Review: Friend of My Youth by Amit Chaudhuri

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In Friend of My Youth, a novelist named Amit Chaudhuri visits his childhood home of Bombay. The city, reeling from the impact of the 2008 terrorist attacks, weighs heavily on his mind, as does the unexpected absence of his childhood friend Ramu, a drifting, opaque figure who is Amit’s last remaining connection to the city he once called home.

Amit Chaudhuri’s new novel is about geographical, historical and personal change. It asks a question we all grapple with in our lives: what does it mean to exist in both the past and the present? It is a striking reminder that, as the Guardian has said, ‘Chaudhuri has been pushing away at form, trying to make something new of the novel.’


Amit Chaudhuri’s novel Friend of My Youth is narrated by a character named Amit Chaudhuri, who is explicitly described as a work of fiction who just happens to have the same name as the author. Amit Chaudhuri (the character) is a novelist who has returned to the city of his youth to give readings of his new novel, which might or might not be in stock in any of the bookstores. He wants to spend time with his friend, Ramu, but Ramu is in rehab for a heroin addiction, so Amit is forced to explore the city on his own. The loneliness of seeing the old hotels and eating at the old restaurants by himself seeps through the narrative, making the journey through Bombay sad and dreary. Because, like everywhere, the city has changed, the hotel that he has stayed at his whole life has subtle but disheartening differences, and he wishes he could talk about these things to someone, particularly Ramu, because he would understand the way that Amit feels. 

This is a short book, but it seems like such a long journey. Not much happens throughout the story, and Amit Chaudhuri (the writer) has made the journey as emotional as possible. The reader feels the state of mind that Amit Chaudhuri (the character) is in, the disappointment of reminiscing by himself about a city that is no longer the same as when he was young. This story is really a parallel narrative about all of his youth changing, his literal friend, Ramu, dealing with addiction and struggling to stay clean, and a metaphorical friend, Bombay, dealing with constant changes and struggling to stay clean. Both of them have changed for Amit, and these changes makes him wonder what has changed inside of him. The actual reaction past the nostalgia of a place he used to know is pretty neutral. 

In the end, Friend of My Youth feels like a meditation on growing older and how everything changes. Whether it be a city, a friendship, or himself, the changes will never stop. Sometimes it is nice to go back and reminisce about youth, but the truth is that the present is more a more important subject of focus. 

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