The Time Of The Peacock by Siddharth Chowdhury is fabulous. It is published by Aleph Book Company. Fiction that is thinly veiled account of contemporary Indian publishing is always very welcome. But a story/s like this that smartly begins like a “straightforward” story in English, slowly disappears into a fascinating literary rabbit hole of diverse landscapes and cultures and conversations that India has to offer. It requires extraordinary skill sets as a writer to put the spotlight on publishing as we know it today in India and then make mincemeat of it by upturning the smooth English narrative style by slipping into dialects. The plot is deftly contextualised within the disturbing socio-political landscape of India where the publishing world becomes an excuse to dip in and dip out of stories and socio-economic classes, thereby at times highlighting the narrowness of the books being published that at times fail to mirror their society. It is a story that is very reminiscent of Elif Batuman ‘s magnificent novel The Idiot, in which the author transformed not just the protagonist but the reader too with the astonishing storytelling, a combination of the plot and literary techniques that slowly developed, layer by layer, as the student in the novel acquired the requisite academic skills. Similarly with The Time of the Peacock, the reader is left emotionally drained but in a satisfying way. In all likelihood it will be a book that will be read, critically analysed, dissected and assume academic importance in the years to come.
18 Feb 2021