Born in Kerala in 1959, Jeet Thayil is most famously renowned as an Indian poet, editor, librettist and musician. Although the author of four celebrated collections of poetry, editor of a host of Indian poetry anthologies and the author of the libretto for the opera Babur in London, Thayil’s artistry was shelved for more than two decades due to alcoholism and heroin addiction: ‘I spent most of that time sitting in bars, getting very drunk, talking about writers and writing. And never writing. It was a colossal waste. In two years I've done more than I did in 20 years. I feel very fortunate that I got a second chance.’
His first venture into prose, Narcopolis, acts as an ode to a forgotten Bombay, the Bombay which had immersed and bewitched Thayil himself for so many years. Our narrator takes us on an intoxicating journey through India’s backstreet opium dens and their motley crew of outcasts: eunuchs, prostitutes, poets, immigrants, murderers and thieves; the lost and the lonely, the abusers and the abused. Moving through the '70s and '80s to the present day, Thayil’s is a vision of an India in a state of metamorphosis, but will its final form be any less destructive than the skin it’s left behind?