It wasn’t a book so much as a bomb, assembled with precision and intent. It was as if Bhattacharya had meticulously gathered fragments from a broken, fractured world, wiring the parts together with language and soldering the terminals with humor, compassion, and rage—and then set the story on a timer ... Harbart demolishes...established pieties right from the start ... The skeleton of synopsis and plot...can indicate only haltingly the exceptional achievement of Harbart, the kind of artistic and political breakthrough it exemplifies. It is not operating, in spite of its astutely observed details of social milieu, character, and cityscape, within the frame of conventional realism ... it moves rapidly in time, compressing entire centuries of violent history (colonialism, the Communist and Naxalite movements, the corruption of the postcolonial state, the counterrevolution of the market) into the brief life of its protagonist while also inserting a kind of magic realism ... The work...lives on, its aesthetics and politics showing a new way for fiction in an India drowning under the onslaught of corporations and right-wing politics, weakly oscillating between globalization’s fading sun and fascism’s stormy promise.
... lean and sumptuous ... at once comic and tragic, raucous and dreary ... the grim milieu is graced with something gentler, more playful ... There are even echoes of T.S. Eliot. Such effects attest to the care and sensitivity of the translation by Sunandini Banerjee ... This first U.S. publication brings off a remarkable resurrection [for Bhattacharya], one that erupts full-blooded, alive with laughter, stink and rage.
... a wild ride...in vibrant, humorous prose ... the work’s main appeal comes because Bhattacharya’s writing is so energetic. Descriptions are fresh, and conversations are lively and often bawdy. Fragments result in a fast pace, and the narrative is full of sudden shifts that plunge into new times and places without explanation, gradually offering orienting details ... A rich range of tones veers from tragic to humorous, sincere to satirical, these shifts accomplished with ease. The text is gritty with the realism of dirty city streets, drunken revelries, and political violence, but also contains elements of fantasy, as when a fairy appears to keep a benevolent eye on Harbart.