Posts Tagged ‘anita desai’

Like so many other young Westerners in the 60s and 70s, Matteo leaves home to search for spiritual enlightenment in the ashrams of India. He believes he finds it at the feet of ‘the Mother’, but down-to-earth Sophie, who accompanies him, does not find her inspiring so much as mysterious, and decides to trace the Mother’s own story – from her travels with an Indian dance troupe in Paris, Venice and New York, to her search for divine love in India.

Having recently been reminded of my previous liking for Anita Desai when I read ‘Clear light of Day’ I pounced on this one while at the library with the school children that I work with. However I have been really disappointed by it, and ultimately didn’t really know what Anita Desai was getting at. In a novel about the journey’s people take to find contentment or some sort of enlightenment, there are times when it almost feels like a (non funny) satire on the westerners that travelled to the Ashrams of India during the 70’s. However it is also the story of a fractured relationship between two people who are thoroughly unsympathetic, and I failed to care about at all. Naturally Anita Desai’s writing is beautiful, extremely evocative of time and place. Overall though I found this a bit tedious and confusing.

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Set in India’s Old Delhi, CLEAR LIGHT OF DAY is Anita Desai’s tender, warm, and compassionate novel about family scars, the ability to forgive and forget, and the trials and tribulations of familial love. At the novel’s heart are the moving relationships between the members of the Das family, who have grown apart from each other. Bimla is a dissatisfied but ambitious teacher at a women’s college who lives in her childhood home, where she cares for her mentally challenged brother, Baba. Tara is her younger, unambitious, estranged sister, married and with children of her own. Raja is their popular, brilliant, and successful brother. When Tara returns for a visit with Bimla and Baba, old memories and tensions resurface and blend into a domestic drama that is intensely beautiful and leads to profound self-understanding.

Anita Desai is a beautiful writer, the sense of time and place in this novel is strong. The narrative takes the reader from the present, back to 1947 and the upheaval of partition. Yet this is merely a backdrop,  the rendering apart of a family juxtaposed with that of a nation. The relationships between these family members are exquisitely examined, through daily preoccupations and long remembered squabbles. The daily routines and preoccupations of her older sister Bim, are brought into sharp focus for Tara upon her visit to the old family home. For Bim old resentments are brought to the surface, and old memories of a turbulent summer re-awakened. 

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Set in Mirapur and Delhi this lovely novel concerns Deven a teacher at a small college. He is asked to go and interview the poet Nur for an Urdu jounal. Deven is a huge admirer of Nur’s and feeling himself unappreciated and over looked is delighted at what he sees as his big chance. The project can only lead to disaster.

Deven is drawn into what he sees as the unsettling world of an ageing Nur. His second wife, seems a harsh and jealous woman, who wants all Nur’s fame and recognition for herself.

The interview becomes a protracted affair – involving the hire of a second hand tape recorder and a boy to opperate it. This inevitably leads to futher problems.

Deven is a somewhat pitiful character – although one you desperatly want to see succeed.

Another wonderful novel from Anita Desai =- one which I got in my back to school Nss… parcel.

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I got this book in my Nssss parcel in June from Colanne – one of three great books off my wish list.

With their mother ill and their father permanently drunk, Hara and Lila have to earn the money to keep house and look after their two young sisters. In desperation, Hari runs away to Bombay, leaving Lila to cope alone.

I really enjoyed this touching little book. As with other Anita Desai books I have read, people and places are brought to life with deceptive simplicity. Hari’s growing bewilderment at the changes that threaten his community, and his flight to Bombay where he encounters may more strange things and makes some friends make for a great story about the changing India, a theme which is ever present in our world today.

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Eric is a youngish man, self-conscious, awkward, a buttoned-down North American, a would-be writer, and a traveller in spite of himself. Susceptible to bossy women, he finds himself in the wake of one in Mexico, where he is overwhelmed at first with sensory overload, but is gradually seduced – by the strangeness, the colour, the contrasts, the old world. He finds himself on a curious quest for his own family in a ‘ghost’ mining town, now barely inhabited, where almost a hundred years earlier young Cornish miners, like his own grandfather, worked the mines. Until Pancho Villa and revolution came to Mexico. Desai paints a subtle, miniaturist history of 20th century Mexico, seen from unexpected perspectives, that evokes the exploitation of the Mexican Indians while yet looking askance at some of their ‘saviours’ like the formidable Queen of the Sierra, Dona Vera, widow of a mining baron and with a colourful, dubious, European past of her own. With vivid sympathy and brilliantly telling detail, Desai conjures up Eric’s grandmother, and her poignant story, that of a young Cornish girl whose grave is in a cemetery on a Mexican hillside. On the feast Day of the Dead, when the locals celebrate their dead, the various strands of the novel come together hauntingly, bringing Eric face to face with his past and the reality of his present in a moment of quiet, powerful epiphany. Restrained, controlled, with splashes of exuberant colour and darker violence, this is a magical novel of strange elegiac beauty.

This is a quick read I read it over a few hours yesterday. I actually preferred the stories of Eric and the fascinating Dona Vera, although I did find the story of Betty and Davey to be memorable, and moving, I have read so many books where English people have had to go to off to foreign climes, so this element was less intresting. In the stories of Eric, and Vera however you get a real sense of Mexico, its traditions, sights and smells. I really liked Eric, although he is slightly feckless, he is a flawed character, flawed characters are all the more real, his reflections on his relationship with Em were authentic, and the two of them became so real within a few pages. Anita Desai’s writing is beautiful, I have read some of her books before, but not many, I must read more.

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