A Tamil novel by
Translated into Kannada by
Abhinava. Bengaluru, 2016, Rs.400, pp.420
( Review appeared in Hindu,on 8-12-16 )
The fourth Tamil novel of Carlos (Tamilavan), Varsavil Oru KadavuL which is very ably translated into Kannada by Jayalalitha as Varsadallobba Bhagavantha, is not just a well crafted and an intellectually most satisfying novel, but also one which explores the factors that transgress human awareness.
The novel attempts to bring in an in depth understanding of the global experience in the light of contemporary critical theories. The narrative being non-linear constantly goes back and forth both in terms of space and time. Here is a complex web of a variety of issues that haunt human life – death and its premonition, sexuality, infertility, homosexuality, frigidity, spirituality, male hegemony, human relationships, particularly man – woman relationships. It is possible to relate these issues to many contemporary critical theories like post colonialism, post modernism, psycho analysis, sexuality, gender inequality, revival of Indian spirituality in face to face interaction with Christian spirituality, and so on and so forth.
But what is most striking is the predicament of a modern mind which is primarily melancholic and sometimes hopeless. The novel revolves round the perception of the narrator named Chandran. He is on a two-year visit to Warsaw, the capital city of Poland. Warsaw has undergone a series of social, political and cultural changes in post war and post unification times of Europe. Chandran is found gloomy always and there are moments he loses his contact with the present. After being persuaded by a journalist turned friend, Anna Malinovaska, he narrates his past to her. His past thus gets serialized in a local newspaper under the title – “A few chapters in the life of an Asian”. The past consists of protest against colonialism, a particular Burmese woman called Van Soyi who cuts the penis of a lecherous English colonel, Johnson Whitehead by biting him hard there, the narrator’s mother who is a native Burmese brought to India and gets married to a Tamilian to mark the beginning of the silent mixing of races when in the other part of the world a great war was being waged to keep the purity of races intact; his married life with the person he loved, Vijaya, who later commits suicide under mysterious circumstances; his brother in law, Pratap, a doctor who gets murdered in a police encounter while he is helping Adivasis in their fight against feudal lords; his brother in law’s girl friend Ashwini who murders her own father who is indirectly responsible for her lover’s murder and who later becomes a thick friend of a successful politician, Rajesh, who was earlier a colleague of Vijaya under the name AnbaLagan ; the mysterious escape of his friend, Gommanguthu (who is rechristened as Shivanesan much later) from the clutches of European military police; his attraction towards a colleague of his wife, Amala, in the aftermath of his wife’s death; All these are recalled in the light of his present interaction with women – Lydia Krupskya, whose brother Leon Krupskya, despite being trained for the position of a catholic priest, is attracted towards Indian spirituality; his journalist friend Anna Malinovasa whose boy friend Piyothar has inherited a peculiar psychological disorder from his grandmother who worked during second world war as a translator; his another friend Magda Shwenska who always who reveals the intricacies of sexuality among men and women to the narrator. Chandran gets connected to the external world through feminine represented by all the women in the narrative who always look vivacious to his eyes. In fact, the men here, including the narrator, are either impotent or emotionally disintegrated with the real world. In fact this could be deemed as the saga of metaphysical exploration of meaning in human life, in the light of his vibrant past and the absurd looking present. The narrative mode adapted is magical realism which perfectly suits the plot of the novel. Here anything might happen in the realm of the narrator, from his falling unconscious to a clock and a house talking to him like human beings. The inanimate material details are confronted with universal issues like time, life and death.
One might begin to wonder at the end of the novel whether there is any marked change in Chandran between the time he landed in Warshaw and the time he is taking a train at Victoria terminus in Mumbai to reach his place in Tamil Naadu. It would not be a coincidence if one is reminded of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot where Estragon tells Vladimir – “Yes, Let’s go” and they don’t move. While Beckett explores the absurdity of modern man, here Carlos through Chandran tries to grapple with the predicament of a post modern psyche which is always incomplete. And Chandran is yet to “move” !
After reading the novel completely one cannot but wonder why such a significant experiment in fictional writing was not originally attempted in Kannada all these days.
- Sundara Raj