03.16 books on the brownside... back!

i've been doing some reading and am resurrecting "books on the brownside", a commentary i used to write on indian literature. although i think i only had about three entries...

so here's the fourth!

the latest i've read is arundhati roy's the god of small things - a brilliant novel that takes place in ayemenem, a village in the backwaters close to kottayam and alleppey, where i stayed in kerala over the holidays.

roy is a bit of a genius.

her writing style is very dense, making the reading a bit distracting, but through the story filled with drama, class struggle, sex, murder, and a lot of the local language of kerala, malayam, she is able to provide the reader with historical, social, economic and political context of the area. this was a welcome read as it helped me understand kerala's communist past, the noticeable absence of homeless in alleppey, and the contrasting high suicide and literacy rates (as commented on in god's own country).

it's a classic micro-macro story, where the struggles and stories of three generations of the Ipe family are direct results of the framework of the social structures in which they are forced to live. it describes caste clash mainly through "love laws": who can be loved, and how, and how much.

the thing i didn't like was that roy kept the deep dark secret until the end. but her style and descriptiveness kept me going. it's a tragedy, yet a major comment on feminism and colonialism. india has its own problems, but the solutions have to come from the inside, not from colonialisation, indian self-hatred, and india's ridiculous love and unconditional acceptance of the west.

i totally identified with ammu and rahel, the two central women characters. they refused to accept the oppression that was served to them, and as indian women, acted contrary to society's expectations, of course bringing on the harsh but expected punishments from their oppressors!

after completing the novel, i felt a bit drained and so the geek that i am, i read this great dissertation on the book from the university of utrecht. it explores colonialism, feminism, politics and the literary style of the book. of particular interest were pages 7, 11, 13... despite a few flaws, i highly recommend it. only of course, after reading the book itself.

goes well with keralan tea, nitin sawhney and a long hug afterwards...

four stars
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