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Tuesday, May 13, 2008


(Returning to book reviews after a while...... )

Raj Kamal Jha's "If You Are Afraid Of Heights"
Raj Kamal Jha is one of the most original and unusual voices in Indian literature.His fiction is hypnotic,conspiratorial,always pushing the line between reality and fantasy.According to the author himself,his day job as an executive editor at The Indian Express presented him with " a story-pool lapping away".

"If You Are Afraid Of Heights" is about three seemingly separate stories-told by different narrators. A young man falling in love with a mysterious stranger who rescues him from a deadly accident,a reporter investigating the brutal rape and murder of a child,and a little girl worrying for her parents after a weird suicide epidemic.

Recurring symbols,motifs and turns of phrase seem to suggest a connection between the three.For such a fable-like tale,it is fitting that Jha is mostly vague about the location or the chronology of the events taking place in the novel.He also employs many of the standard devices of magic realism to underscore the dream-like nature of the book,and also to overcome the frequent barriers of space and time that crop up.

The book is a bit taxing on the reader,plot-wise, but Jha makes up for it with some luminous prose,displaying wry,often bleak humour in unexpected places.He also has a gift for imagery,descriptive passages that grab you by the scruff of your neck.These were on display in his debut novel "The Blue Bedspread",too, an effort which won him a Commonwealth award and plenty of critical acclaim.

I am a confirmed fan of his writing,(something which has nothing to do with the fact that he is an alumnus of my college IIT Kharagpur),not just his fiction but also his columns at The Indian Express.I would strongly recommend the following two articles written by him-

1.About the engineer Satyendra Dubey,who was murdered for blowing the whistle about the rampant corruption in the central government's Golden Quadrilateral project.
2.About the Gujarat riots

You can also check out a really cool interview of Jha here

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