Not many would emerge clean from those dens and give us a prose so poetic that lingers like smoke and stays in the head even when it’s over. The prologue of a single sentence that runs through six-and-a-half pages is reason alone to pick this stunning debut novel from the Indian poet and musician.

It pulls the reader slowly and languorously into Sukhlaji Street in Bombay, where they taste the best opium and prepare the pipe efficiently and lovingly, because it’s precisely through this that they will view the world across the 304 pages, a world that’ll soon be invaded by the more dangerous heroin. Drawing on his own years as a drug addict – "the lost 20 years of my life" – Jeet Thayil, gives us, among other memorable characters, Dimple, the eunuch so keen to read and learn and who evokes both passion and empathy in equal measure.

Narcopolis was shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize. It was also shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize and The Hindu Literary Prize. It won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2013 at the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival.

Published in 2012.