Saturday, October 21, 2006

Kiran Desai Reads from the Booker Prize Winner "The Inheritance of Loss"

To hear Kiran Desai read from her Booker Winning novel "The Inheritance of Loss" click here (sorry, the link on Johnwriter's Literary Show on the right panel doesn't work. I am working towards redeeming this, mucho gracias). Also here is the article by Pankaj Mishra that accompanied the reading in New York Times an excerpt from which appears below:

"This leaves most people in the postcolonial world with only the promise of a shabby modernity — modernity, as Desai puts it, "in its meanest form, brand-new one day, in ruin the next." Not surprisingly, half-educated, uprooted men like Gyan gravitate to the first available political cause in their search for a better way. He joins what sounds like an ethnic nationalist movement largely as an opportunity to vent his rage and frustration. "Old hatreds are endlessly retrievable," Desai reminds us, and they are "purer . . . because the grief of the past was gone. Just the fury remained, distilled, liberating.""

My grouse with diasporic writers is that they tend to denigrate, or, patronize India by writing long passages about the exotic India where Indian live in an antique world full of superstitions, mangoes, pickles, run down neighbourhoods without actually learning about the hearts and minds of the people who inhabit them. They try to exoticise without really understanding the undercurrents of Indian society. What Desai calls "shabby modernity" is also what is turning out brilliant programming code that runs most of the world today. Thus Jhumpa Labiri's "Namesake" which I am reading now, is full of India though it is set in the US, about customs of a Bengali family, and a lot of visuals that would be a treat for people who say they like India.

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