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The Drunk Bird Chronicles

Nominated | Book Awards 2021 |

The Drunk Bird Chronicles

Allegro Armstrong Braganza, the eponymous avian chronicler of this novel, is immoral, immortal, irreverent, intelligent, irritable and often drunk.

Full Title: The Drunk Bird Chronicles

Author: Malay Chatterjee
Publisher: 

Award Category: 
About the Book: 

‘With an unlikely cast of nawabs, missionaries, maharanis and an English-teaching raven, this is an exhilarating, audacious work of fiction.’—Gautam Bhatia, author of Punjabi Baroque and Malaria Dreams

Allegro Armstrong Braganza, the eponymous avian chronicler of this novel, is immoral, immortal, irreverent, intelligent, irritable and often drunk. Born in the forests beyond Shillong, he was a foul-mouthed friend of the eccentric Englishman Gareth Armstrong; then coarse companion to his daughter Rachel who married a talented Anglo-Indian piano tuner named Emilio Braganza; and finally avuncular anchor to five subsequent generations of this expansive British-Goan family who travel across India and the globe to further their various quests—Orlando in Cambodia studying the architecture of the Angkor Wat, Bella learning translation in Portugal, Maria in Almora furthering her dance ambitions under the tutelage of Uday Shankar, and Asifio in New Delhi continuing the family’s thriving music shop in Connaught Place. Through shifting tides of fame and fortune over a hundred years, it is Allegro who remains their constant and reliable port of stability.


About the Author: 

Malay Chatterjee has been a professor at Delhi’s School of Planning and Architecture. Chatterjee’s many academic/non-fiction publications have covered complex issues concerning architectural conservation and heritage management. He is considered an authority on the planning and design history of New Delhi.


Excerpt: 

. Born in the forests beyond Shillong, he was a foul-mouthed friend of the eccentric Englishman Gareth Armstrong; then coarse companion to his daughter Rachel who married a talented Anglo-Indian piano tuner named Emilio Braganza; and finally avuncular anchor to five subsequent generations of this expansive British-Goan family who travel across India and the globe to further their various quests—Orlando in Cambodia studying the architecture of the Angkor Wat, Bella learning translation in Portugal, Maria in Almora furthering her dance ambitions under the tutelage of Uday Shankar, and Asifio in New Delhi continuing the family’s thriving music shop in Connaught Place. Through shifting tides of fame and fortune over a hundred years, it is Allegro who remains their constant and reliable port of stability.


Review: 

A giant white raven who is hundreds of years old, speaks multiple languages and has a taste for brandy, a London brothel-keeper who is an inventor of sorts and designs the Calcutta tramway, a young architect in CPWD who is visited by the then PM Indira Gandhi in hospital, a royal uncle-niece duo in love with the same man who they do not mind sharing . These are amongst many more colorful and unique characters that breathe on the pages of Malay Chatterjee's 'The Drunk Bird Chronicles'. The book traces the lives of five generations of Gareth-Braganza family from London to Calcutta to Khasi hills to Goa to Delhi. You have to salute the author's ambition, his imagination and the breadth of the canvas he paints in vivid colors and minute details. The book stands out on many counts: literally hundreds of characters that are all unique, the pacing - characters come and go - but the pace of story-telling doesn't slacken anywhere, and the interweaving of fiction and reality. Karl Marx, Jackson Pollock, M.F.Hussain, and many others make cameo appearances that enliven the proceedings. Chatterjee does a great job in holding the story together, capturing the essence of the cities the story plays out in, and in capturing readers' imagination. A masterful piece of writing indeed. (less)


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