The Bible and Dante add richness to Bombay prison life


I was cajoled into reading Shantaram by my Canadian relatives who wondered how it was that I had not read this epic Australian title. 

It is about an Australian bank robber who escapes jail and flees to Bombay where he takes up several careers – volunteer first aid officer in the slums, Mafia worker specialising in passport forgeries, and even Bollywood actor. There’s also a 132 page foray into Afghanistan smuggling arms for his Mafia boss.

The tale largely parallels the real-life story of the author, Gregory David Roberts I found parts of the book harrowing, like the description of a three-month stint being tortured in a Bombay prison or the detailed descriptions of the highs of heroin addiction followed by the utter despair involved in going “cold turkey”.

When I finished the book I went to and read about the book’s “two layers of allegorical depth” with its references to the Bible and Dante’s Inferno – that I mostly missed! 

Actor Johny Depp reportedly loved the book so much he wanted to star in the film version but apparently plans for the movie version have stalled.


Escape in May (ACU Library)