Summary and book reviews of Odysseus Abroad by Amit Chaudhuri

Odysseus Abroad

by Amit Chaudhuri

Odysseus Abroad by Amit Chaudhuri X
Odysseus Abroad by Amit Chaudhuri
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2015, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2016, 224 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

A beguiling new novel, at once wistful and ribald, about a day in the life of two Indian men in London, each coping in his own way with alienation, solitariness, and the very art of living.

From the widely acclaimed writer, a beguiling new novel, at once wistful and ribald, about a day in the life of two Indian men in London - a university student and his bachelor uncle - each coping in his own way with alienation, solitariness, and the very art of living.

It is 1985. Twenty-two-year-old Ananda has been in London for two years, practicing at being a poet. He's homesick, thinks of himself as an inveterate outsider, and yet he can't help feeling that there's something romantic, even poetic, in his isolation. His uncle, Radhesh, a magnificent failure who lives in genteel impoverishment and celibacy, has been in London for nearly three decades. Odysseus Abroad follows them on one of their weekly, familiar forays about town. The narrative surface has the sensual richness that has graced all of Amit Chaudhuri's work. But the great charm and depth of the novel reside in Ananda's far-ranging ruminations (into the triangle between his mother, father, and Radhesh - his mother's brother, his father's best friend; his Sylheti/Bengali ancestry; the ambitions and pressures that rest on his shoulders); in Radhesh's often artfully wielded idiosyncrasies; and in the spiky, needful, sometimes comical, yet ultimately loving connection between the two men.

One: Bloody Suitors!

He got up at around nine o' clock with the usual feeling of dread. He threw off the duvet. Still unused to being vertical, he pounded the pillow and the sheet to ensure he'd dislodged strands of hair as well as the micro-organisms that subsisted on such surfaces but were invisible to the naked eye. He straightened the duvet, tugging at it till it was symmetrical on each side. He smoothed the sheet, patting it but skimming the starchy bit - a shiny patch of dried semen, already quite old - on the right flank of where he'd lain.

The anger inside him hadn't gone – from the aftermath of the concert. He'd watched it six days ago on TV: Africa, London, and Philadelphia conjoined by satellite. He switched it off after three quarters of an hour. By the time the Boomtown Rats came on, and the sea of dancing people in Wembley Stadium was being intercut with Ethiopian children with innocent eyes and bulbous heads, a phrase had arisen in his ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Discuss the concept of "exile" in Odysseus Abroad as related to Homer's The Odyssey and James Joyce's Ulysses. What parallels can you draw among the works? Are there any similarities among the protagonists and their attitudes towards isolation?
  2. Discuss the Jorge Luis Borges epigraph that opens the novel. How does this quote relate to the content of Odysseus Abroad? How does the "right to…tradition" factor into Ananda's experiences as an outsider in London
  3. At several points in the novel, Ananda discusses his family's trip to London in 1973. How did his experiences during this trip shape his understanding of the city? What, if anything, about the city has changed since his earlier excursions?
  4. On page 9, Ananda ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

With his quiet ruminative voice and powerfully crafted sentences, Chaudhuri has carved himself a specific kind of niche, where high art can be found even in one long Sunday afternoon walk, in such everyday “small existential dramas.”   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Full Review (757 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

Media Reviews

The Financial Times (UK)
Both moving and witty . . . There is a richness and quirky detail in these later sections, which are funny and touching.

The Observer (UK)
Engrossing...Richly allusive...A witty narrative filled with wandering and wondering.

The Daily Mail (UK)
A little gem not to be missed...Almost unbearably moving and irresistibly hilarious in the space of a sentence.

The Independent (UK)
Treated with Chaudhuri's characteristic eloquence, kindly humour, poet's gift of observation, and awareness of the redolence of each moment.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The frustrated yearning to belong - somewhere, anywhere - reverberates plaintively throughout

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A work that captivates… Like Joyce, Chaudhuri recognizes that the seemingly artless rhythms and repetitions of daily life can have, in thoughtful hands, the depth and breadth of true art.

The Indian Express (India)
The texture and rhythm of ordinary lives come alive, and the reader departs, more alert to the invisible life of objects, rooms, and streets . . . Wry and unexpectedly funny, this novel about two men and their companionship seems to draw its charge from the city that Chaudhuri creates with delicate precision.

Irish Times
Chaudhuri is a singular writer. He defies form; instead he has perfected an observational fiction based on insight and memory . . . Chaudhuri’s understated art lies in his perception of displacement at its most subtle.

India Today (India)
A delightful novel . . . Odysseus Abroad essays a playful, idiosyncratic version of the bildungsroman, following its hero as he apprentices himself to the refinement of sensibility, socialisation, scholarly tradition, literary practice and the mastery of the survival tactics of everyday life

Author Blurb Nadeem Aslam
A wonderful novel which has everything in it—pathos, humour, lyricism and style—by one of the most remarkable novelists writing today.

Author Blurb Deborah Levy, author of Swimming Home
Witty, intimate, and modern, Chaudhuri’s insight into the loneliness and excitement of our search for elsewhere had me under its spell. An unforgettable walk through London and other worlds by one of our most entertaining and artful writers.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Rabindranath Tagore

Set in 1980s London, Odysseus Abroad features a young Bengali protagonist Ananda Sen, who is in the city to study poetry — "his sights were set on the Olympian, the Parnassian: especially getting published in Poetry Review." The elephant in the room is the greatest of all Bengali poets, Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941). Even if the venerable polymath once lived in London, he is no longer remembered, bemoan uncle and nephew in the novel: "...to be a Bengali in London meant being the owner of a Bangladeshi restaurant. What a joke, what a come-down!"

Rabindranath TagoreRabindranath Tagore (pronounced in Bengali as Row-bean-dra-naath Tag-ore) was a scion of a venerable Calcutta family; father Debendranath was a key figure in the Brahmo Samaj, a ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Odysseus Abroad, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: And The Ocean Was Our Sky
    And The Ocean Was Our Sky
    by Patrick Ness
    Patrick Ness has developed a reputation for experimental literature executed well, and his latest, ...
  • Book Jacket: Let It Bang
    Let It Bang
    by RJ Young
    Every interracial love story is an exercise in complications. R.J. Young and Lizzie Stafford's ...
  • Book Jacket: A Spark of Light
    A Spark of Light
    by Jodi Picoult
    The central premise of A Spark of Light involves a gunman holding hostages within the confines of a ...
  • Book Jacket: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
    An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
    by Hank Green
    As one half of the extremely popular YouTube duo "Vlogbrothers" (the other half being his brother ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Unsheltered
by Barbara Kingsolver

A timely novel that explores the human capacity for resiliency and compassion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Kinship of Secrets
    by Eugenia Kim

    Two sisters grow up bound by family but separated by war; inspired by a true story.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    A Ladder to the Sky
    by John Boyne

    A seductive, unputdownable psychodrama following one brilliant, ruthless man.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Severance

Severance by Ling Ma

An offbeat, wryly funny, apocalyptic satire that is featured on more than twenty 2018 "Must Read" lists!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I Ain't O U T F L S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.