Monday, August 7, 2017

The God of Small Things [1997]

The God of Small Things, the smashing debut novel of Arundhati Roy which won the Man Booker Prize, is a lush, haunting and evocative elegy to memory, loss, broken dreams and growing up, with an overarching sense of deep melancholia, disquietude and fatalism pervading its dream-like narrative, albeit punctuated with irresistible bursts of beauty and playfulness. A work of incredible formal bravado and linguistic prowess, this mesmeric tale of familial disintegration, through its microcosmic setting, provided a powerful mirror to the complex and disconcerting truths about social discriminations in India along multivariate lines of caste, class and gender, and the devastating repercussions of breaching these divides. Set in the small town of Ayemenem in Marxist Kerala, the basic premise is centered on how the tragic death of a young girl provides the final spark to a slow-burning keg, leading to the breakdown of a well-off but barely strung together Syrian Christian family – the adorable, wide-eyed 7-year old fraternal twins Rahel (clearly Roy’s alter-ego) and her brother Estha; their divorced, headstrong mother Ammu who makes the fatal error of falling in love in violation of social taboos; Ammu’s charming, Oxford-educated brother and the dead kid’s father Chacko; the family patriarch Mammachi, and her scheming sister Baby Kochamma. Roy’s storytelling brilliance captured complex socio-political themes with disarming simplicity through the eyes of the two unforgettably etched siblings; through terrific use of kaleidoscopic, non-linear narrative which teasingly revolved around the tale’s mysterious center-piece by moving back and forth in time; and through evocation that was grim yet funny, grand yet intimate, brutal yet tender, stark yet magical, turbulent yet serene, disturbing yet lyrical, ferocious yet bittersweet, exuberant yet brooding, adult yet child-like. This triumphant book, on hindsight, also provided a fascinating peek into Roy’s transition to a firebrand political activism championing social causes on behalf of those at the bad-end of governmental overreach, and it would be 2 volatile decades before she’d publish the stunningly apt follow-up The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.

Author: Arundhati Roy
Genre: Drama/Coming-of-Age/Family Drama/Political Drama
Language: English
Country: India

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