Sunday, August 1, 2010

Minimum city

The week that passed has been unpleasant for the novel. Two of its most feted practitioners — Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan— received an unkind cut, being omitted from the year’s Man Booker longlist; in another outburst, a former Oxford professor condemned the duo’s work as well-crafted but hollow, denouncing the contemporary English novel as passing through a “fallow period”.

A final word on what makes for literary excellence is neither possible nor desirable; a dialogue, on the other hand, on the state of the present-day novel is welcome, especially if you have just finished reading Saraswati Park, a debut novel by Anjali Joseph, a former commissioning editor for Elle. Joseph, incidentally, was listed by The Daily Telegraph as one of 20 writers under 40 to watch out for.

Saraswati Park (named after the suburban Mumbai residential enclave where the main characters stay) is a book about “love and loss and the noise in our heads”, the blurb on the book jacket says; it is supposed to depict “how, in spite of everything, life… continues”. Capturing the continuum that is life in 250-odd pages is a tall order for any creative artist, to say the least, and Joseph sets to accomplish the task by letting us peer into the life of Mohan Karekar, a letter writer who plies his trade near the Mumbai GPO and dreams of writing short stories, his wife Lakshmi and Ashish, a 19-year-old nephew who comes to live with them.

Full report here Indian Express

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