Friend of My Youth (Paperback)

Friend of My Youth Cover Image
Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now


An intensely personal novel about childhood, memory, and history by one of today's most celebrated authors, now available in the US for the first time.

Amit Chaudhuri has long blurred the boundaries between fact and fiction, seeking to turn the novel into a form not only of reflection but also of storytelling, a nuanced and humorous way of taking stock and weighing the unknown quantity that is anyone's life. In Friend of My Youth, the narrator, Amit Chaudhuri (a novelist who is not to be confused with Amit Chaudhuri the novelist) is in Bombay, where he lived and went to school as a child and teenager: Hailing as he and his family do from Calcutta, he was never exactly home there although their home was there. That was long ago, however, and Bombay is now a different Bombay, just as his own childhood looks different through the lens of intervening years. And there's another difference now: The old friend he always visited on returns to Bombay has fallen prey to a drug habit and is no longer there--and so another link with the past is broken. Amit wanders the streets of Bombay, reflects on the terrorist takeover of the glamorous Taj Mahal Hotel, runs errands for his wife and mother, remembers his father, misses his friend. Friend of My Youth is suffused with both sly humor and a deep melancholy, as it delicately explores the nature of friendship, the mystery of identity, and the passage of time.

About the Author

Amit Chaudhuri is a professor of contemporary literature at the University of East Anglia. He has written seven novels, including A Strange and Sublime Address and Afternoon Raag. His major works of nonfiction include Calcutta: Two Years in the City, Telling Tales, and Clearing Space. He is also the author of a book of short stories, Real Time; a book of poems, St. Cyril Road and Other Poems; and the editor of The Picador Book of Modern Indian Literature.

Praise For…

"In this elusive, evocative fiction, a novelist's visit to his boyhood hometown of Bombay calls up memories of a longtime friend and a recent terrorist episode....Anything but a conventional novel, its pleasures arise from a craftsman's writing and its subtle demands and rewards." —Kirkus, starred review

"With the publication of Friend of My Youth, Amit Chaudhuri is now the author of seven novels, greatly admired, especially by his peers… the drama of the self, spun from Chaudhuri’s meditations and recollections, is artfully composed and utterly absorbing." —Kate Webb, Times Literary Supplement

“What [Chaudhuri] does in this short novel, with exquisite delicacy, is show disconnection, vacancy and the physical world’s imperviousness to human action, even of the most violent kind.”—Esquire (UK)  
Friend of My Youth is a taut, efficient book: part novel and part manifesto. It presents itself as a work of fiction about friendship, the experiences of youth and the city of Mumbai, but really it’s a kind of anti-novel: a book about the failures of fiction to account for the realities of memory.”—The Guardian
“Chaudhuri is an exceptionally subtle writer, a skeptical seeker rather than a postmodern show-off. However you classify it, this journey through the traces of his past earns its literary sleight-of-hand....…In a book that (in a good sense) marks time, the narrator prepares for his next ‘leap of life’. Like Benjamin’s Angel of History, which Chaudhuri does credit, these elegiac ruminations look backwards but move forwards.”—The Spectator

“This novel is ‘an assemblage of moments, of different kinds of awareness of the world, and even of writing.’ Like [Henry] Green’s novels it offers delight, it shimmers, you seek to catch hold of it and it slides away.”—The Scotsman

"[The narrator] remains unmoved by the memories Bombay evokes yet experiences an unsettling homesickness, a paradoxical state that is compellingly observed. He also likes to eat: miniaturist descriptions of the evolving food landscape are pin-sharp. The autofictional riffs are unshowy, often funny, and it all comes together as a textured reflection on the hold of the past." —Francesca Angelini, Sunday Times
“Fiercely intelligent...elegant. [Chaudhuri] combines a serious reflection on psychology and friendship with an examination of the artist’s relationship to real life.”—The Herald
“A common, and false, complaint leveled against Chaudhuri by some critics is that nothing ever happens in his fiction. This is as untrue as saying that nothing ever happens in Waiting for Godot. He’s at his best with surfaces, stacking and overlaying them to create startling effects.”—Financial Times
“What [Chaudhuri’s] work exemplifies is somebody who views the canon as everything, that there isn’t a form of canonical literature that makes him cleave to one culture or the other.”—Will Self
“I realized that I had no terms in my critical lexicon to communicate the delight and the pleasure that his writing had given me. I haven’t encountered such joyous and playful writing about walking or I have in Chaudhuri’s books.”—Sumana Roy, Los Angeles Review of Books
“Amit Chaudhuri is a master. This book is a hymn to our present and our past. In today’s noisy world, Chaudhuri’s words provide a home wherein we can contemplate the essential things in life.”—Nadeem Aslam

"What a beautifully lyrical composition. I love how it is pitched three-quarters of the way to fiction, but with an eloquent nod towards “real life”. In this sense, it possesses the fantasy of fiction, but the grit of the lived and experienced. It's an achievement." —Caryl Phillips
"Reading Friend of My Youth was very calming. A sort of relief. It re-arranged the nervous system: the sentences and paragraphs were in step with breath, with thought, with strolling; time is slowed down. I would not describe Amit as a miniaturist – although his books are short – no, he is an epic writer – his protagonists have made long journeys." —Deborah Levy

"An epiphanic, limpid work… a truly wonderful novel." —RTE Ireland

"Friend of my Youth is a mesmerizing book. I started it early one afternoon in Italy, out of a simple desire to dwell in the 1980s, and then found myself restless outside its force field… and was relieved to return to it. The book has many pleasures to offer, especially those of recognition (it's always nice to see Chunky Pandey being resurrected). And though at first its meditations on the nature of the self and memory seemed to resemble those found within the tradition of European modernism, I began to think as I read on, and became convinced by the end of the book, that more than anything by Proust, Gide, and Woolf, it comes close to illustrating the Buddhist theory of dependent origination." —Pankaj Mishra
"In my opinion, his most interesting book, entirely free of the anxiety of influence." —Jeet Thayil, Books of the Year,

"A mini masterpiece… He doesn’t really follow the conventions of what we think of as a novel, but is… pushing and stretching at those boundaries… I love his honest, unsparing descriptions of himself, his weird, off-beat, unapologetic persona… a really beautiful book." —Financial Times Culture Podcast

"I have read nothing like it… it has changed the novel… I can’t recommend it highly enough." —Goergina Godwin, Monocle Radio

Product Details
ISBN: 9781681373386
ISBN-10: 1681373386
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication Date: February 5th, 2019
Pages: 176
Language: English