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Chowringhee by Sankar
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Chowringhee (edition 2009)

by Sankar (Author)

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1585127,367 (3.42)20
Chowringhee, first published in Bengali in 1962, is a sprawling saga of the intimate lives of managers, employees and guests at one of Calcutta's largest hotels, the Shahjahan. Shankar, the newest recruit, recounts the stories of the inhabitants of the suites, restaurants, bars and backrooms of the hotel. As both observer and participant, he tells of the unfulfilled desires, broken dreams, callous manipulations and unbidden tragedies of those who work and live there - the enigmatic manager Marco Polo, the debonair receptionist Sata Bose, and the tragic hostess Karabi Guha, among others. What unfolds is not just the story of individual lives but also the glittering chronicle of a lost metropolis. 'I lost myself in it for days. A wonderful experience - both gripping and moving. I. hope it gets the wide readership it deserves.' Vikram Seth.… (more)
Member:RBLaycock
Title:Chowringhee
Authors:Sankar (Author)
Info:Atlantic Books (2009)
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Chowringhee by Sankar

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Showing 4 of 4
There are plenty of books about India, but Chowringhee stands apart from the crowd for two reasons - it was written in the 1960s, which means that the India portrayed in it is very different from that in later works, even those which imagine earlier decades; and it was written in Bengali, and it's still pretty hard to find books translated from Indian languages into English - most of the books available were written in English.

Chowringhee tells the story of a hotel in the Chowringhee neighbourhood of Calcutta. The Shahjahan is an old colonial hotel, still haunted by the ghost of its founder Mr Simpson, who stalks around at night playing tricks on any staff who have fallen asleep during their shift. In 1960s India, there is an air of seediness about the hotel, despite its high-quality service. It's a place for people passing through, for drinking and illicit affairs, with 'daring' cabaret acts in the bar and a businessman who's permanently booked one of the suites and installed a 'hostess' there to look after his clients.

The narrator is Shankar, a new receptionist at the start of the book, who gradually gets to know the stories of both staff and guests, and starts to understand all the things that happen behind the scenes - whether that's the amount of work required to make a banquet go perfectly, or the back-door dealing required to get a major contract signed.

This is a book about a time and a place, where the atmosphere is more important than the plot developments. Individuals - from the poorest of the staff to the most important hotel guests - enter the narrative, tell us their stories, then drift out again. Many of them are very sympathetically drawn, but the things that happen to them can be a bit cartoonish, which weakens the book. However, I very much enjoyed the glimpse into a different era of India. ( )
1 vote wandering_star | Apr 14, 2012 |
Romesh Gunesekera, en The Guardian, 18 April 2009: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/apr/18/chowringhee-sankar-book-review
  Albertos | Sep 18, 2011 |
This book is full of fascinating characters who all relate so beautifully to one another. Through the daily operations of a hotel, a subtle story emerges. ( )
  CarolineTrevor | Aug 10, 2010 |
This novel was originally written in 1962, and is one of the most popular novels of 20th century Bengali literature. A movie of the same title was equally popular and well received. Chowringhee was not published in English until 2007, and the translation won two major awards. This edition was published earlier this year in the UK by Atlantic Books.

The setting of this novel is Chowringhee, a neighborhood in Calcutta, in the mid-1950s. The narrator, Shankar, is an ambitious young man who finds himself out of a job with an English barrister, and is barely surviving by selling wastepaper baskets door to door. As he sits in a neighborhood park, pondering his past and fearful of what the future holds for him, a friend of his passes by, who is shocked by Shankar's descent into poverty. He tells Shankar that he can get him a job at the Shahjahan Hotel, one of the city's oldest and most venerable hotels, as the hotel manager is one of his clients.

Shankar is immediately befriended by Sata Bose, the hotel's chief receptionist, and after a brief stint as a typist, Shankar becomes Bose-da's main assistant and close confidant. The manager, Marco Polo, takes a liking to him as well, and young Shankar is given more responsibilities by both men. The novel revolves around the guests, entertainers, and frequent visitors of the Shahjahan, but several members of the hotel staff get equal billing in Shankar's narrative. We learn about the seamy underside of the elite of Calcutta, whose greed, shady deals, and shameful behaviors are initially shocking to our naïve young man, but he soons become jaded and disgusted by them. The poverty of working and jobless Calcuttans is vividly portrayed, as those not in the upper echelon are only one stroke of bad luck away from living in the streets or in dilapidated hovels. Love is a central theme, amongst the guests and workers, with often tragic results.

