Publisher: Tantor Media
Date: October 2012
Duration: 8 hours 54 minutes
A tale of vice and passion set against a backdrop of late-1970s Bombay finds a New Yorker becoming entranced with the underworld culture of an opium den and brothel where he encounters a pipe-making eunuch, a violent businessman, and a Chinese refugee.
Jeet Thayil's luminous debut novel completely subvertsand challenges the literary traditions for which the Indian novel iscelebrated. This is a book about drugs, sex, death, perversion, addiction,love, and god, and has more in common in its subject matter with the work ofWilliam S. Burroughs or Baudelaire than with the subcontinent's familiarliterary lights. Above all, it is a fantastical portrait of a beautiful anddamned generation in a nation about to sell its soul. Written in Thayil'spoetic and affecting prose, Narcopolis charts the evolution of a great andbroken metropolis.
Narcopolis opens in Bombay in the late 1970s, as itsnarrator first arrives from New York to find himself entranced with the city'sunderworld, in particular an opium den and attached brothel. A cast ofunforgettably degenerate and magnetic characters works and patronizes thevenue, including Dimple, the eunuch who makes pipes in the den; Rumi, thesalaryman and husband whose addiction is violence; Newton Xavier, thecelebrated painter who both rejects and craves adulation; Mr. Lee, the Chineserefugee and businessman; and a cast of poets, prostitutes, pimps, andgangsters.
Decades pass to reveal a changing Bombay, where opium hasgiven way to heroin from Pakistan and the city's underbelly has become everrawer. Those in their circle still use sex for their primary release andrecreation, but the violence of the city on the nod and its purveyors havemoved from the fringes to the center of their lives. Yet Dimple, despite thebleakness of her surroundings, continues to search for beauty-at the movies, inpulp magazines, at church, and in a new burka-wearing identity.
After a long absence, the narrator returns in 2004 tofind a very different Bombay. Those he knew are almost all gone, but thepassion he feels for them and for the city is revealed.