Thursday, 17 June 2010

Between the Assassinations: fury and birth

A rattling collection of ice cold water in the face tales that maintains Adiga's momentum after White Tiger. Literally because the speedy pace is similarly maintained here as it was in his Booker Prize winning novel.
This time the work is a number of short stories set in the fictional town KIttur in the South-West of India paced nominally over a week. Each story is allocated a specific spot in the town and time of day. But as the title suggests this is largely a flag of convenience as every tale takes place between 1984-91, the historical period between the Gandhis being killed by different groups.
I particularly liked this time period as unlike White T which provides a contemporary overview of the impact neo-liberalism is having on Indian society this showed the genesis of these themes and the nascence of some specific problems in India today - the growth of the Naxalite movements for example could be seen by the attitudes of several of the characters. Indeed the last short story outlines a disillusioned Maoist (membership of his Party: 2!) rejecting his vision of socialism for some immediate pleasure/return. A parallel for the collapse of Stalinism perhaps and the beginnings of the unbridled growth of capitalism across the planet.
The over-riding emotion expressed throughout is anger, anger at the caste system, at religion, at poverty, at abuse that seem to be in every corner of the town. But it is not pessimistic per se - each story seems to have a character that wants to challenge their place in the stratified system although ultimately they are frustrated.
This emotion coupled with the brilliant detail of the everyday made me think of quite an unlikely parallel - Irvine Welsh. In particular his Acid House Collection (set at a similar time in history). Welsh's thorough knowledge, humour and depiction of the dispossessed in the East of Scotland are all similar.
Pick of the bunch for me was the delivery boy Chenayya and his rebellion coupled with his admiration of nature. Though every one is good involving everyone from teachers, servants, journalists, schoolkids and a bus conductor and will have a moment that you will find difficult to forget.
To finish on Chenayya's thought which Adiga, a brilliant writer, documents so well: "You have to attain a certain level of richness before you can complain about being oor. When you are this poor you are not given the right to complain".

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