The Epic City: Book summary and reviews of The Epic City by Kushanava Choudhury

The Epic City

The World on the Streets of Calcutta

by Kushanava Choudhury

The Epic City by Kushanava Choudhury X
The Epic City by Kushanava Choudhury

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Book Summary

A masterful, entirely fresh portrait of great hopes and dashed dreams in a mythical city from a new literary voice.

Everything that could possibly be wrong with a city was wrong with Calcutta.

When Kushanava Choudhury arrived in New Jersey at the age of twelve, he had already migrated halfway around the world four times. After graduating from Princeton, he moved back to the region his immigrant parents had abandoned, to a city built between a river and a swamp, where the moisture-drenched air swarms with mosquitos after sundown.

Once the capital of the British Raj, and later India's industrial and cultural hub, by 2001 Calcutta was clearly past its prime. Why, his relatives beseeched him, had he returned? Surely, he could have moved to Delhi, Bombay, or Bangalore, where a new golden age of consumption was being born.

Yet fifteen million people still lived in Calcutta. Working for the Statesman, its leading English newspaper, Kushanava Choudhury found the streets of his childhood unchanged by time. Shouting hawkers still overran the footpaths, fish-sellers squatted on bazaar floors; politics still meant barricades and bus burnings.

Sifting through the chaos for the stories that never make the papers, Kushanava Choudhury paints a soulful, compelling portrait of the everyday lives that make Calcutta. Written with humanity, wit, and insight, The Epic City is an unforgettable portrait of a city that is a world unto itself.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Choudhury unearths Calcutta's haunted past - exploring the Bengal famine, Partition, and the Naxalite revolution - and, in beautiful prose, he brings the city to life." - Publishers Weekly

"An insightful melding of family memoir, autobiography, and history ... A candid and often moving history of a city's dramatic past and roiling present." - Kirkus

"A beautifully observed and even more beautifully written new study of Calcutta. In its author, Kushanava Choudhury, we clearly have an important new talent." - The Guardian (UK), "Best Holiday Reads 2017"

"Witty, polished, honest and insightful, The Epic City is likely to become for Calcutta what Suketu Mehta's classic Maximum City is for Mumbai." - The Observer (UK)

"[A]s The Epic City continues, it opens out into some beautifully drawn out episodes ... the end of Chaudhuri's story slows down to note Calcutta's river, the Ganges, which he described tenderly as the colour of 'milky tea', and in a lovely ending, he transmits the self-renewing, infinitely modern energy of the city, which seems everywhere decaying but in fact is always 'just beginning'." - Spectator (UK)

"[Choudhury] reveal[s] the living, breathing urban organism that is Calcutta ... Like all good epics, Choudhury's heartfelt and well-observed portrait of the city of his birth promises to stand the test of time." - Literary Review (UK)

"In a book filled with love, fascination and frustration [Choudhury] explores street scenes, delves into the seeming chaos and memorably reveals the minutiae of real people's lives." - Choice Magazine (UK)

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Author Information

Kushanava Choudhury

Kushanava Choudhury grew up in Calcutta and New Jersey. After graduating from Princeton University he worked as a reporter at the Statesman in Calcutta. He went on to receive a PhD in Political Theory from Yale University before returning to Calcutta to write a book about the city. The Epic City is his first book.

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