raven: Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, wearing green and red and looking up (Default)
[personal profile] raven
I have finished my re-read of A Suitable Boy and don't have much to add to what I said about it originally. (Hey, [personal profile] silly_cleo! Don't click that link and don't click this cut that's coming up. At least, not yet!)

I've come round more to Lata marrying Haresh, I think, and I'm still kind of destroyed by the relationship between Maan and Firoz. (Oh, goodness. Oh, god. "This man is my brother.") But this time, I'm sort of surprised by how Mahesh Kapoor's story affected me, and how essentially tragic it is. Mahesh Kapoor loses his seat, his political career, his wife. He almost loses his son. He loses his certainty - and this is in Nehru's writings too; how it was easier for the freedom fighters before Independence: when they at least knew who their enemy was - and that's not something he sees in the world until he loses the garden, the "great, lamp-lit garden at Prem Nivas" where the novel begins, where politicians of every mould come to pay their respects to his wife, where they wouldn't have come to pay them to him. Where he used to stand and wait for the British to come and take him away.

What he keeps, against all odds, is his friendship with the Nawab of Baitar, and, against more odds, his bill: the Zamindari Abolition Bill. I wonder what that's saying. Whether that's saying that this is what colonialism is: that you can fight that battle your whole life and lose everything you have, except that tiny cold comfort of progress, and of a language that was fractured and then used as an instrument of war, that you still somehow remember how to speak.

(At my Hindi class last week, my teacher asked me what I do. I said, मैं वकील हूं mein vakil hu, I am a lawyer, and remembered inconsequentially that "vakil" is Urdu - that Firoz would have said that, too.

She said, kaisa vakalath, कैसा वकालत - I said, ज़मींदारी वकालत, zamindari vakalath, somewhat confusedly: but it'll do.)

Another thing I noticed, this time around: the "suitable boy" of the title may not be Haresh, after all. It could just as easily be Maan. We hear so much about the "Benares people" - the family who had seriously been considering marrying him off to their daughter, and, hilariously, don't officially go back on this when he takes up with a courtesan, leaves his own cloth business to rot, runs around the rural districts electioneering for his political outcast father, and instead wait for him to commit attempted murder. I say "hilarious", which it isn't, but it is kind of blackly funny anyway. As is the plan Firoz and the Nawab come up with to get Maan off the charges, and I said to Shim while re-reading this time around, you could write a whole thesis about why the Kapoors' beautiful old house is called Prem Nivas, the place of love. This is in a novel that disclaims romantic love so utterly, but then, "prem" doesn't just mean passion and romantic love. I've said before that another fixed point in the novel is Savita and Pran, who get married in the first chapter of the novel and whose marriage sustains and becomes larger than the sum of its parts. Firoz then helps Savita learn about the law - she's thinking about becoming a lawyer and he lends her his books - and I've since learned that this might well be the story of Seth's parents. His mother, Leila Seth, was the first female Chief Justice of any high court in India - I've ordered her autobiography and I've very much looking forward to reading it.

I feel like this was more a burst of feelings than any kind of review? But it's that sort of book.
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