Chowringhee was a very entertaining and light-hearted though tragic read, which richly and effectively portrayed the struggles, joys and frustrations of the different strata of mid-20th century Calcutta. ( )
7 vote kidzdoc | Nov 17, 2009 |
Showing 4 of 4
Brick by brick, tale by tale, Chowringhee builds up into a panoramic and utterly captivating picture of a workplace, a city and an era. Sankar – pen-name of the writer Mani Sankar Mukherji, who is happily still active – first published the novel in Bengali in 1962. It rapidly became a modern classic of a hugely rich but (to English-language readers) all but invisible literature. Like some late-arriving round of burra pegs after hours at the hotel bar, Arunava Sinha's translation, both fruity and spicy, tastes all the better for the wait. This old-fashioned feast of storytelling crawls with character, heaves with drama and bursts with flavour.
added by kidzdoc | editThe Independent, Boyd Tonkin (May 15, 2009)
 
Given the frenetic energy and ebullience of recent fiction coming out of India, it is something of a relief to rediscover the pleasures of an absorbing story simply told. Chowringhee has that essential quality of a good novel: the capacity to escape, and help the reader escape, time. You want to turn the pages, but you do not want the pages to end. The words are fresh, and the world of the novel is completely alive, despite being written over 40 years ago.
 
CHOWRINGHEE was one of the most popular books in Bengali literature in the 1960s. A translation into English was long overdue. It is well that Arunava Sinha has taken the initiative to fill the gap, thus giving a glimpse of Calcutta (long before Kolkata was accepted as the norm) in its heyday to a wider readership.

Writer Sankar (Mani Sankar Mukherjee), who made a mark with his first book Kato Ajanare, which presented fragments of life as it unfolded in the High Court on Old Post Office Street, took up a much more ambitious project with Chowringhee, depicting life behind the facade of a grand hotel. The film which was made based on the novel with Uttam Kumar as Sata Bose, the central character, was equally successful.
added by kidzdoc | editThe Hindu, Ranjita Biswas (Apr 1, 2007)
 
Bose and even Shankar often take a backseat; the book's hero is the Shahjahan itself. A place of “unbelievable arrogance”, the hotel is full of unhappy patrons who are free to do whatever they like as long as they pay their bill. Nityahari, who washes the dirty linen, is “immersed in sin 24 hours a day” (and duly suffers from Lady Macbeth’s obsessive hand-washing). But Shankar cares for the people in the hotel. His passage into adulthood is the frame around which their stories take shape, within the throbbing psycho-geography of Calcutta. The tales are seductive thanks to the wide-eyed amiability of Shankar’s voice, ably served by a faithful translation.
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sankarprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gobetti, NormanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To Sri Shankariprasad Basu, the producer, director and composer of my literary life.
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They call it Esplanade; we call it Chowringhee. And Curzon Park in Chowringhee is where I stopped to rest when my body, weary of the day's toils, refused to take another step. Bengal has heaped many curses upon Lord Curzon — it seems that the history of our misfortunes began the day the idea of dividing this green, fertile land of ours into two occurred to him. But that was a long time ago, and now, standing in the heart of Calcutta on a sun-battered afternoon in the twentieth century, I saluted the English lord, much maligned by history. May his soul rest in peace.
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Chowringhee, first published in Bengali in 1962, is a sprawling saga of the intimate lives of managers, employees and guests at one of Calcutta's largest hotels, the Shahjahan. Shankar, the newest recruit, recounts the stories of the inhabitants of the suites, restaurants, bars and backrooms of the hotel. As both observer and participant, he tells of the unfulfilled desires, broken dreams, callous manipulations and unbidden tragedies of those who work and live there - the enigmatic manager Marco Polo, the debonair receptionist Sata Bose, and the tragic hostess Karabi Guha, among others. What unfolds is not just the story of individual lives but also the glittering chronicle of a lost metropolis. 'I lost myself in it for days. A wonderful experience - both gripping and moving. I. hope it gets the wide readership it deserves.' Vikram Seth.

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