old, half-paralysed Shyamanand has now disappeared. His long-time solitary friend, Dr. Mukherjee has committed suicide and Jamun is trying very hard to grapple with the situation.

To add to this, his long estranged brother, Burfi returns home and they try to build from where they left off. There is the unscruplous builder Monga whose sole aim is to demolish their home and build something new (preferably a mall, I think) in its place. They say demons of the past do not let you rest, and it could not be more true for Jamun: His former lover Kasturi, who is now a hot-shot TV Producer is back with his son, and is only trying to use him for a forthcoming lacking lustre soap-opera. And the reader is left with Jamun’s perspectives – his thoughts, his inannity, his conciousness in the narrative – of what he could have done with the ghosts of the past, that now seem fidgety and will not let him rest.

The book, like all Mr. Chatterjee’s books is filled with biting sarcasm and dark humour. It is hilarious in places and in the others it just gives you nothing to chew on. There are uncalled for dashes and punctuation marks that leave the reader totally exasperated at times. And then the metaphors and on-goings of everyday life are described with such stark reality, that I could not help but love the writing (though I must add, that it screeched of verbosity in certain places).

At many levels, the book is intertwined with sub-plots. It is what makes the story a story after all. The dead and the ones who are missing are constantly featured – the book is about them. About the feeble attempt at what we call living, almost a farce. A must read and sometimes the only reason why one should recommend a book is because it is well-written and this one sure is.