Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Serious Men

Manu Joseph
Serious Men

John Murray, 2011

At the center of this funny story are two men working at the Institute of Theory and Research in Mumbai, India. But the place of work of perhaps is the only thing that unites them.

Ayyan Mani is a representative of the lowest caste. Janitor's son, Mani began working at the Institute as a courier, rising to the position of secretary to one of the most important researchers of the Institute Arvind Acharya. Mani, after ten years of marriage, became tired of his silly wife and half-starved existence. His wife no longer seems attractive; the future does not seem bright. Not being the holder of outstanding intelligence, Mani nevertheless has the ability to intrigue. Every day, Mani places on the stand at the Institute fictitious quotes, allegedly belonging to an outstanding scientist or thinker, but in fact he makes these statements up. The only way to rise from the bottom Mani sees in his clever son. But just cleverness alone is not enough, you need something more. Deaf in one ear, Adi is presented by his father as a mathematical genius.

Eccentric people inhabit this somewhat eccentric story. «Serious Men» can be easily mistaken for satire, but it is rather humorous novel. Satirical allusions to the structure of Indian society, Indian science and Indian religion then are withdrawn dashed, and the humor here, perhaps, is even English.

All the troubles come from women - about this with a smirk on his face Manu Joseph is trying to tell us. Indeed, the plot is moved with this premise. This is the same engine of the ridiculous here. The two main characters are tormented by vanishing love in them. They're both tired of their wives, available lovely creatures with whom they had once felt good, and now somehow uncomfortable. Both the secretary and the scientist, excel, as they can, just to pull themselves out of the swamp, to refresh their covered with cobwebs existence. Mani sets up to the scam involving his son to shake his wife, to prove to her that even the lower castes can achieve something. Acharya is looking for bodily pleasures, and finds them in a lovely young colleague. But the scientist forgets that science and feelings are different matter, and they require a different approach. At the beginning of the novel there are a few funny scenes where Acharya looks in the mirror at his body, starts to use deodorant, though he already seems to have given up on his looks long ago.

The story would be lost in the background of similar ones, if the action occurred in Britain, for example, not in India. Exotic colors entourage battered story in a new way. The people there have a different mentality, different views on life, different values. The mere fact that India has the Institute for the search of extraterrestrial life, is laughable.

Joseph is verbose, but he does have a sense of the word. He can equally good describe the poor neighborhood and the meeting of the Disciplinary Commission. This is a leisure reading, but because, after all, it is not a thriller.

Serious Men does not discover new lands, but tells a story that could suck you in and make you laugh.

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