Sunday, 7 December 2008
The God of Small Things
I first read Roy’s Booker Prize Winner, ‘The God of Small things’ in 1999 while undergoing the worst trauma of my life. Roy had a halo at the time, especially for us Keralites. No, this is not to say that we should look at things, especially fiction, through parochial eyes.
I read ‘The God of Small Things’ in what was later to be termed in a patchy manner due to the circumstances prevailing in my personal life at the time. It talked of a village in Kerala and used Malayalam words rampantly. There were the rivers, the ponds, the lotuses in full bloom, the pickles, childhood and everything else you would have encountered here in Kerala as a child, growing up in the sixties and seventies.
I was mesmerized with the book for sure, though I had read it in between huge gaps while going in and out of hospitals, which is surely not the way to read any book, leave alone a Booker Winner. But that is how it was.
I reread ‘The God of Small Things’ again last week. It took three days, but the worst part was that I grew impatient and wanted to know what actually happened and so I skipped paragraphs and moved on in this manner till the very end. I sighed. I am confused and unhappy. I do not want to ‘rejoin’ the Roy - bashing bandwagon, yet I will state that it is not as wonderful as I had thought it to be. As l said, l am confused and a little unhappy.
This happens with many books, it is not something that does not happen to others, especially with people like me who is reading and rereading books all the time, when not writing. There is no doubt on Roy’s magnificent plot and the way in which she has narrated it, stretching language till it doesn’t break.
Just before rereading Roy, I had been reading Jose Saramago’s ‘Seeing’. For days on end after that l felt as though l was living inside a bubble and it would burst, while showing me the real world for the first time. The grip that SEEING had on me is in a way all about what good books aught to do to a serious reader. The opening lines of Orhan Pamuk’s ‘The New World’ – l read a book one day and my whole life was changed – holds true for this transcendental work by Saramago.
It taught me that SEEING is not BELIEVING. Reading is.
I reread SEEING again and it still left me gaping, mesmerized, and roused beyond the usual levels of succor. I am madly hunting for his other works like ‘Blindness’, which l am told is a precursor to ‘Seeing’.
Just before reading ‘Seeing’, l went through Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s magnum opus, ‘Crime and Punishment’ for the nth time and believe me it moved me yet again, with its maxims on human behavior and its world vision.