Satin Island - by Tom McCarthy
McCarthy’s Satin Island is’nt a book with any kind of format and structure. It breaks all conventions of what structure a novel would generally follow and probably questions the necessity of a format. To be fair it follows a strict format that reads like a corporate dossier. By the time you are through into a couple of chapters you wonder if this structure is meant to be satirical or if this is a deliberate attempt at conveying something.
Brutally honest, unashamedly ambiguous and written like a bullet point corporate power point presentation, it is the ramblings of a consultant employed by a corporate consulting firm. U – the main protagonist of the novel if you may call him so is an ethnographer -anthropologist employed by his boss Peymann to help bring in an ethnographers perspective for a massive project they have just won. Throughout the novel U is rambling about perhaps tyring to tell the reader and assembly of his thoughts and bring out the point through a connection, point out the missing links or atleast
lead you through an understanding.
The book reads like a journal of the daily happenings in his life, about his ramblings on the search engine on the internet and on the minute insignificant observations that he makes about people around him, like a chance remark by his girlfriend , the ramblings of his terminally ill friend afflicted with thyroid cancer and the minister who buckles and unbuckles her shoes underneath the table as she is attending a debrief meeting on the project.
At less than 200 pages it was the shortest amongst the Man booker shortlist for this year. I picked it up first for that main reason. (I do not count the book by pages anymore. I listen to them and this was the 6 hour something which appealed to me since I could finish the book faster than any of the others) . How wrong I was in that assumption.
Do not be fooled by how short the book is. Every 30 seconds I found myself rewinding to ponder over the point made. I wish I had more time to ponder over. Not that I was in any kind of hurry to finish the book, but this one is a more leisurely read.
The one that you would take with you on a solitary holiday or when you have the time to let yourself aimlessly wander.
If you are not exactly a fan of ambiguity then this one certainly is not your cup of tea. But definitely worth exploring if you enjoy experiencing something different yet strange and profound.
Not my strong recommendation for the Booker prize but definitely one that will garner many votes just because it has a style that is what in India we would called ‘hatke’, literally translated would mean different from all others, rather unconventional.