Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Artist of Disappearance by Anita Desai

I picked this up at the library on the new fiction shelf. As much as I am enjoying Mockingjay, I needed a small dose of literary fiction as a palate cleanser. Desai is something of a grande dame of Indian letters. In my pre-blog days I read her novel Feasting, Fasting, but haven’t come across anything by her in a long time.

Much of contemporary Indian fiction written in English deals with the conflict between the old India and the new India, and these stories are no exception. One of the stories is about a woman who translates fiction written in indigenous Indian languages into English. Some of the tension in the story comes from exploring the relative value of these languages and their literature vs. that of literature written in (or translated into) English. Desai brings an economy of words and emotions to this theme, never revealing her personal bias but I kept wondering what she really thought, as a noted writer of fiction in English, and as a professor at a U.S. university.

This slim volume contains just three longish short stories and it was a perfect diversion. It would also be a good way to get acquainted with Desai’s work, or a quick way to get your annual number of books read up to a respectable number before December 31. Not that I was doing that.

(Book 34, 2012)


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