Ghachar Ghochar: A Novel

Paperback | February 7, 2017

byVivek ShanbhagTranslated bySrinath Perur

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“Vivek Shanbhag is an Indian Chekhov.” —Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City

"One of the best novels to have come out of India in recent decades." —Pankaj Mishra

For readers of Akhil Sharma, Mohsin Hamid, and Teju Cole, a haunting, masterly novel about a family splintered by success in rapidly changing India
A young man's close-knit family is nearly destitute when his uncle founds a successful spice company, changing their fortunes overnight. As they move from a cramped, ant-infested shack to a larger house on the other side of Bangalore, and try to adjust to a new way of life, allegiances realign; marriages are arranged and begin to falter; and conflict brews ominously in the background. Things become “ghachar ghochar”—a nonsense phrase uttered by one of the characters that comes to mean something tangled beyond repair, a knot that can't be untied. Elegantly written and punctuated by moments of unexpected warmth and humor, Ghachar Ghochar is a quietly enthralling, deeply unsettling novel about the shifting meanings—and consequences—of financial gain in contemporary India.

Longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award

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From the Publisher

“Vivek Shanbhag is an Indian Chekhov.” —Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City"One of the best novels to have come out of India in recent decades." —Pankaj Mishra For readers of Akhil Sharma, Mohsin Hamid, and Teju Cole, a haunting, masterly novel about a family splintered by success in rapidly changing India  A young man's close-knit fa...

Vivek Shanbhag is the author of eight works of fiction and two plays, all of which have been published to wide acclaim in the South Indian language Kannada. The first of his books to appear in English, Ghachar Ghochar was excerpted in Granta’s 2015 India issue.Srinath Perur (translator) is a writer and translator whose work has appeare...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:128 pages, 7.1 × 5.11 × 0.42 inPublished:February 7, 2017Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:014311168X

ISBN - 13:9780143111689

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Bookclub Guide

US1. The narrator is a regular customer at Coffee House. What draws him there?2. What is your opinion of the narrator? Is he as hapless as he portrays himself to be? Why does he alone remain nameless?3. Why didn’t the narrator’s relationship with Chitra work out? Would he have married a woman like Anita if he had met her by chance rather than by arrangement?4. Why is Chikkappa so generous to the rest of the family? Does his behavior set the tone for the household?5. What was Chikkappa’s relationship with Suhasini, do you think? 6. Why is Appa ambivalent about the family’s new wealth? If he were to become “ruinously entangled in some philanthropic enterprise” (p. 23), what might the rest of the family do to prevent his giving away his share of the business?7. Which members of the family would have been happier if Chikkappa hadn’t opened Sona Masala? Is sudden wealth more a curse than a blessing? 8. What is the significance of the ant infestation?9. At what point does the story begin to feel sinister? 10. What role does Vincent, the Coffee House waiter, play in the novel? Why does the narrator choose to open his story by talking about him?11. Early on in the novel, the narrator thinks, “Words, after all, are nothing by themselves. They burst into meaning only in the minds they’ve entered” (p. 5). Discuss an instance in the novel that illustrates this.12. Is there anything more you wish you knew about any of the characters?13. Ghachar Ghochar is the first novel written in Kannada to be published in English in the United States. In what ways does the story Shanbhag tells feel foreign? In what ways does it feel universal?14. Vivek Shanbhag has been compared to Anton Chekhov. Are there other writers whose work this book is reminiscent of? 15. Have you ever experienced a feeling of “ghachar ghochar” in your own life? Discuss.

Editorial Reviews

"A firecracker of a novel...concise and mesmerizing." —Publishers Weekly, Boxed & Starred Review"A compact novel that crackles with tension." —Kirkus Reviews"In this exquisitely observed, wry and moving novel, the smallest detail can conjure entire worlds of feeling. Vivek Shanbhag is a writer of rare and wonderful gifts." —Garth Greenwell, National Book Award longlisted author of What Belongs to You"One of my favorite contemporary writers in English translates one of the leading figures of Kannada literature. The result is mesmerizing, distressing—and altogether brilliant." —Karan Mahajan, National Book Award longlisted author of The Association of Small Bombs “Vivek Shanbhag is one of those writers whose voice takes your breath away at the first encounter. Ghachar Ghochar presents life and its undercurrents with limpid prose and quiet insight.” —Yiyun Li, author of Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life"Tenderly alert to the new passions and disappointments of a 'rising' bourgeoisie, and handling its complex material with brilliant artistic economy, Ghachar Ghochar is one of the best novels to have come out of India in recent decades." —Pankaj Mishra, author of From the Ruins of Empire“How did Shanbhag manage to pack so much, so effortlessly and lucidly, into just over a hundred pages? Ghachar Ghochar is a book of distilled simplicity, its surface of seeming artlessness hiding that most complex and complicated of things—truthfully rendered human life. Beautiful, tense, surprising, utterly convincing and wise, and translated with real inspiration by Srinath Perur.”  —Neel Mukherjee, Booker shortlisted author of The Lives of Others“A remarkable novel about the fragile civilities of bourgeois life. The reader becomes absorbed in the unforgiving self-knowledge and expansive humanity contained in every page.” —Amit Chaudhuri, author of Freedom Song and Odysseus Abroad“Ghachar Ghochar is one of the most striking novels you’ll read this decade. . . . In Shanbhag’s hands, the Indian family is revealed in layers; as one layer peels away, what lies beneath is left raw and exposed.” —Nilanjana Roy, Business Standard (India)“This is a superb novel, unsettling and even claustrophobic . . . but also moving and genuinely funny.” —The Hindu (India)“Very rarely a book comes along that you want to thrust in the hands of everyone—readers and non-readers. Ghachar Ghochar is one such book.” —Prajwal Parajuly, The Hindustan Times (India)“Altogether a delight to read . . . Shanbhag gives us an insider’s feel for the concerns that have shaped the middle class in the last half a century.” —Girish Karnad, The Indian Express (India)“An ingenious tale of how material wealth robs a family of its moral fortitude . . . [Shanbhag] is obviously a master of the form.” —Mint (India)“Truly a must-read.” —The Navhind Times (India)“Ghachar Ghochar reveals a consummate fiction writer at the height of his powers. . . . a literary sensation across India.” — (India)