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Serious Men: A Novel by Manu Joseph

Serious Men: A Novel (2010)

by Manu Joseph

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The Institute of Theory and Research is indeed a serious place where Astrophysicists and Astrobiologists search for life in the universe. This is especially true for the erstwhile director, Arvind Archarya. He finds himself at the head of scheming scientists and a personal assistance from the Dalits ( a group in India who are members of a lower caste)who schemes his way into by declaring his son a math genius and providing with questions to frustrate his teachers.

Arvind and Ayyan represent what at first glance seem to opposite ends of the spectrum but their stories become intertwined as one rises while the other temporarily falters. Manu Joseph has presented us with an insightful and faced paced comedy that reveals life in contemporary India.

This is novel of an emerging India that can provide scientific advances alongside of European and American scientists and at the same time preserve an ancient and oppressive caste system. Ayyan not only works the systems in behalf of his son but is adept at office politics and keenly aware that his caste status can be both a deficit and also of some use to him as he maneuvers the hallways of the Institute. ( )
  Wisconco | May 5, 2015 |
Not sure how I heard about this book but I am glad that I read it. It is a social satire about the highs and lows of Indian society set in Mumbai. The main character is a dalit(formerly an untouchable) who works for an Institute that explores potential extraterrestrial life and is run by the highest level of Indian society. The contrasts between the 2 create an excellent story. Ayyan the clerk manipulates and cleverly creates chaos to elevate his son and stir up problems at the Institute. I thought the writing was excellent and the insight into Indian society was a positive by product of an excellent and funny book. Based on this I am going to read his 2nd novel. I definitely recommend this. ( )
  nivramkoorb | Feb 18, 2015 |
When I read a wonderful book like Serious Men that actually debuted in 2010, I wonder how many amazing books slip through the cracks. This one certainly did.

Our main character, Ayyan, is poor and low-caste in India. His boss teeters on the edge of ruining the reputation of the entire institute where he works by pursuing a wacky attempt to prove the existence of aliens. His wife is nervous and his son is anonymous. Ayyan decides to embark on a crazy scheme to change his life.

Beautifully written. ( )
  debnance | Jun 1, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
An interesting campus comedy which includes some big ideas about the nature of belief and knowledge. ( )
  lanceparkin | Mar 27, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Serious Men is delightful -- a cleverly and beautifully written satire with intriguing characters and an insightful look at the divide between the haves and have-nots in contemporary Mumbai.

Ayyan Mani, a Dalit (formerly untouchable) clerk works for Brahmin scientists in the Institute of Theory and Research as they search for the influences of alien life of earth. At home, Ayyan lives in one room of a massive chawl tenement with his soap-opera addicted wife, Oja, and eleven-year old son, Adit. He is determined to make life for his family more exciting, and he proceeds in classic trickster fashion.

His boss, the renowned astronomer and Director of the Institute, Dr. Arvind Archarya, becomes embroiled in a war with his colleagues over the methodologies of finding alien life and in an extra-marital affair with the first woman scientist at the Institute. Ayyan does not hesitate to take advantage of the situation revelling in the discomfiture of the Brahmins.

That said, Joseph writes with a light touch and grants all the major characters their humanity (there are some dastardly villains to spice up the mixture). Highly recommended for an entertaining read. ( )
1 vote janeajones | Dec 31, 2011 |
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Manu Joseph's first novel elegantly describes collisions with an unyielding status quo, ably counterpointing the frustrations of the powerless with the unfulfilling realities of power. With this astute comedy of manners he makes a convincing bid for his own recognition as a novelist of serious talent, the latest addition to a roster of Indian writers who are creating fine literary art from their country's fearsome contradictions.
added by Cariola | editThe Independent, Peter Carty (Jun 11, 2010)
Joseph's finely portrayed characters exude wit and warmth in this engaging and introspective tale.
added by bell7 | editBooklist, Leah Strauss
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393338592, Paperback)

A poignant, bitingly funny Indian satire and love story set in a scientific institute and in Mumbai’s humid tenements.

Ayyan Mani will not be constrained by Indian traditions. Despite working at the Institute of Theory and Research in Mumbai as the lowly personal assistant to a brilliant but insufferable astronomer, he dreams of more for himself and his family.

Ever wily and ambitious, Ayyan weaves two plots: the first to cheer up his weary, soap-opera-addicted wife by creating outrageous fictions around their ten-year-old son; the other to sabotage the married director by using his boss’s seeming romance with the institute’s first female—and very attractive—researcher. Meanwhile, as the institute’s Brahmins wage a vicious war over theories about alien life, Ayyan sees his deceptions intertwining and setting in motion a series of extraordinary events he cannot stop. Unfailingly funny and irreverent, Serious Men is at once a hilarious portrayal of runaway egos and ambitions and a moving portrait of love and its strange workings.

One of 2010’s “First Novels to Savor.” —Sunday Telegraph

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:21 -0400)

Funny and irreverent, Serious Men is at once a hilarious portrayal of runaway egos and ambitions and a moving portrait of love and its strange workings.

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W.W. Norton

An edition of this book was published by W.W. Norton.

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