Wildly funny and wonderfully bizarre, All About H. Hatterr is one of the most perfectly eccentric and strangely absorbing works modern English has produced. H. Hatterr is the son of a European merchant officer and a lady from Penang who has been raised and educated in missionary schools in Calcutta. His story is of his search for enlightenment as, in the course of visiting seven Oriental cities, he consults with seven sages, each of whom specializes in a different aspect of “Living.” Each teacher delivers himself of a great “Generality,” each great Generality launches a new great “Adventure,” from each of which Hatter escapes not so much greatly edified as by the skin of his teeth. The book is a comic extravaganza, but as Anthony Burgess writes in his introduction, “it is the language that makes the book… It is not pure English; it is like Shakespeare, Joyce, and Kipling, gloriously impure.”
It’s not often that you have the opportunity to pick up a book and within moments realize you’re reading something entirely and interestingly unlike anything you’ve ever read before. But such is the case with All About H. Hatterr by G.V. Desani, a thoroughly weird (in the best way) and hilarious novel.
— Very Short List
Hatterr is a difficult but rewarding book, falling as it does somewhere between James Joyce and Salman Rushdie. The language can be startling and baffling at times but elsewhere is easygoing and quite funny…..a welcome addition to this stellar [NYRB Classics] collection, and essential reading for lovers of English-language Indian literature.
— Dan Zigmond, San Francisco Chronicle
In all my experience, I have not met with anything quite like it.
— T. S. Eliot
I didn’t read many books while writing Augie. One I did read and love was All About H. Hatterr….So, what about All About? I hate to be siding with T.S. Eliot…but what can you do?
— Saul Bellow, The New York Times
Hatter’s dazzling, puzzling, leaping prose is the first genuine effort to go beyond the Englishness of the English language. Desani’s central figure—”fifty-fifty of the species,” the half-breed as unabashed antihero—leaps and capers behind the work of many of his successors….This is the “babu English,” the semi-literate, half-learned English of the bazaars, transmuted by erudition, highbrow monkeying around, and the impish magic of Desani’s unique phrasing and rhythm into an entirely new kind of literary voice.
— Salman Rushdie, The New Yorker
A mischievous mulligatawny that reads like a collaboration between Mrs. Malaprop and Groucho Marx…At the end you may not quite know where you’ve been, but you understand you’ve had a helluva trip.