Mr Monkey’s recent post on possible book-film tie-ins made me dig out Guatam Malkani’s novel Londonstani.
I approached the novel with a certain amount of scepticism, not particularly grabbed by the plot line of a young geek from Hounslow who seeks to develop his identity through designer clothes, body building, and hanging out with the wrong crowd. In the end, though, I was pleasantly surprised on a number of counts.
In particular, the novel has a bold confidence in that it purposefully ignores two concerns common to many novelists – longevity and film rights. The novel is written in a rythmic dialect of txt messaging, bollywood references and the new century’s multicultural version of cockney ryhming slang – all of which makes for interesting reading, even if at times hard to decipher. Left, right and center there are references to all the things that will date a novel. Speaking to Three Monkeys, novelist M.J. Hyland explained that you wouldn’t find any mobile phones in her next novel, a not unusual stratagem for ensuring a novel remains relevant. Malkani’s novel uses mobiles both for the vocabulary of his book and as a central plot device. In ten years time his novel will, no doubt, seem quaint and affected as a result.
He’s also sabotaged himself soundly on the film-rights score. The book, for reasons of plot that will be apparent to anyone who’s read it (let’s avoid spoilers), is nigh on impossible in its current form to make the jump to the silver screen.
It’s not a masterpiece, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is extremely well-written, and a bold, interesting snapshot of a very particular moment in English life. Here’s the opening to give you a taste:
– Serve him right he got his muthafuckin face fuck’d, shudn’t b callin me a Paki, innit.
After spittin his words out Hardjiit stopped for a second, like he expected us to write em down or someshit. Then he sticks in an exclamation mark by kickin the white kid in the face again. – Shudn’t b callin us Pakis, innit, u dirrty gora.
Again, punctuation came with a kick, but with his left foot this time so it was more like a semicolon. – Call me or any a ma bredrens a Paki again an I’ma mash u an yo family. In’t dat da truth Pakis?
-Dat’s right, Amit, Ravi an I go, – dat be da truth.
The three of us spoke in sync like we belonged to some blonde American cheerleader routine. Hardjit, Hardjit, he’s our man, if he can’t bruck-up goras, no one can. Ravi then delivers his standard solo routine:
-Yeh, blud, safe, innit.