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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Give 'Em Hell, Hari

Ajay Singh

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To purchase Give 'Em Hell, Hari

Title: Give 'Em Hell, Hari
Author: Ajay Singh
Genre: Novel
Written: 1998
Length: 264 pages
Availability: Give 'em Hell, Hari - US
Give 'em Hell, Hari - UK
Give 'em Hell, Hari - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B : a solid and surprising novel, cleverly and humorously painting a picture of modern India.

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Far East Econ. Rev. B+ 30/4/1998 Carmen Kagal
The Guardian B+ 20/6/1998 Maren Meinhardt
The Times A 4/4/1998 Tanku Varadarajan

  From the Reviews:
  • "(A) rollicking, hilarious book" - Tanku Varadarajan, The Times

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:

       Give 'Em Hell, Hari is a surprising novel -- and a pretty damn good one, once one gets past the unfortunate title.
       It is, for one, an epistolary novel -- though one almost forgets, at times. Hari Rana, the central figure, is an ambitious young man working for an international wire service, UNI (Union News International, no doubt mirroring AP, for whom Singh worked). One route for advancement and betterment he sees is in the writing of letters. He proceeds to write 'letters to the editor' on all sorts of subjects, and eventually some are published. A Colonel Pai writes him, praising a particular letter, and Hari immediately begins sending him long missives (in which the bulk of the story is then recounted -- a somewhat artificial construct that the reader accepts because Singh does not go to great effort to keep the emphasis on the form, dwelling instead on the smart and sharp content and style).
       The novel covers much of recent Indian history, beginning just before the assassination of Indira Gandhi, covering the Bhopal disaster, and finally culminating in the controversy surrounding the Ayodhya site (where Hindus tore down a Muslim temple, reclaiming the ancient site). Much of Indian life is cleverly touched upon in Hari's commentaries: the enormous appeal of breaking Guinness World Records, for example. He is naive and sometimes misguided, but not unintelligent. The conflict between East and West is also on display in his office, where Westerners run the show and lay down the rules, making for a number of ongoing conflicts.
       There is a second part of the novel as well, where Hari travels to the United States (on a John Dewey Foundation fellowship). Hari confuses Washington, D.C. and the state of Washington and gets off the plane at his stop in D.C., missing his connection to Seattle and giving rise to an overland cross-country trip that allows him to dwell more on Indian (and American) idiosyncrasies. Here he writes so-called American Letters covering his trip, hoping to publish them on his return to India.
       Well-written, with an excellent ear for Indian and foreign English and a fine sense of humor, Singh delivers an excellent portrait of man and country. It is a funny and touching book, it's greatest fault being the somewhat constraining pseudo-epistolary form he has chosen. In the manner he uses it it too often seems artificial. Hari himself is also too intelligent to make some of the naive mistakes he does, but this is easier to accept.

       Nevertheless, we recommend it quite highly for anyone wanting an amusing picture of modern Indian life. It is a fine novel of a culture that is foreign to many Americans and Europeans, and presents a view different from that of most better-known fiction by and about Indians.

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Give 'Em Hell, Hari: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See the Index of Indian literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Indian author Ajay Singh was born in 1959. He has worked for AP, Asian Wall Street Journal, and Asiaweek.

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