IoS paperback review: Chinaman, By Shehan Karunatilaka
First class-cricket yarn will bowl you over
Sunday 09 December 2012
At the centre of Shehan Karunatilaka’s remarkable debut is W G “Wije” Karunasena, a Sri Lankan sports writer and souse.
Having spent years carousing in Colombo, Wije is told by doctors that he must give up the bottle or die within months. The problem is, he can’t write without a shot of arrack to still the shakes, and he has an idea for a book that will finally make his reputation: a biography of Pradeep Mathew, a sublimely talented but little-known spin bowler, whose career was ended by a pernicious mixture of “politics, racism, power cuts, and plain bad luck”. Deaf to the protests of his wife and friends, Wije resolves to finish the project before his liver gives out, insisting that “unlike life, sport matters”.
Chinaman – the title refers to Pradeep’s signature bowling technique, the crazy trajectory of which bamboozled batsmen – is obviously a book about sport, which is to say, it is a book about the chasm that separates failure from greatness. But it is also a book about friendship and marriage, about alcoholism and the Sri Lankan civil war (as Wije wryly observes, the papers print the “death count on the front page, cricket score on the back”).
Reading like a cross between Borges and Simon Barnes, Wije’s fragmented, essayistic narration uses the game as a prism through which to view the wider world, as well as to give a funny and very moving account of his personal struggles. I don’t like cricket, but I loved this: it’s the most distinctive, stylish and downright enjoyable novel I’ve read all year.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Arizona shooting: Gun instructor accidentally killed by nine-year-old girl with Uzi
- 2 Paul Scholes: Manchester City were so good against Liverpool I felt like turning the television off
- 3 Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
- 4 Homer Simpson has taken the ALS ice bucket challenge because of course he has
- 5 Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Great British Bake Off, episode 4, review: Heat gets turned up – and Iain goes into meltdown
Doctor Who lesbian kiss sparks Ofcom complaints over 'weird lesbian-lizard perv trip'
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
Emmys 2014: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Steven Moffat win big awards for Sherlock
Homer Simpson has taken the ALS ice bucket challenge because of course he has
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Arizona shooting: Gun instructor accidentally killed by nine-year-old girl with Uzi
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
- < Previous
- Next >