Friday, April 12, 2019

Half the night is indeed gone

Had reviewed Amitabha Bagchi's beautiful novel 'Half the Night is Gone' last year. Thinking of it again today, with admiration for its craft as well as it's insight.

Is the narrator Vishwanath telling a lightly fictionalised story of his own family? We cannot be sure. But there are parts of himself in all those characters, as there must be in the work of any writer. The story of two brothers, but these are not the same two brothers.

The foundations of 20th century India are revealed through the fractures within these twin narratives. We read the story of two families and a nation, of its classes and its schisms, of religious texts and poetry, and its place in the minds of people. The Ramcharitmanas (referred to just as Manas) is at the centre of the narrative, much like the figure of Ram himself has been central to the storm raging through the heart of the nation since the 1980s.

Part of the problem, Vishwanath realises, is that the nation was being ruled by a class that had moved so far from its cultural roots, it had forgotten the hold of religion over people’s hearts and how it could be channeled by political forces. Help, he writes, could have come from a different sort of intellectual, such as Hindi speakers like himself. “At the very least we knew who Tulsidas was and had read his work… Perhaps, together we could have created an alternative narrative that didn’t reduce people’s faith to complaints about noisy loudspeakers.”

Review here:
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