Animal's People: A Novel
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In this Booker-shortlisted novel, Indra Sinha’s profane, furious, and scathingly funny narrator delivers an unflinching look at what it means to be human.
I used to be human once. So I’m told. I don’t remember it myself, but people who knew me when I was small say I walked on two feet, just like a human being...
Ever since he can remember, Animal has gone on all fours, his back twisted beyond repair by the catastrophic events of “that night” when a burning fog of poison smoke from the local factory blazed out over the town of Khaufpur, and the Apocalypse visited his slums. Now just turned seventeen and well schooled in street work, he lives by his wits, spending his days jamisponding (spying) on town officials and looking after the elderly nun who raised him, Ma Franci. His nights are spent fantasizing about Nisha, the girlfriend of the local resistance leader, and wondering what it must be like to get laid.
When Elli Barber, a young American doctor, arrives in Khaufpur to open a free clinic for the still suffering townsfolk—only to find herself struggling to convince them that she isn’t there to do the dirty work of the Kampani—Animal gets caught up in a web of intrigues, scams, and plots with the unabashed aim of turning events to his own advantage.
Profane, piercingly honest, and scathingly funny, Animal’s People illuminates a dark world shot through with flashes of joy and lunacy. A stunning tale of an unforgettable character, it is an unflinching look at what it means to be human: the wounds that never heal and a spirit that will not be quenched.
won’t do it.” So Chunaram’s shouting again, I am giggling, you’re meanwhile wanting to know what’s going on. Chunaram does some Inglis guftagoo, then he’s back to me. “Jarnalis says it’s a big chance for you. He will write what you say in his book. Thousands will read it. Maybe you will become famous. Look at him, see his eyes. He says thousands of other people are looking through his eyes. Think of that.” I think of this awful idea. Your eyes full of eyes. Thousands staring at me through the
open drains stinking right outside the houses. Flies. Every bit of waste ground is used as a latrine, I’ve seen people defecating on the railway lines.” “Madam, it’s these people, they don’t know any better.” “But you do,” says Elli. “So teach them. Organise people into teams to pick up the litter. Bring in pipes, water taps, build proper latrines…” “Of course I agree, but from where is the money to come?” “Where did it come from for that new road near the lake, or for all the new buildings
evidence,” says the stubborn Voice of Khaufpur. “Abba,” says Zafar again, I hate to hear him calling Somraj father, “Animal is cultivating a friendship with Elli Barber. I feel confident that he’ll soon extract some useful information, then we will be in a position to judge.” “Papa, if we could win this compensation,” says Nisha to her father, “think what a difference it will make to people.” Still he’s not looking happy. I am happy, Nisha’s warm thigh is pressing against me, the demon below
Only their eyes look out and they are so pitiful.” “Is there an angel trapped inside me?” She takes a look. “Can’t see one, but it might be sleeping, or doing some other business.” “Very true.” At such times there is nothing to do but humour her. “We live in hell. You realise that? This is hell.” “Yes Ma.” “When you look at the smoky flames that pass for lamps around here, you can understand why I say we’re living in hell.” “Yup.” “But that’s not why I’m saying it,” she cackles. “To be
you find in leaves or petals, really it is most like a flower and reminds me of the hibiscus at the base of whose petals is a tube filled with liquid, you pick a flower and suck, it’s joyous as honey. She shows me how the rose cave leads to a tunnel whose mouth at first was hidden, this is the way that leads to the womb, where life begins, where I began, where we all began. I try to imagine the womb and realise that it’s an empty space, which means there’s nothingness at the very source of