The tense fun of reading this vivid, fretful story lies in watching the main characters grab hold of what they think will be rescue ropes, but instead turn out to be slip knots ... Ghachar Ghochar is filled with wry poetic lines like that one where Shanbhag — and his translator, Srinath Perur — have rendered emotions and even random thoughts in language that's as pungent as those spices the family is marketing. Within the tight confines of a hundred pages or so, Shanbhag presents as densely layered a social vision of Bangalore as Edith Wharton did of New York in The House of Mirth ... Ghachar Ghochar is the first of Shanbhag's fiction to be published in English, but I expect it won't be the last. He's one of those special writers who can bring a fully realized world to life in a few pages and also manages to work in smart social commentary about fears that don't require much translation.
This spiny, scary story of moral decline, crisply plotted and no thicker than my thumb, has been heralded as the finest Indian novel in a decade, notable for a book in bhasha, one of India’s vernacular languages ... Folded into the compressed, densely psychological portrait of this family is a whole universe: a parable of rising India, an indictment of domestic violence, a taxonomy of ants and a sly commentary on translation itself ... Shanbhag is excellent on the inner logic of families, and of language, how even the most innocent phrases come freighted with history ... The book in our hands is elegant, lean, balletic.
Ghachar Ghochar is both fascinatingly different from much Indian writing in English, and provides a masterclass in crafting, particularly on the power of leaving things unsaid ... the short novel is the perfect form for Shanbhag’s particular talents: precise observations, accumulation of detail, narrative progression by way of oblique tangents ... there is no doubt that this deceptively unassuming book will find its readership.
...this novella is a comforting read until the grounds at the end which leave a surprisingly bitter taste. On the surface, Ghachar Ghochar is a family saga which charts the everyday life of its members as they move from poor to wealthy in one generation. As to be expected, the family becomes corrupted by its newfound riches over time. But author Vivek Shanbhag’s skillful treatment of the cliché turns it into a metaphor for modern India and provides the insight that the impact of economic prosperity isn’t always positive. In particular, the work shows that women are generally the losers in a society obsessed with consumer disposables.
What’s most impressive about Ghachar Ghochar—the title is a slang phrase Anita uses when things get all tangled up—is how much intricacy and turmoil gets distilled into its few pages. Mr. Shanbhag, who writes in the South Indian language Kannada and is translated here by Srinath Perur into clean, conversational English, is a master of inference and omission. The dimensions of the gilded cage that trap the family appear gradually, and then suddenly. 'They say the newly rich carry umbrellas to keep moonlight at bay,' the sister’s mother-in-law jealously muses. But there’s a deeper loneliness in this wise and skillful book that no covering can conceal.