Friday, December 29, 2017

Voices in the City - Anita Desai

Published in 1965, 'Voices in the City' is about a loose-cannon character Nirode (for some reason, I kept thinking of Nirodh). Nirode is the kind who will irritate the hell out of me with his bombastic talk and no action (a lot like me so I simply detest the fellow). He is a loser (his brother Arun is smarter, and more successful), works as a journalist before starting a journal which will make him out to be an artist. Once you made up your mind to be a loser, you choose the best way to be it. So you struggle hard with a journal that will not work (or like me, choose writing!) and end up the glorious loser. The one who tried but failed.
Orient Paperbacks, P 257, Rs. 35
Nirode goes about it very boringly and there can be no other way to go about something that is deemed to be a failure for the word go. He has some friends like Jit Nair who is married to some voluptuous babe (cannot recall her name), Sonny who has a car, Prof Bose who is a bigger loser than Nirode, Dharma, an old artist and his wife Gita Devi. All messed up characters made even more messier with tons and tons of boring and affected dialogue - no one can speak like that. Or if they do one must remove oneself from their midst. (I think I speak like that wonder I cannot hold audiences!) Anyway some rum and some big talk and no action.

Nirode has a mother who lives in Kalimpong and writes even more boring letters about her garden etc. She has a Major Chadha as her admirer and Nirode feels that Major Chadha is peeking into her cleavage which he fells his mother is more than happy showing. His two sisters, Monisha (the only sane character in the story) and young Amla flit into the story. In the end Monisha dies, possibly of boredom, which I would have done if I was a character in this story. I don't know what happens after that - in the end it ends. What of Nirode and his love, his sex life..nothing.

I got a hang of the way things might have been in Calcutta then - mostly about self obsessed, weak and scared people acting big and bombastic. I knew some people like this too who spoke in a language only they knew and no one ever understood. But those endless descriptions and metaphors slowed things down unbearably, and I could not wait to get done with it. The people came across as real. But the writing, impeccable as it is for the Sahitya Akademi winner and three times Booker Prize nominee, was too packed with writing and too little story. So goes down as one of the most boring books ever read.


Anonymous said...

You probably found it boring because you remained on the superficial surface and did not dive into the psychological turmoil of the characters, which is the essence of the novel.

Harimohan said...

I am sure of that. I am finding it increasingly difficult to dive into psychological turmoils of characters.