Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Book of Secrets



Authors of Indian origin writing in English have come a long way since Nirad Chaudhuri and Naipaul. From those fulsomely vituperative pens to the Rushdie breed of award winners to a Chetan Bhagatwho tells us it’s quite cool to actually write for our own readership, it’s been an arduous road laden with many a pitfall.
Time and again, we in India hear of the curse of a colonial style education, a hand-me-down which we have taken a long time to out-grow. Perhaps it was that malady which afflicted our prose for so long. And it does the heart good to read The Book of Secrets which bears witness to this coming of age.
The story of a written record (a diary or journal). To get an authentic sense of period for TGS I had to consult the journals and biographies of British colonial administrators and explorers, who were, for all their faults, wonderful recorders. TBOS is the story of the fate of one such journal written by a colonial administrator at the outset of the First World War as it arrived in East Africa.
says author, M G Vassanji.
If pressed, I describe myself as an IndoAfrican Canadian writer. Attempts to box me in I find abhorrent.
He might well be speaking of his book!
The best review, for me, so far, has been that of Salil Tripathi. Most other write-ups are from Westerners and we others are in, some sense, invisible to them: much like their child rearing philosophy that kids are best seen and not heard.
 
This charmingly unpretentious novel covers nearly a century, the dusk of an empire, a colonized and a colonial post culture, the great wars, independence... Still the pace is leisurely, allowing us to savour the flavours of those times.
 
"Because it has no end, this book, it ingests us and carries us with it, and so it grows."
The novel’s historical time frame indulges in a promiscuous affair with a family saga. Loose ends titillate: whose son was the protagonist? And what about his own son? The ambiguous abounds!
Good old story telling at its best.
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