A Slice of Life?


I just finished reading The God of Small Things and Ice-Candy Man. It’s not like I am behind the times or anything, but it is a trait of mine to shun all things popular in the crest of their popularity wave, and maybe appreciate them after they’ve been washed ashore.
Two perfectly brilliant books. Told through the eyes of children, coz an unbiased and unblemished as-it-is viewpoint is always best, no?
Award winning books, both. Well written, definitely. How else do you actually feel what the protagonists feel….shock, when lame Lenny finds out that it is her mother who is burning Lahore, or guilt, when Estha gradually stops talking…
They are sort of autobiographical, as the authors say, characters taken from their own childhood, and their childhood selves made the protagonists.
And that makes me wonder if the best stories written are ‘inspired’ from real life. And not just anyone’s, but the seemingly perfect ones are those from the author’s flashbacks. So what makes these tick? Is it just that since the writer has gone through that experience once, that she is able to depict it better and give it that spark of life and believablity that a novel so desperately needs to engross the audience and make them empathise with the characters? Maybe yes, maybe no, maybe I don’t know.
RK Narayan’s best work [according to me], The English Teacher, mesmerizes me more and more on subsequent reading with its glaring reality as no other book of his does. In his autobiography My Days, he says “I have described this part of my experience [death of his wife] in The English Teacher so fully that I do not, and perhaps cannot, go over it again. “
So is it just that writers want to share their experiences, like all others, but proceed to do so on a scale larger than most other people’s, just by nature of their job, other than ,maybe, filmmakers?
Or is it, as I would cynically say after reading a me-centric book, an utter lack of imagination that forces the writer to delve into his past for tales to make money from?
It’s easy, isn’t it, to just colour up your past and call it a novel? Or write it as it is, with no discrimination as to what the audience would like to read, and call it a simple, down-to-earth story? Or to glorify the non-existent ‘turning points’of your life and write a book on success?
But then, it’s just human to put ourselves at the centre of everything. Bane of theologians and zoologists…….
And that is a quote from yet another novel, Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
Which can never be an account of the author’s or anyone else’s past, coz, well, not many can boast of spending nearly a year out in the Pacific on a lifeboat with only the fish and a 450 pound Bengal tiger for company.
Plus, the author is Latin American [or European, I forget which], and could hardly have had the Indian childhood he describes.
Ah, well, imagination is not dead after all.

About wanderlust

just your average books-and-music person who wants to change the world.
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One Response to A Slice of Life?

  1. Nithesh.S says:

    I decide to read this blog from the beginning.
    I like this phrase-“and maybe appreciate them after they’ve been washed ashore.”
    I agree with the notion that the best writings are inspired by personal experiences. I think I can very well appreciate that. Works based on imagination might outshine an autobiographical work( sometimes, but it lacks the ability to penetrate the readers’ mind the way the latter does.
    “But then, it’s just human to put ourselves at the centre of everything. ”
    True, but everything merges as a single image at the center(the author), it does bring out great work.

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