Book Review: Revolution Highway by Dilip Simeon

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on June 25, 2013 as per the permalink. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

Some time back, I had acquired the habit of writing down reviews of the book that I had recently read. The practice lost steam as I got caught up in the desire to read more. Writing a review gives pause for consideration for a book that has passed through one’s life. It is with these thoughts that I pick up the practice again.

A membership with the British Library in Mumbai gave me access to this book called Revolution Highway. It is written by labour historian Dilip Simeon. The book is a work of fiction that considers the 1960s and the 1970s India and the rush of ideas and idealism that flowed through India at the time. The time witnessed the sprouting of the Naxalite movement in the extreme left of the political spectrum and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the extreme right of the political spectrum. The book concentrates on the revolution that the Naxalite movement bred, the brief belief in the Revolution followed by disillusionment.

I read the book in a unique juncture in my life as well. It was a moment when I heard of the left movement within Bombay in the early 1960s and 1970s. I too went through a phase of disillusionment and have now emerged with a more balanced viewpoint of politics than what I had earlier.

Given this back drop, I found the book a fascinating read. It gives one an insightful reading of the history of the Indian Left given the world situation. It provides and reveals aspects of India’s own revolutionaries and how they get intertwined with the Revolutionaries who struggled in the pre-Independence era. Other than the world histories it has several asides that seem to stand alone and do not fully integrate with the story line. They seem like stand alone pieces of non-fiction inserted into a work of fiction. It provides some very insightful critique of the Left struggle. I especially enjoyed the criticisms leveled at the Left by Rathin, a character in the book. The interspersed bits of world history might have served as a better back drop if they were briefer.


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