Ghachar Ghochar: A Novel

Paperback | February 7, 2017

byVivek ShanbhagTranslated bySrinath Perur

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"[Shanbhag] is a master of inference and omission...What’s most impressive about Ghachar how much intricacy and turmoil gets distilled into its few pages." Wall Street Journal

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

"A firecracker of a novel...concise and mesmerizing." —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

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, the family dynamic begins to shift. 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 meaning 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
One of the BBC's "10 Books You Should Read in February"
One of Publishers Weekly's "Writers to Watch Spring 2017"
One of the contributors' "Books We Loved in 2016"

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From the Publisher

"[Shanbhag] is a master of inference and omission...What’s most impressive about Ghachar how much intricacy and turmoil gets distilled into its few pages." —Wall Street Journal"One of the best novels to have come out of India in recent decades." —Pankaj Mishra"A firecracker of a novel...concise and mesmerizing." —Publisher...

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. He was a Fall 2016 resident at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. The first of his books to appear in English, Ghachar Ghochar was excerpted in Granta’s 2...

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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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Customer Reviews of Ghachar Ghochar: A Novel


Extra Content

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

"[Shanbhag] is a master of inference and omission...What’s most impressive about Ghachar how much intricacy and turmoil gets distilled into its few pages...[A] wise and skillful book." —Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal"Ghachar Ghochar introduces us to a master." —Lorin Stein, The Paris Review"An extraordinary storyteller — one astutely alive to the competing forces of self-interest and empathy."—Jonathan Lee, Electric Literature"A firecracker of a novel...concise and mesmerizing." —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review"One of the best novels to have come out of India in recent decades." —Pankaj Mishra, author of Age of Anger“Vivek Shanbhag is an Indian Chekhov.” —Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City"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, 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, author of The Association of Small Bombs “Vivek Shanbhag is one of those writers whose voice takes your breath away at the first encounter.” —Yiyun Li, author of Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life"A compact novel that crackles with tension." —Kirkus Reviews“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)“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)“Ghachar Ghochar reveals a consummate fiction writer at the height of his powers. . . . a literary sensation across India.” — (India)“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, 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