Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Loss after loss

Kiran Desai's 'The Inheritance of Loss' , bought in Berlin in the Buch Box, is a totally different kettle of fish compared to Alentejo Blue, reviewed below. As a Man Booker Prize winner it will have been reviewed 1000 times already....

It's brilliant! Set in India in the late 1980s, it focuses on an elderly judge, his granddaughter, his cook and the cook's son in America, and a series of other characters, most of whom are elderly Indians who try to maintain the 'British way of life' against overwhelming odds. All have lost something, or are about to lose something - the granddaughter lost her parents in a car crash in Moscow, the judge loses his dog, a couple of elderly sisters lose their lifestyle, a Brit living in the area loses his residence permit, the whole area loses its peace in a sudden rebellion by Nepalis, the granddaughter loses her boyfriend, the cook's son loses his dream of making it big in America....

Although the book describes many tragic events, it is also really funny in an Indian sort of way. I am not sure how to describe what I think is Indian humour, but you find it, too, in Vikram Seth's 'A suitable boy', in some of Rohinton Mistry's books ('a Fine Balance') - it's always a bit surreal, and often juxtaposing very funny moments with quite appalling horrors. For example, the parents who are killed in a car crash were in Moscow because the father was hoping to be India's first astronaut: 'Just as Mr Mistry [no relation] was confessing to his wife his certainty that he would be chosen over his colleagues to become the very first Indian beyond the control of gravity, the fates decided otherwise, and instead of blasting through the stratosphere, in this life, in this skin, to see the world as the gods might, he was delivered to another vision of the beyond when he and his wife were crushed by local bus wheels, weighted by thirty indomitable ladies from the provinces who had speeded two days to barter and sell their wares in the market.'

I love reading books by Indian writers (though they also come and go a bit - you cannot generalise)! My only quibble with my paperback edition was the appalling small size of the print - but it did make the book more portable.