The Illicit Happiness of Other People

August 2, 2013

Unni Chacko has an idea: Thousands of years ago in the history of man, a great darkness has fallen. The war between good and evil has ended. And it has ended with the complete triumph of evil and a total, irrevocable extermination of good. Evil is cunning, it quickly splits itself into two – into apparent good and evil, so that mankind is under the delusion that the great conflict is still raging and it will not go in search of the truth.

Unni also has another idea: Every delusion has an objective, and the objective of a delusion is not merely to colonize one brain but to transmit itself to as many brains as possible. That is the purpose of every delusion, that is how a delusion survives, that is how it succeeds. By spreading, maximizing its colony, like a virus. Any philosophy that can be transmitted to another person is a delusion. If two people believe in the same idea of truth, it is a delusion. Truth is a successful delusion.

Unni Chacko is the central character in Manu Joseph‘s 2012 novel, The Illicit Happiness of Other People. He is central because at 17 he was the hope of his family — brilliant, talented, capable of reaching heights that others can’t even imagine — but one day he came home and died, an apparent, yet inexplicable, suicide. The surviving members of his family, his alcoholic father, unstable mother, and painfully self-conscious younger brother, have been shattered by Unni’s senseless death, but three years on a mysterious package is delivered to the father and he begins a quest to understand what drove his son that on that awful day.

This is a book worth reading. (Alexis, thanks for the Christmas gift.)


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