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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Ranga Rao

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To purchase Fowl-Filcher

Title: Fowl-Filcher
Author: Ranga Rao
Genre: Novel
Written: 1987
Length: jgihroighr; pages
Availability: Fowl-Filcher - US
Fowl-Filcher - UK
Fowl-Filcher - Canada
Fowl-Filcher - India

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Our Assessment:

B : decent, rambling story of India in transition

See our review for fuller assessment.

  • "Rao’s Fowl-Filcher bristled with rollicking laughter and it offered amusement at all levels -- a full throated humour formed the format of the book." - R.P. Chaddah, The Tribune (17/3/2002)

  • "As the novel follows FF's picaresque progress through various places and people, the canvas comes alive with Indian flora and fauna. In tracing FF's journey through the small towns and villages of India, Ranga Rao captures the music of everyday life. His pictures of common life are authenticated by an acute sensitivity to landscape. (...) However, the novel's real strength lies in the satiric energy with which it exposes the follies of the erstwhile feudal overlords and the vices of present-day politicians." - S.K.Sharma, in 'India: A Fictional Profile', in Reflections on Indian English Literature (2002)

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Fowl-Filcher follows the life of the eponymous hero, born in the backwoods of India. Rao sets the opening of the book perfectly:

     In Delhi, snug against the wooded Aravali ridge, the seat of British power in India, the sun is yet to set. A thousand miles to the south-east, in a hamlet surrounded by jungle, the sun has already set.
       The boy is born into a still-colonial India, his father a hunter employed by the local Raja, but there is already a sense of end and transition: the first episode that is recounted is of: "the last regal hunt of the Raja", the second, 'The Last Royal Wedding'. The last hunt proves difficult even just to organize in an age when fealty to the Raja and traditional roles have eroded. So too FF (as the title-character is referred to) doesn't follow in his shikari-father's hunting-footsteps when he becomes old enough to work; instead, he becomes: "the town municipality's trapper and disposer of mad dogs, bad dogs, dogs" -- the town dog-catcher (though that turns out to be only one of many stations in his life).
       FF "killed his mother even as he was born", and his father dies when he is in his early teens, leaving him without family. He remains fairly independent, as a marriage to a nymphomaniac (an episode that seems almost just a bad dream in its presentation) certainly leaves him wary of a family-union. The local big man, the munsiff, who becomes a politician on the larger Indian stage, remains an important figure who looks after (and uses) FF, and is the master FF repeatedly works for. There are other friendships as well, such as the truck driver FF works with for a while, but the fates see to it that FF never manages to stay on one, simple course, buffeting him around instead.
       The signs that matters will be out of his control begin early on, as he "picked up the sobriquet of Fowl-Filcher" as a young child, despite the fact that it was another boy who twisted the chicken's neck ..... Typically, too, the name stuck. FF ventures away from Goodem, his small hometown in Andhra Pradesh, but feels most comfortable there and is repeatedly drawn back. And while the adventures he is involved in are, at first, rather comic, they become increasingly dark and serious: changing India becomes a more complicated place, while those in power remain similarly inept.
       Fowl-Filcher is a broad novel of many of India's changes in the first decades after independence, and is especially appealing in its focus on smaller locales (while, in also moving beyond just village life, not remaining entirely provincial). FF's varied life makes for interesting material, and Rao handles many of the episodes quite well, but the novel lacks the coherence of a true continuum, jerking forward too often (beginning with FF's own character development, which is sometimes detailed, sometimes completely ignored). A decent and often amusing and touching novel of many facets of Indian life, it doesn't quite cohere enough.

- M.A.Orthofer, 17 July 2012

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Other books of interest under review:
  • See the Index of literature from and about India

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About the Author:

       Indian author Ranga Rao was born in 1936.

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