All About H. Hatterr

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2007-11-06
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics
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Wildly funny and wonderfully bizarre, G. V. Desani'sAll About H. Hatterris an altogether incomparable creation, though it's fair to say that it stands with Flann O'Brien'sAt Swim Too Birdsas one of the most perfectly eccentric and strangely absorbing works modern English has produced. It is among other things a book that helped makeMidnight's Childrenpossible, because, as Salman Rushdie has written, "it showed how English could be bent and kneaded until it spoke in an authentically Indian voice." H. Hatterr is the son of a European merchant officer and a lady from Penang who has been raised and educated in missionary schools in Calcutta. His story is of his search for enlightenment as, in the course of visiting seven different oriental cities, he consults with seven different sages, each of whom specializes in a different aspect of "Living." Each teacher delivers himself of a great "Generality," each great Generality launches a new great "Adventure," from each of which Hatter escapes not so much greatly edified as by the skin of his teeth. The book is a comic extravaganza, but as Anthony Burgess has written, "it is the language that makes the book, a sort of creative chaos that grumbles at restraining banks. It is what may be termed Whole Language, in which philosophic terms, the colloquialisms of Calcutta and London, Shakespearean archaisms, bazaar whinings, quack spiels, references to the Hindu Pantheon, the jargon of Indian litigation, and shrill babu irritability seethe together. It is not pure English; it is like Shakespeare, Joyce, and Kipling, gloriously impure."

Author Biography

G. V. Desani (1909—2001) was born Nairobi, Kenya and raised in India. In the late 1930s, and throughout the war, he was a BBC broadcaster and lectured on India. He contributed regularly to The Times of India's Illustrated Weekly and produced a weekly opinion page called "Very High and Very Low." He moved to the United States in 1970 to teach at Boston University and subsequently the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a Professor of Religion and Philosophy.

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