|26 September 2012|
Narcopolis is the debut novel of Indian author Jeet Thayil, previously known for his poetry. It is a novel about opium and its effect, set in 1970s Old Bombay. The book sets out with the narrator arriving in Bombay, where he gets sucked into the opium underground. Gradually, however, the story expands to encompass all the people he encounters along the way. The reader meets Dimple, the eunuch, Rashid, the opium house's owner, and Mr Lee, a former Chinese officer. All have their own stories to tell. The scene changes as we move towards the present day, and heroin is introduced to the environment.
Narcopolis is Thayil's first novel, though he is previously a published poet. The novel draws on his own experiences as a drug addict, and what he calls "the lost 20 years of my life". it took him five years to write the novel, and he called it "the opposite of catharsis. Catharsis gets stuff out of you. But this put bad feelings into me." Thayil decided to call the book Narcopolis "because Bombay seemed to me a city of intoxication, where the substances on offer were drugs and alcohol, of course, but also god, glamour, power, money and sex". Among the literary works to which Narcopolis has been compared are William S. Burroughs's Junkie and Thomas de Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.
Narcopolis was shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize. The jury wrote that they "admired his perfumed prose from the drug dens and backstreets of India's most concentrated conurbation". Jeet Thayil won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2013 at DSC Jaipur Literature Festival for Narcopolis.Narcopolis was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize (2012) and The Hindu Literary Prize (2013).
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