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The Black Dwarves of the Good Little Bay

Nominated | Book Awards 2020 | Creative Writing in English (Fiction & Poetry)

The Black Dwarves of the Good Little Bay

There is a city on the western shores of India where it no longer rains . . .

Full Title: The Black Dwarves of the Good Little Bay

Author: Varun Thomas Mathew
Publisher: Hachette India

Award Category: Creative Writing in English (Fiction & Poetry)
About the Book: 

There is a city on the western shores of India where it no longer rains . . .

The sea has invaded its boundaries and its inhabitants reside in a towering structure called the Bombadrome, which hovers above the barren land. Theirs is an artificially equated society; they lead technologically directed lives; they have no memory of the past. They don't remember that this place was once called Bom Bahia, or Bombay, or Mumbai.

Except for one man, the last civil servant of the India of old, a witness to the time when it all fell apart, now bitter, filled with regret and thought to be mad. For decades he has remained silent, but now a moment has come - which comes but rarely in history - that prompts him into a final act of service: To remind people of what happened all those years ago, of the events that unmade the city, then the nation, and finally their lives . . .

Sharp, layered and scathing, The Black Dwarves of the Good Little Bay will grab you by the scruff of your neck and force you to listen. Because the sins of the past can never be fully hidden. Because the end can never justify the means.

About the Author: 

Varun Thomas Mathew was born just before India began to liberalize her economy, in the Bangalore of yesterday, before all the traffic and concrete had choked the city, when gardens and rainbow bars existed side by side in a climate undisturbed by hate and air-conditioning.

He studied in several convent and boarding schools, and later at the National Law School of India University. He is a lawyer by profession, a calling he found after having started and sold an e-commerce company, studied the euro crisis on a grant from the German government, and been the election agent and campaign manager for a very unique politician.

Varun now lives in New Delhi, where he runs a technology law, public policy and human rights practice. This is his first book.


There was once something very strange about our country.

If you are born of recent times, and are hence unaware of that strangeness, ask your elders. And if they cannot remember it, then read the accounts of old, beginning with that of Fa-Hien, who wrote an entire book a whole millennium ago on the strangeness that was, once, India.
Let me give you an example.

Each year, during the height of the monsoon, the Government of India conducted an exam. It was held in every nook and corner of the nation; you would find exam centres on the farthest hills of the North-East and the loneliest isles of the Arabian Sea. Thousands of large halls were requisitioned and filled with wooden desks for this exam. Nearly a million people wrote it.

This was no ordinary exam.

It consisted of several written papers to be solved over several weeks and culminated in an interview for a select few. Young men and women from across the country set aside their youth to prepare for it, obsessing endlessly over strategies and methods to crack the topmost ranks. Most candidates wrote it over and over again, often sacrificing an entire decade to the exam until they finally became too old and spent the rest of their lives dreaming of what might have been.

Did I not tell you that this was no ordinary exam?
It was, after all, how India chose her monarchy.
Of all the people who wrote the exam, only a few hundred were chosen. A few hundred out of a million! Of these, some were given charge of our forests; others became treasurers of our wealth and collectors of our taxes. Some became guardians of the law, while others were given control of our railways and the national postal system. A handful were made emissaries and shipped off to foreign lands. And the remaining, the cream of the chosen lot, were anointed administrative officers of the republic.

Members of the Indian Administrative Service, the IAS. Uncrowned kings of India. They ruled over us collectively, firmly administering our land, drawing their authority not from god, inheritance or conquest, but solely from the merit they displayed in a single exam.

Were we not the strangest monarchy in history?


Varun Thomas Mathew’s bold fiction debut ‘The Black Dwarves Of The Good Little Bay’ interrogates politics and memory in a dystopic and uninhabitable Mumbai.
The Hindu Business Line

We loved the Tharoor-like perfection while making references, and the refreshing lack of a male gaze. If you’ve got a rebellious streak, or are just a fiery liberal (guilty!), The Black Dwarves is sure to find you, at least once, sniggering in anarchic glee.
Outlook India

The book makes strong political points throughout, along with highlighting the potential dangers of several of the technological trends being normalised now and how they can manipulate us. The author clearly means this book to be a warning for he has dedicated it to the Indian electorate. It’s well-paced and fascinating in its detail, keeping the reader hooked. It’s a must read for any book lover for it transcends the dystopian genre by being relevant.
– Times of India

Matthew paints us an intriguing picture of a future where escaping into fantasy is the only way left for people to live with their own decisions. Well written and worth a read.
– New Indian Express

Varun Thomas Mathew clearly asserts in this book that no amount of socio-economic development a government brings/guarantees can absolve it from the immoral methods it adopts to rise to power—a critical observation he shares with the Indian electorate, with hope.
– The Book Review Journal


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