Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Inheritance of Loss: Disintegrating Dreams.

A dream-like description of disintegration. I read this as I saw it was going to be on the BBC World Service Book Club. I also really enjoyed other Indian Booker winners - God of Small Things and White Tiger.
This work is quite different to those with a few significant exceptions as outlined below. It is thoughtful, well written and eventually quite engaging. Overall though there is an aloofness here which means you can't fully absorb the situation unlike Arundhati's Roy work or the frenetic pace of Adiga.
Part of that could be due to its setting which is the literal misty foothills of the HImalayas where Everest is a dominant omniscient presence and country borders mean little. The setting of the study of the three main protagonists is Darjeeling in West Bengal and an uprising of the Nepalese population there in the 80s. Bhutan, Tibet and Sikkim are also nearby.
This insurrection actually happened - something I was not aware of and the demands for Gorkhaland are still ongoing apparently .
Funnily enough both Roy and Adinga also deal with Indian rebellions - the birth of the Maoist movements in the 60s and the contemporary Naxalites respectively. However I never felt an understanding of why these Nepalese were fighting unlike the other works. This is not helped by the dreamlike landscape and the lack of certainty in the time setting of the work.
It is strongest when it speaks of the weakness of the individual's autonomy in the context of broader struggles and happenings. This is seen in the insurrection but also in the forelorn adventures of one of the character's sons travails in the underworld of American illegal immigration.
There is also a nice turn of phrase throughout - each chapter is broken up in a series of vignettes really. I think this is a nod to poetry but this is not done as successfully as Roy.
The other link with Indian literature is the continual use of nature metaphors and similies - in fact a dog is almost a full character. This is done well.
So a distant work in many ways that ultimately has a fairly hopeless take on humanity. Unclear why it won the Booker but worth a read.

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