A triptych of beautifully crafted novellas make up Anita Desai's exquisite new book. Set in modern India, but where history still casts a long shadow, the stories move beyond the cities to places still haunted by the past, and to characters who are, each in their own way, masters of self-effacement.
Rich and evocative, remarkable in their clarity and sensuous in their telling, these stories remind us of the extraordinary yet delicate power of this pre-eminent writer.
Desai s unsettling collection of novellas explores the slow, threatening creep of outside influence into closed communities. In The Museum of Final Journeys, an isolated bureaucrat is confronted with a chamber of death, a remote, bizarre museum full of embalmed, stuffed animals. Translator Translated obliquely explores colonial politics when Prema, a professor specializing in Suvarna Devi, an obscure writer writing in Oriya, Prema s native language, befriends a glamorous former classmate by offering to translate Devi s work into English. But by doing so, she comes under fire for not only bringing the text into the language of the colonizers but also for crippling the writer s work. The elliptical titular story explores the origins of a hermetic man, the last of an unhappy family. The man wants nothing to do with the outside world, but has an ornate garden a trio of students want to film. As the landscape resists them, so the students come to resent each other s demands and wish to forget the disrespect they ve visited upon the reclusive inhabitants. Desai (Village by the Sea) treads lightly, at times too lightly, but at its best this collection leaves an indelible impression of the conflicts and ambitions found in a region riddled with conflict.