Shortly after the terrorist bombings of the city’s most prominent hotels last year, the author wrote an article that was close to a love letter describing his attachment to the place. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/nov/28/mumbai-amit-chaudhuri-india In it, he observed that the old place names had become “a currency of a middle-class oral culture, and recur in slips of tongue that reveal as much as they hide”.
So this novel inhabits the world of the Bombay bourgeoisie. Father is a multinational CEO “radiant in his dark suit and tie”, mother is a gifted singer with an unfashionably sublime voice who is condemned to corporate spousehood. Nirmalya, their son, progresses from heedless child to teenager to student as the family moves up in the world. He leaves behind rock and Rimbaud, and sets out to discover the Indian songs and poets of antiquity and lose himself in European philosophy.
(…) The lyrical quality of his writing is striking. Sentences seem to drift like smoke, swirl and hang in the air. The imagery is vivid, the humour deliciously oblique. As the Sengupta family prospers they move to grander apartments and finally to a leafy suburb. Their paintings move with them, including a terracotta village girl by B. Prabha,
This novel is populous. (…) Each character brings their own backstory, family circle and social perspective, and the author seems unable to resist these sirens. The timeline kinks and doubles back, the incidence of appealing vignettes requires close attention to the text. In a novel infused with Indian musical traditions, we should not expect the structure of a Bach fugue or the narrative on a plate in the manner of a Verdi overture, but it would have been nice not to meet quite so many new faces so fast in the opening pages.
The great strength of the novel is the truthfulness of the emotional landscape. The relationship between Nirmalya and his mother, bonding across a generational gulf as they attend recitals together, is tenderly realised. He lectures her with Saffy-like censoriousness when the strain of corporate entertaining starts to tell on her voice.
Wherever the family lives, the apartment has an ocean view and Nirmalya is captured again and again gazing over the water, a leitmotif evoking the discontent of a deracinated youth with a comfortable life. The tensions of man’s adolescence are drawn with sensitivity but also an acute sense of the ridiculous. At college, he scorns the paternal Mercedes and takes the bus.
The terrain of the novel is the battleground of art and materialism. (…) Chaudhuri’s panorama ranges from the centenary celebrations of the Bombay chamber of commerce to the child beggars and the lepers scouring the traffic jams. Music, for his various characters, is a compulsion, a vocation, a status symbol, a pretension, an aspiration, a heritage, a way oNirmalya, with the absolutism of youth, confronts their teacher, Shyamji. His versatility is a curse and a blessing, denying him critical reverence but allowing him to master classical and popular forms. Nevertheless, poverty compels him to look to the family for every kind of financial support, and he has, to Nirmalya’s mind, wasted his talent.f life or means to live. Nirmalya’s mother is the first casualty and by the end of the book there are others.
Outra crítica no FT de sábado: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/39818b6c-14db-11de-8cd1-0000779fd2ac.html
E uma entrevista também recente no Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/mar/14/fiction