Upmanyu Chatterjee is a well known Indian author and an administrator who has done notable work in the setting of Indian Administrative Service. His novel English August is also a commendable work in the same milieu.
His other noteworthy works include “The assassination of Indira Gandhi” and “Watching Them “which are in the form of short stories.
English August- An Indian Story is a very well written book by Upmanyu which was published in 1988 and since then has been reprinted several times. This novel is an ideal choice for the ones who have curiosity about modern India. It’s a beautifully written interesting work which will take you in its grip.
The main plot of the book revolves around a character called Agastya Sen who is young and westernized. It is interesting to know that the major imagination of Agastya is dominated by literature, soft drugs and women. The vibrant real India is shown through the experience of this young officer who is posted in a small town called Madna. His observations during one year of his training are expressed in funny and wryly way which makes the story even more interesting. One can see the realistic trends of the administration which are also known as grass root levels of welfare state through this book. All these are presented along with the paradox involved in them. The brown sahibs who have a ruling power in India are depicted very well.
The posting of Agastya gives him a tremendous cultural shock and then gradually his life becomes a long philosophical journey of self discovery. As the book is written by Upmanyu who is a civil servant himself he is able to capture the core of entire Indian generation , whose urban reality has a sharp contrast to that of the actual India in villages.
The sense of dislocation in Agastya is compounded by his lack of interest that he has in the weird ways of administration and government. His mind is always occupied by the thoughts of masturbation, marijuana, images of his urban life and meditations of Marcus Aurelius. And now in Madna his work will demand him to be a devoted servant of the people.
Though this wonderful work by Upmanyu is funny but it has the humane touch as well. It shows the modern world which is rarely depicted by anyone in their writings. The entire work is authentic, entertaining, convincing, natural and charming. Its classic touch cannot be compared to any other. For the ones who wish to view the other interesting side of the modern India English August is an excellent choice. You will observe immense filth and poverty which are faced by the people who live their entire life in these conditions and all this is shown through the eyes of an arrogant brat. In order to have the real feeling of this writing you must go through it and then you will know that what makes English August so different and unique from others.