Trotter-Nama

I. Allan Sealy, Author Alfred A. Knopf $19.95 (575p) ISBN 978-0-394-56364-0
A nama is an epic or chronicle; the Akbar-Nama is one of the great medieval histories of India. The Trotter-Nama, a fictional chronicle of seven generations of the Anglo-Indian Trotter family is nothing if not ambitious. This first novel by an Anglo-Indian writer sets out to be a Great Big Book, and in more than 600 pages steeped in raj atmosphere, it succeeds admirably. It is laced with verse, quotations, advertisements, journal entries, elegies, documents and many learned digressions, from an aside entitled ""With regard to the oiling of camels and the injecting of oil into their nostrils'' to ``Reflections on self-portraiture'' to ``A word about ocean currents'' to ``mango-fool.'' Narrated by Eugene, the Seventh Trotter, the chronicle goes back to the original and splendid Great Trotter of the 18th century whose successes begin the tale. His good fortunes are diluted by subsequent generations of lesser talents, including those who fail to make a go of peddling rain gauges. The present finds the Trotter palace turned into a crumbling hotel and improvidence replacing excesses of the past. Despite his impecunious state, Eugene has inherited the family sybaritic genes and is adept at taking small pleasures where he can. This Seventh Trotter, who forges miniatures for a living, is deeply attuned to the minutiae around which Indian life revolves. The narrative possesses a droll and authentic quality in its immensity. While not consistently ironic enough to be deemed an outright satire, it's often funny. Sealy's literary feat should be especially welcomed by those with a big appetite for tales of India under the British. (March)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1988
Release date: 02/01/1988
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