- Paperback: 300 pages
- Publisher: Rupa Publications India (20 October 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 8129148919
- ISBN-13: 978-8129148919
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.5 x 21.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
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Mad Country: Stories Paperback – 9 Oct 2017
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About the Author
Samrat Upadhyay was born and raised in Nepal. He is the author of The City Son, which was shortlisted for the PEN Open Book Award. He has written for The New York Times and has appeared on BBC Radio and National Public Radio. Upadhyay teaches creative writing at Indiana University.
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Top customer reviews
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Mad country is collection of eight short stories, all set in Nepal. The setting works in favour of the book for apart from the scenic locations in movies, we hardly know the true Nepal. The author paints an incredible yet true picture of the country which abuts us.
The opening story Fast Forward touches dynamics of media-politics relationship. I felt indeed Nepal has rubbed something from its neighbour and cultural cousin - India. Beggar Boy demonstrates how lonely we are amidst all the riches. Though the reason why the protagonist takes up the life of the beggar was beyond comprehension. The characters in Samrat’s stories work out that way, the way they want, even if it may appear crazy, absurd for the rest of us. He subtly touches homosexuality in almost every story for unintended reasons again.
What Will Happen to the Sharma Family is a light read. It narrates how destiny can turn a zero into hero. In Freak Street we meet an American woman whose soul has turned a Nepali within six months of her stay in Nepal. But what happens when her life oscillates between two nationalities and two contradictory set of values sprouting from them. Dreaming of Ghana again in true Samrat style is the story of freaky people and their freakier journeys. An Affair Before the Earthquake is the shortest story in the book and is about a love story gone all wrong. Mad Country shows who political prisoners are and their lives in the prisons. America, the Great Equalizer is a slightly incomprehensible story again where the protagonist behaves in the most illogical manner.
I liked this book for the different, refreshing flavour which it offers. If you are looking forward for something like that this book is to be lapped up.
The cities, big and small and towns of Nepal are in the backdrop of the stories but there is nothing, in particular, to be said in respect to the country or its culture despite the names of the cities and streets he has taken in the stories. The protagonist of every story is a common citizen of Nepal. The stories are not written to teach a moralistic lesson or to convey a message or anything like. They are just stories. They come from the common people and their lives. They do not necessarily end on a good note or a happy ending. Do not expect an ending or closing of the story.
Walk the streets of Samrat Upadhyay’s Mad Country to hear the fascinating and delightful stories.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The stories are varied and I loved all but one. Working in the field of mental health, I especially appreciated 'Beggar Boy' about a young man whose life experiences have been so difficult for him that he is playing out a fantasy wherein he becomes someone else. 'What Will Happen to the Sharma Family' made me laugh as well as appreciate the issues that many families face despite variances in family dynamics. 'Freak Street' caught the struggles of a young woman hoping to find herself. A hippie in Kathmandu, she ends up living on Freak Street and becomes so ensconced in the family she stays with and the cultural milieu surrounding her, so much so that she changes her name and forgets about her previous life in Ohio. 'Mad Country', the title story, shows how one's stance in life is as precarious as the political environment of a particular time and place. No one should get too comfortable with their life status because all can tumble down at the drop of a hat. 'Fast Forward', the opening story, is about a young woman who runs an investigative journal and soon realizes that her fame and the truth are not suitable adversaries for the current political regime. The last story, 'America the Great Equalizer' looks closely at race, loss, and the disenfranchised.
I don't know why, but lately it has been difficult for me to get into short stories. This all changed when I picked up 'Mad Country'. Each story is separate but there are a few connected characters if the reader pays close enough attention. The stories are mesmerizing and written by a pro, an author whose view of the world is complex and wise.
The longest story in the collection – really a novelette – is “Dreaming of Ghana”. In its 90 pages, Upadhyay creates a confusing domestic drama; his main character, Aakash is for some reason a “major problem” for his parents because, it seems, he “lacks ambition” although he is obviously a nice person with a strong streak of compassion. I was completely unable to relate to the parents’ attitude, and was not clear on any of the motivations portrayed in this story.
As for the title story, “Mad Country”, if such a horrific sequence of events really could occur in Nepal, it is so totally appalling that I have no real way to relate.
None-the-less, these narratives do form an intriguing collage, and readers who are interested in what may be a “cultural experience” should find this book worthwhile.
The theme that binds all eight of these mini-works together is identity – identity that evolves and shifts as a result of changing landscapes and conflicts of self. Let’s start with Dreaming of Ghana, by far the longest in page count. Aakash – a young man who is a profound disappointment to his parents – begins to have strange dreams about Ghana, suspecting that “his dream was a lie, like the circus elephants.” That is, until a young, very dark woman appears, the personification of his dreams and a means of writing a new reality. The way the story plays out – on a surface level, the changes that the meeting evokes in Aakash and his roguish well-to-do friend and on a deeper level, the destruction of dreams and imagination – held my attention to the final gasp-worthy sentence.
The eponymous story Mad Country is my second favorite. In this one, a Type A Naalese businesswoman named Anamika inadvertently is held in detention by police after attempting to discover the belongings of her neer-do-well son. At first put-out by being inadvertently labeled a political prisoner and forced to mingle with the riff-raff of society, Anamika values and identity undergo an astounding transformation.
Other stories also are compelling: Beggar Boy, for example, where a privileged young man named Ramesh develops an obsession with the poor, even donning filthy old clothes and taking on their identity. And America the Great Equalizer – the only story set in the United States – where a promising Nepali graduate student learns the reality of being a black man in America.
Truly, this is an impressive collection. Nepal itself becomes a character of sorts, permeating each of these brilliant stories.