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.
The Artist of Disappearance is a collection of three very different yet very similar novellas.
The first, The Museum of Final Journeys, narrates a story of a Civil Service Officer who started his career from a post in a remote district of the country. It was perhaps not the most glamorous post that one could hope for but it certainly presented him with a rare opportunity. The second story, Translator Translated, narrates the story of a very dainty English school teacher whose life in general wouldn’t have the makings of an extraordinary story hadn’t it been for her job of translating the works of an obscure author she actually admired. The third and the title story, The Artist of Disappearance, narrates the story of a recluse who had been adopted by a set of very negligent parents and finds his friends and solace in nature.
As usual, these tales were of common man, from very ordinary background. As Anita Desai usually does, she’s taken these ordinary people and turned them into extraordinary with simply her words and her style of storytelling.
What could a Civil Servant Officer, an English teacher and a recluse in the Himalaya possibly have in common? Nothing! Or, maybe just about everything. There’s a thread that connects all the three very different stories and their protagonists. Anita Desai, elegant style of writing is once again reflected in these prose pieces that are so exotic and yet so simple at the same time. It is the way she has portrayed the factor of ‘loss’ in a person’s life that is just so remarkable. These three stories tell you a tale of loss that actually leaves you with a ray of hope in life and that is something that I would have never thought was possible.
Every time I read one of her works, I am left with the realization that there are so many ways to see the same thing and with a feeling of awe!
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