There Is A Major Problem With This Glowing Amit Chaudhuri Book Review


On 16 March, The Guardian published a review of Anjali Joseph’s novel The Living. It was a glowing review. “An exceptional, unexpected work”, was just the title.

Samantha Johns was livid. She shot off an email to The Guardian, and sent a copy of it to HuffPost India. Here it is:

Dear Ms Armistead,

I read with some interest the glowing review of Anjali Joseph’s new novel The Living by Amit Chaudhuri.

Comparing her to Woolf and to Tagore, the reviewer draws out her numerous strengths. However, nowhere does it outline, in passing or as endnote, that the reviewer was also her tutor, a mentor to her dissertation, when she was a candidate at the University of East Anglia. Subsequently, Joseph worked with Chaudhuri on a UEA teaching program in India; they are colleagues.

Nepotism derives from honouring, or choosing over more meriting candidates, those related by blood: a dangerous form of favoritism that excludes those not as lucky to land ticket to the DNA stall. But is there a word for another sort of favouritism, without blood ties, where a major newspaper permits a prominent novelist, and lecturer, to appoint his own student as literary vanguard? Of course writers rely on writer friends for endorsements and blurbs. But a publisher is not obliged to detached appraisal: they are here to sell books, and will do what they can to amplify the reputation of their author; this, to some degree, is par for course. But then a blurb is different from a review.

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