One of the best things about reading books in translation is that they take you to places you might never go, through languages that you might never learn, and make you feel right at home, as if you’ve grown up there. Srinath Perur’s translation of Vivek Shanbhag’s Ghachar Ghochar does just that. We share the South Indian family’s excitement at getting their first gas stove for the kitchen.
But the family’s fortunes are on the up, and they don’t need to be careful anymore, with money or anything else. They can have whatever they want, whenever they want, but it doesn’t seem to do them any good.
It’s not completely clear where all this money is coming from, especially as the narrator doesn’t seem to actually do any work. That’s fair enough on his honeymoon, which is is when his wife tells him what ghachar ghochar really means.
But when their honeymoon is over, Anita’s husband doesn’t go back to work. She starts asking questions, and finds the answers very disappointing, or doesn’t find them at all. And the family closes its ranks against her… suddenly you’re racing to the end of the story and it’s all over before you know it.
Ghachar Ghochar is on the Best Translated Book Award Longlist for 2018. It’s the author’s first book in English, and the first book I’ve read translated from Kannada. In both cases, I’m sure it won’t be the last.