The Strange case of Billy Biswas by Arun Joshi


“This is where I belong. This is what I have always dreamt of”

A thought provoking novel, strangely captivating named title, engaging story line and of course, the added mystery of the titular character, Billy Biswas which prevails the normal and the abnormal, the ordinary and the extraordinary, illusion and reality, resignation and desire rub shoulders.
‘The Strange Case of Billy Biswas’ is a mocking attack on the materialistic civilized society and applause of the past ancient culture wherein lies the solution for the ills of the modern society.
The novel begins with a quick glimpse into the storyteller’s present and then moves onto the past, specifically his happenstances with Billy Biswas. How he met Billy, what happened, the place where he lived while he pursued his Ph. D. and the immediate consequences of Billy’s quest for understanding himself? What makes Billy do what he does when he has everything going for him – education, wealth, status and a loving wife? His inner world is shaken by growing discontent and dissatisfaction with his life and his restlessness grows gradually.
Being told from the perspective of his close friend, the book makes for an engaging and enjoyable ‘suspense thriller’ of answering the many mysteries that surround Billy Biswas. The narrator is a close friend of Billy and the novel allows room for him to divulge some of the ambiguity and mystery that seems to surround Biswas.
The narrative happens in quick succession with great sophistication and élan. Joshi has presented us with a complex story line which engages the reader from the beginning, starting with his peculiar title, which gently coaxes us to find out what is so ‘strange’ with the protagonist of the story, Billy Biswas. Through Biswas, Joshi is able to incorporate a man of western ideas with Indian ideologies and is able to create a very Indian novel. The novel has a strong story and plot line with an equally strong and fascinating narrator who pulls you deep into the story and Billy.
The author has written such a powerful and mesmerizing tale in 70s era which cannot be matched by many of current popular writers of India. Truth be told- it did leave me dazed and high immediately after finishing it. Plotted against the backdrop of India in the 70s, with its flawless English and vivid imagery, this book did leave a mark. Strange it may seem for one to abnegate the luxuries of modern life, and lead a tribal life, but that’s what billybiswas’ story is all about.A good and a quick read, with the message – “The most futile cry of man is his wish to be understood” I found it hard to even put the book down. Arun Joshi is an excellent storyteller and the book engrossed me from start to end.I finished it in two days in 4 sittings. I will recommend it to anyone who prefer such intellectual topics as following one’s heart and also who likes philosophical themed stories. The novel is rich in communicating a feeling of voyage, suspense and curiosity.

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