Arzee the Dwarf by Chandrahas Choudhury – Book Review

Arzee the Dwarf

I heard of this book through one of my favourite sources – the Melbourne Writers Festival. The author spoke at a session I attended (Why I Read) and shared books that he had enjoyed as an author and as a reader. As with many of the MWF books I purchased or borrowed from the library by authors I saw speak, I tried to track it down prior to the festival, and found it extremely difficult to obtain. So, I bought it at the festival and have only now read it (and there is still a list of tens of books that I am still getting to from MWF. I doubt I’ll get through them all before MWF 2014).

I found that I both liked and disliked this book, and so came away feeling very middle-of-the-road. Negatives first – at around 200 pages, it feels like far more of a novella than a book (no problem with that) but in those 200 pages, there is only a short story’s worth of plot. There is a lot of what is going on inside of Arzee’s head, of him thinking about what he is going to do, and then doing it and then thinking about what he did and where it will lead him, and this drove me a bit nuts. Also, Arzee being a dwarf is clearly a key part to the book, but I felt that the character was lacking depth in this area. I don’t have dwarfism and I am aware that even if I did, every single person experiences their life differently. But I found the way Arzee contemplated his body was often quite superficial.

What I liked, in fact, what I loved about the book was the beautiful prose of Choudhury. Sometimes I find reading a book with dense prose can be quite tough going and leave me exhausted, but not this time. I flew through the book, enjoying every literary morsel the author gave.

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