‘Londonstani’, Gautam Malkani’s electrifying debut, reveals a Britain that has never before been explored in the novel: a country of young Asians and white boys (desis and goras) trying to work out a place for themselves in the shadow of the divergent cultures of their parent’s generation.
Set close to the Heathrow feed roads of Hounslow, Malkani shows us the lives of a gang of four young men: Hardjit the ring leader, a Sikh, violent, determined his caste stay pure; Ravi, determinedly tactless, a sheep following the herd; Amit, whose brother Arun is struggling to win the approval of his mother for the Hindu girl he has chosen to marry; and Jas who tells us of his journey with these three, desperate to win their approval, desperate too for Samira, a Muslim girl, which in this story can only have bad consequences. Together they cruise the streets in Amit’s enhanced Beemer, making a little money changing the electronic fingerprints on stolen mobile phones, a scam that leads them into more dangerous waters.
Funny, crude, disturbing, written in the vibrant language of its protagonists – a mix of slang, Bollywood, texting, Hindu and bastardised gangsta rap – ‘Londonstani’ is about many things: tribalism, aggressive masculinity, integration, cross-cultural chirpsing techniques, the urban scene seeping into the mainstream, bling bling economics, ‘complicated family-related shit’. It is one of the most surprising British novels of recent years.
Reviews of Londonstani
- ‘The aspirational gangsta swirls us into a bhuna of gang-fights, inter-faith romance and organised crime, and the dizzying humour that underpins his voice is sharp, clever and convincing…In a linguistic politics redolent of Sam Selvon, Victor Headley and Irvine Welsh, Malkani conveys with élan and expertise, through a sub-urban “desi-dialect”, the absurdity of adolescence and the complex self-deceptions of contemporary cultural dynamics in the UK.’ Independent
- ‘Malkani has some interesting observations about identity and the way in which the culturally oppressed can take strength from their exclusion. The end is a complete surprise and forces the reader to question the skin-deep assumptions we make about race.’ Sunday Telegraph
- ‘If you’re going to read one yoofy, “urban” book this summer, make sure it’s “Londonstani”!’ Arena Magazine