Calcutta: Two Years in the City, By Amit Chaudhuri
Reviewed by Arminta Wallace
Calcutta: Two Years In The City
The Indian musician, novelist and literary critic Amit Chaudhuri was born in Calcutta, grew up in Bombay and then moved to London. When he returned to Calcutta at the age of 37 he found he had come “home” to a city that had moved a long way from the locus of his childhood memories. This book – a magpie text composed of essays, anecdotes, snatches of poetry and conversations with people from all walks of Calcutta life – oscillates between the twin poles of rose-tinted nostalgia and the often brutal realities of the city’s contemporary streets. The stubborn obliqueness of Chaudhuri’s point of view, coupled with his relaxed, discursive pace, make the opening 50 pages of Calcutta something of a trial. Once you settle into it, though, Chaudhuri sets out a sparkling stall that places Rabindranath Tagore alongside Elizabeth Bishop, Bengali soccer stars next to traditional jewellery, Marxist politics alongside (a current Calcutta craze this, apparently) pizza. An unorthodox biography for an anarchic city.