Disopora of Inheritance of Loss

Topics: Kiran Desai, Novel, The Inheritance of Loss Pages: 10 (3237 words) Published: May 8, 2013
As might be expected from the rich input of her cultural background, Kiran Desai, daughter of the author Anita Desai is a born story-teller. Her first novel, Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard (1998), is a fresh look at life in the sleepy provincial town of Shahkot in India. At 35 years old, Desai is the youngest woman ever to win the prize and was already highly acclaimed in literary circles for her first novel ‘Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard’ which won a Betty Trask award [2] when it was published in 1998. She spent eight years writing her second novel “The Inheritance of Loss” [3] . Much has been made of the parallels between the book and Desai's family history but it's not an autobiography. Desai herself has said that in places it's about experiences within her family – such as the experience of immigration and going back to India.

Kiran Desai’s second novel The Inheritance of Loss can be viewed as a Diasporic [4] novel. The various themes which are intertwined in the novel are globalization, multiculturalism, insurgency, poverty, isolation and issues related to loss of identity. The issues and conflicts mentioned in the novel are portrayed in a subtle and intriguing manner through the central characters.

The theme of Diaspora in the world of literature describes loss of identity and isolation witnessed by the Indian writers who are settled abroad. Writers like Salman Rushdie [5] , Vikram Seth [6] and Kiran Desai have given insight into what it means to travel between the West and the East.

The novel is set in modern day India, and the story is narrated to depict the collapse of established order due to insurgency. In her novel, Desai portrays excellently the issues of poverty and globalization not being an easy solution for problems of trapped social middle classes.

The story revolves around the inhabitants of a town in the north-eastern Himalayas, an embittered old judge, his granddaughter Sai, his cook and their rich array of relatives, friends and acquaintances and the effects on the lives of these people brought about by a Nepalese uprising. Running parallel with the story set in India we also follow the vicissitudes of the cook’s son Biju as he struggles to realise the American Dream as an immigrant in New York.

Like its predecessor, this book abounds in rich, sensual descriptions. These can be sublimely beautiful, such as in the images of the flourishing of nature at the local convent in spring: 'Huge, spread-open Easter lilies were sticky with spilling antlers; insects chased each other madly through the sky, zip zip; and amorous butterflies, cucumber green, tumbled past the jeep windows into the deep marine valleys.' They can also be horrific, such as in descriptions of the protest march: 'One jawan was knifed to death, the arms of another were chopped off, a third was stabbed, and the heads of policemen came up on stakes before the station across from the bench under the plum tree, where the towns people had rested themselves in more peaceful times and the cook sometimes read his letters. A beheaded body ran briefly down the street, blood fountaining from the neck ...’ [7]

The Inheritance of Loss is much more ambitious than Hullabaloo in its spatial breadth and emotional depth. It takes on huge subjects such as morality and justice, globalisation, racial, social and economic inequality, fundamentalism and alienation. It takes its reader on a see-saw of negative emotions. There is pathos - which often goes hand in hand with revulsion – for example in the description of the judge's adoration of his dog Mutt, the disappearance of which rocks his whole existence, set against his cruelty to his young wife. There is frequent outrage – at the deprivation and poverty in which many of the characters live, including the cook’s son in America; and there is humiliation, for example in the treatment of Sai by her lover-turned-rebel, or Lola, who tries to stand up to the Nepalese bullies.

Against these...
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