Sunday, June 7, 2009

My Friend, Sancho

I read famous blogger Amit Varma's debut novel: My Friend, Sancho. It was a really entertaining read. I loved Abir Ganguly - his complexities, his thoughts, and above all: his absurd jokes and dreams. I could identify a lot with him.

The novel is not intended as a literary book, and the author wants it to get into the middle spectrum between Five point someone (FPS) and Amitav Ghosh's writing. He succeeds in this. It is way better than the likes of FPS, the story is believable, and not at all as silly.

Since it doesnt aim to be "literary", we should not perhaps deeply analyze the characters and the story, and merely take it as an entertainer? In that case, it is 100% good fun.


(spoiler warnings etc)

That Abir Ganguly is such a coward, and does nothing about an innocent man getting killed by the police, even after falling in love with the dead man's daughter, and in fact goes on to rationalize this behavior of his by saying that the officer did his best, and became what he is, given his poor background etc. The author gave this touch to the story may be because he wanted to do a grander story, with characters being shades of gray rather than mere black and white as in pulp fiction, which is his stated aim of foraying into literature from journalism. However, I felt that this is not a great kind of "grey", and better greyness could have been achieved in some other way, where the situation at hand is more ambiguous to take a strict decision (Like Amitav Ghosh does in Hungry Tide, creating situations where you cannot choose easily between environmentalism and humanism).

Update: Abir's article never gets published, and the policeman is fictional anyway, so perhaps Amit wanted his characters to be "grey" while his ideas to be clear - the readers of his book get the point anyway. So perhaps I was wrong in my assessment above :)

Also, Sancho is supposed to be a teenager, 18 years old I think, but came across to me as a 22-23ish(at least) woman. And also, she allowing him to conduct his journalistic interviews about her slain father in the Food court of a Mall where she has never been to, and that too over lunch, was a little too much. And Abir checking "India Uncut" - Amit's blog - many times in the novel- they did not impress me particularly, though I read through these passages without stopping to think about this aspect.

But these are nothing when compared with the good fun that the book is. Also, I must mention: Amit's deep knowledge of political philosophies and current affairs has kept the book quite clean of idiocies, and has given Abir good depth.

On Amit's promise of us being spared of him trying to further his ideologies through his fiction: some libertarian views do come up, like the corrupt policeman's tirade the government being the problem (since the government has no competition), and the TS Iyengar's behaviour and his columns ("Government has cheated the people of Mumbai, and government should take action against this") etc. But these come out in passing, as mere simple,raw "cribbing" of raw characters, rather than deep thought or a speech or tirade (Howard Roark style) , and quite fit the occasions.

I hope Amit continues writing, and brings out more fun, interesting books, like this one.

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