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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

No God In Sight

Altaf Tyrewala

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase No God In Sight

Title: No God In Sight
Author: Altaf Tyrewala
Genre: Novel
Written: 2005
Length: 202 pages
Availability: No God In Sight - US
No God In Sight - UK
No God In Sight - Canada
No God In Sight - India
Aucun dieu en vue - France
Kein Gott in Sicht - Deutschland
Nessun dio in vista - Italia

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Our Assessment:

B+ : whirlwind tour of Indian lives

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Le Figaro . 15/10/2007 A.S.
NZZ . 30/9/2006 Ilija Trojanow
San Francisco Chronicle . 20/8/2006 Irene Wanner
Die Zeit . 28/9/2006 Martin Lüdke

  From the Reviews:
  • "La satire légère se referme avec une dose de piment sévèrement relevée, comme le bétel qui rougit les dents pour qui veut faire couleur locale. Un théâtre corrosif." - A.S., Le Figaro

  • "Es ist kühn, die überdimensionierte Metropole Bombay in zwei Dimensionen abzubilden, aber es gelingt, weil Tyrewala den urbanen Raum auf Nischen und Kammern reduziert und den Leser in sie hineinzwängt, damit er die klaustrophobische Enge mit jenen teilen muss, die sich dort eingerichtet haben, ohne sich aufrichten zu können." - Ilija Trojanow, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "In this imaginative first novel, Altaf Tyrewala, who lives in Bombay, takes a risky, sometimes entertaining, sometimes confusing approach to portraying contemporary life in India. (...) Although a few members from Tyrewala's huge cast affect others briefly here and there (...) it's impossible for the writer to develop anyone in much depth. Perhaps his aim was this: a gritty, often unappealing, occasionally captivating whirlwind tour of the cities and people he knows best." - Irene Wanner, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "Tyrewala führt uns nämlich menschliche Schicksale vor. Er erzeugt, erzählend, mit erstaunlich geringem Aufwand, einen gewaltigen Sog, in den nicht nur seine Figuren hineingerissen werden, sondern, bereits nach wenigen Abschnitten, auch die (europäischen) Leser seines ersten Romans." - Martin Lüdke, Die Zeit

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:

       In No God In Sight the narrative zips along in hot-potato fashion, jumping from one character and/or narrator to the next, each piece and person somehow connected -- and ultimately coming around again to where it started. There are dozens of sections, each centred on a different person and ranging in length from a few sentences to a few pages, an almost all-encompassing ronde that stretches far through India.
       It's a fairly impressive feat, in part because Tyrewala does not always choose the obvious transitions: the person picking up the next strand is not always who you expect. Sometimes it is a seemingly peripheral character, and then the story shoots off in an entirely new direction. Most of the transitions are person to person, the one's actions leading to the next person's reactions (and so on), but not always: at one point, for example, there is a sequence of five reactions by five men sharing the same name as someone who has just been publicly identified as a terrorist.
       This isn't merely six degrees of separation, it's a display of an entire nation (or at least region, in and around Bombay) being connected, as Tyrewala's tale wends its way through this society and along the way touches on every Indian type, from fraying families to gangsters, businessmen to Muslims chased from their village for their religion, job-seekers hoping to succeed in the big city (Bombay/Mumbai) to those planning to emigrate to America. Tyrewala covers a large spectrum, and these miniature portraits are often very impressive: in a few paragraphs or pages whole identities and fates are sketched (occasionally further illuminated from another's perspective later on). There are also a lot of hot-button issues, from religious (in)tolerance to the clash between tradition and modernity to corruption to abortion to family values. There's quite a bit of violence (and perhaps a few too many deaths); strikingly, very few of the characters are (or wind up) happy with their lots. India is not entirely a country of misery here, but ugliness (of all sorts) dominates this particular picture.
       Tyrewala's whirlwind tour resembles Vikas Swarup's approach in Q & A, trying to give an impression of a society in its entirety by revealing so many of its parts, but Tyrewala is a considerably more talented writer. These vignettes are often striking, Tyrewala conveying a great deal in the small space he allots each character. Nevertheless, the approach is also the book's main failing, as the rapid skimming along does not allow for true character development, or much focus on the individual stories -- and while it does add up to a picture of contemporary India, its depth only goes so far (and not far enough). It feels like a novel that might have been a thousand pages long, cut (very adeptly) to the very bone; there's still a skeletal solidity to it, but one is left hungry for some meat.
       A worthwhile picture of India, by an author with obvious talents, but not entirely satisfying.

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No God In Sight: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Indian literature

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About the Author:

       Indian author Altaf Tyrewala was born in 1977. He lives in Bombay ('Mumbai').

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© 2006-2021 the complete review

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