Perhaps the problem underlying Choudhury’s attempt to write a secret history of Kolkata is that he either does not know or does not want his readers to know that he knows the unsecret history of the city ... If you read Bangla and live in Kolkata, this book is not really for you. But if you lack either of these qualifications, this might be the kind of well-written, fairly humorous narrative you might want to dip into on a muggy Kolkata weekend afternoon.
History, well and freshly told, is perhaps Choudhury’s forte. He doesn’t know Calcutta’s all that well, so we get to see it with the same new eyes ... We learn, in dribs and dabs, about the genteel decline of the numinous old city. Choudhury will occasionally outdo himself in place writing ... This is not to fall prey to Orientalism, but to be observant, to stop and smell the coffee.
And yet for all this, The Epic City is a wonderful, beautifully written and even more beautifully observed love letter to Calcutta’s greatness: to its high culture, its music and film, its festivals, its people, its cuisine, its urban rhythms and, above all, to its rooted Bengaliness ... Very occasionally, Choudhury can fall short as a guide to the deeply eccentric city he loves so much and he is notably rusty on his history and architecture ... This is a first book any author would be proud to have written and The Epic City clearly marks the arrival of a new star. Witty, polished, honest and insightful, The Epic City is likely to become for Calcutta what Suketu Mehta’s classic Maximum City is for Mumbai.