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Monday, August 10, 2015

All About H. Hatterr (1948) by G.V. Desani

Book Review All About H. Hatterr (1948) by G.V. Desani All About H. Hatterr, written by Anglo-Indian author G.V. Desani is equal parts 18th century picaresque, 20th century experimental modernist coming of age story and 21st century post-colonial fantasia. Depending on your background, Desani might most remind you of Lawrence Sterne, James Joyce or Salman Rushdie. For me, the 18th century picaresque element was the most substantial element. Desani's use of language combines English and Hindu vocabulary and grammatical form. Desani's use of dialect is utterly unique for the time period, and anticipates much of the most inventive literature of the post World War II era. All About H. Hatterr contains story elements that will feel intimately familiar to fans of 60s hippie lit or post-colonial magic realism etc, Hatterr drifts across the Indian continent, swinging between workings as a Western style journalist and masquerading as an Eastern guru. He covers himself in ash, wears western business suits, gets embroiled in protracted civil litigation- events follow one another with little thought to an overriding theme or character development. This lack of character development is what makes All About H. Hatterr resemble an 18th century picaresque written in the 20th century. The edition I read was published by the New York Review of Books, a sure sign that few in America have read or heard of this title. That is a shame, because the originality of All About H. Hatterr is breathtaking and totally unique for the time period in which it was published.

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