Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 05/24/23 6:26 AM

Book review: The Bellboy by Anees Salim

THE BELLBOY by Anees Salim. Penguin Hamish Hamilton Books.

Anees Salim sets such a  measured pace in unspooling the life and times of Latif the teenager, who is the bellboy of the book`s title, that the reader may well wonder where the author is going with this. That would be the regular reader; those familiar with Salim`s calibrated manner of telling a story would be in no doubt that what`s coming will be both affecting and maybe catastrophic, too.

Latif is put to work at a seedy hotel (named Paradise Lodge, but of course) where most of the guests end up dead or dying. In fact, he is witness to one such incident on his very first day at work. Add to this mix a manager who has no qualms pilfering money and valuables from the newly dead, a kindly cleaning maid with a habit of settling fire to the fallen leaves she gathers every day, Latif`s long suffering widowed mother, his two younger sisters, and the islet they live on, which is fast eroding and has already got a shelf date put on it by ecologists.

We learn of guests at the lodge asking for a wake-up call so their bodies would be discovered before they started to decompose; of a coconut tree that leans out of the islet like a detail escaped from a horror movie; of Latif`s alter ego Ibru who is always but always the hero of various adventures; a nearby seminary where they made silence in different quantities: in sachets, stand packs and big brown cartons.

Nothing is actually quaint in this tale. It`s not a quaint protagonist though he does sport an Audrey Hepburn haircut. It`s not a quaint village he lives in, it’s not a quaint hotel he works at, it`s a weird one. And when what happens to Latif happens to Latif, we are not surprised; the world, we know, oftentimes conspires against those who would lead quiet, un-quaint lives.

And yes, The Bellboy is another gem of a book from Anees Salim`s treasure box. With a gem of a jacket illustration, too.

Related Links:

Book review: The Odd Book of Baby Names by Anees Salim

Book review: The Small-town Sea by Anees Salim

Book review: The Blind Lady`s Descendants by Anees Salim



Anees SalimfictionPenguin Hamish Hamilton BooksThe Bellboy

Sheila Kumar • May 24, 2023

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