I think this was the first book that I read as the symbol of contemporary Indian English writing and that too on a subject that was topmost in my mind at that time. Yes, I was thinking about civil services as career during those days when I read this book. The beginning of the book was a bit difficult for me to understand but once I adapted to Upamanyu Chatterjee’s way of writing, I enjoyed it a lot. I have read some more of his books as well but it seems to me that his books are becoming more and more complex and darker every time.
English August was simpler and straight-forward comparing to his other books. It is a story of a trainee civil servant “Agastya Sen” on his first posting in some interior small town. He has spent all his life in big cities and he has come to civil services reluctantly. Both the small town and life of civil servant come as a shock to him. How he goes through that initial one year forms this story.
The story is a dark comedy on the ways of Indian bureaucracy and administration. For a completely new person like Agastya Sen it is a surprise and complex to understand but it is interesting to see how he eventually makes peace with it and almost become a part of it as well.
It is one of those books where the movie adaptation was also done very well and Rahul Bose became quite famous after this movie. He portrayed the character very well. As with the book, the movie was also a landmark in contemporary Indian Cinema which was very different from earlier genre of parallel cinema and the normal Bollywood movies.