The Inheritance of Loss
“Kiran Desai is a terrific writer” are the words of Salman Rushdie and indeed this can be seen from the opening paragraph of her second novel:
“All day, the colors had been those of dusk, mist moving like a water creature across the great flanks of mountains possessed of ocean shadows and depths. Briefly visible above the vapor, Kachenjunga was a far peak whittled out of ice, gathering the last of the light, a plume of snow blown high by the storms at its summit.”
And this, almost liquid style is something which will carry you on one melancholic and funny and sad and (for me quite) educational journey. You just have to relax and let the stream to carries you away. I must say I did use dictionary a lot (in her river you’ll find beautiful and rare pebbles) and in spite the fact I could understood from the context it would be really such a shame not put little more effort and I was richly awarded. (of course this is something which we from non English world sometimes have to do)
I’ve mention that it was quite educational read. In the background of the story is one historical event: separatist aspiration of Nepalese in the region of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, near the border with Nepal for establishing Gorkhaland. This is something I completely wasn’t familiar with so I had to search a little bit. Of course that is not necessary to understand the book (and especially if history of your own country is full of numerous separatist movements) because misery and consequences are more than evident. In the first plan is the effect of this struggle on the life of common people in the region and personal … well, tragedies of the main characters.
The main characters (including the ones which surround them) are one colorful specter of different personalities that divide story in two (inseparable) parts: Indian on the Eastern Himalayas and American in the cheap restaurants and filled, dirty basements of NYC. Each of them is composed with numerous so emotional, so personal and histories so blind for the histories of others but in the same time so dependable on them. Because misery is more bearable when is not alone. I’m not going to write any spoiler because some of my friends are about to read this novel so I’ll write in general.
There is story about gloriously failed ambition as a “consequence” of wrong genotype (or wrong inheritance), story about too high ambitions and fake image of life that depends only on the talent for mimicry (if you’re good enough maybe you’ll convince yourself that you are one of them), different love stories with political or religious or (wrong) sexual obstacles, story of American dream (or was it nightmare?), immigration, exile, globalization, post colonial disorientation … etc.
Clashes of cultures are so hilarious and sad in the same time. People who would change their inheritance without thinking but after numerous failures they will decorate themselves with superhuman self convincing that precisely that same inheritance is making them unique and interesting (“…who had hit on the fact that you could escape from being a drab immigrant and have a fantastic time as an Indian among the tie-dyed, spout all kinds of Hindu-mantra-Tantra-Mothar-Earth-native-peoples-single-energy- -organic-Shakti-ganja-crystal-shaman-intuition stuff.”); and when they found themselves in the surroundings with people from the same pot as theirs they will start putting peacock feathers on the crow being nothing more than ridiculous and pathetic.
Oh it’s more/less the same thing with our immigrants when they come back here. I really love this part:
“… that immigration, so often presented as a heroic act, could just be the opposite; that it was cowardice that led many to America; fear marked the journey, not bravery; a cockroachy desire to scuttle to where you never saw poverty, not really, never had to suffer a tug to your conscience; where you never heard the demands of servants, beggars, bankrupt relatives, and where your generosity would never be openly claimed; where by merely looking after your own-wife-child-dog-yard you could feel virtuous. Experience the relief of being an unknown transplant to the locals and hide the perspective granted by journey”
I belong to the nation with unfortunately huge expatriated population and I know many that quote from above refers to. And I do think this transformation is the worst consequence of immigration. That morbid tendency to be assimilated, morbid tendency to be someone else and incurable disease to represent themselves as someone else when they come back in motherland to exhibit their success to the family and left-behind (once) friends. And their universal defending mechanism/explanation (precisely as Desai said as well) is “jealousy, jealousy”… *sigh* how wrong they are…
However I must say that I expected a little more from this novel. I’m not sure what exactly but somehow I have a feeling that something is missing (for my personal sensation). Indeed I think she ended book (too) quickly but that’s surely not the reason for this feeling. I finished book 30 minutes ago so maybe it’s too early to find the right answer so when/if I do I’ll update this post.
Of course I highly recommend this novel.
This book is part of my TBR 2007 Challenge. I’m horribly late with this one thanks to my faculty obligations.