Saturday, August 27, 2011

An American quilt

Hari Kunzru’s new novel is a majestic work with memorable characters, all disparate but connected through a credible plot

Gods without Men
Hari Kunzru
Hamish Hamilton,
384 pages; Rs975
Towards the end of Steven Spielberg’s 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, as the alien spacecraft is about to make contact with the planet Earth, among the people who have gathered to see the landing is a scientist, played by the talented French film director, François Truffaut. Setting aside his rational scepticism, Truffaut looks at the extravagant sight of the spacecraft with a childlike wonder, visible on his face as his eyebrows widen, eyes go bigger, and the flicker of a smile appears on his awestruck face. Years of reason-based digital logic fade away; innocent amazement replaces that, and he looks as if he is witnessing a miracle.

The fresh-faced nature of that discovery has an older cinematic parallel: Think of young Apu and Durga rushing to the palash field after they hear the sound of the train, looking for the engine both ways, stunned as the train rushes through the Bengali landscape, in Satyajit Ray’s film, Pather Panchali (1955). Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, who wrote the novel, had titled that chapter Achenar Anand, or the delight of the unknown.

Full review here Mint

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