Wednesday, April 14, 2021

‘This is not good good storytelling, but a blueprint for survival’


City of good death
By Priyanka Champaneri
433 pp. Restless books. $ 28.

In the first pages of “The City of Good Death”, two sailors were bound in the fog of dawn on the Ganges River: “Smoke rose from the nostrils of both men and melted into the grappiness that shut the air.” Throughout this epic, Champaneri is associated with atmospheric details, both physical and emotional.

Located in the holy city of Kashi, where Hindus travel to “die a death who can hope for the best on this earth” – one that ends the cycle of “rebirth and misery” – the novel especially topography Focuses on mourning. The protagonist, Pramesh Prasad, manages a well-respected death hostel. Business is good, until the dead body of Pramesh’s deceased cousin Sagar appears in the river, and his ghost lands on the building. Pramesh wrestles to please Bhavna. He wants to “separate” – as he would recommend to the families of his sick guests – but knows that he must venture back to his painful childhood to unlock the story of his cousin’s drowning.

If this initial setup is operative, then ghosting is surprisingly common. Champaneri tells subtly how grief hides in earthly objects and gestures. The ghost of the ocean flies every night at midnight for two hours, and Pramesh should callBrother, “Bhai for Hindi,” silencing him. Pramesh often reaches out to rub his eyebrow, where his cousin had bruises on his head. Grief becomes ubiquitous, and so routine. In this way in the city Walking around, Pramesh said, “Mobile, Alive – But after this guilt left behind, inseparable from that good feeling, because every breath and step were such that Sagar would never take it again. “

At least Pramesh is not alone. Champaneri shifts between the attitudes of his wife, his assistant, and other characters inside and outside of Kashi, which also dispel concerns about the ghost and his personal history. The novel is an intimate portrait of Pramesh, and yet the other characters allow Champaneri to understand how social processes are grief and healing. Indeed, Pramesh feels relief in solidarity. A young boy reads aloud from his magazine, and Pramesh, upon hearing it, “has done a miracle that a thin material similar to onion skin, can hold so much pain.” The way grief comes, suddenly and widely, so surprise and happiness can also occur.

Silence is a feeling
By Laila Alammar
292 pp. Of Chapel Hill. Algonquin Books. $ 25.95.

After fleeing Syria and arriving in the United Kingdom, the narrator of “Silence is a Sense” lost his ability to speak. She turns to writing to express herself and anonymously submits nonfiction to a “newsmagazine with a big name”, only to face fresh restrictions. Her editor, Josie, keeps asking for “a nice little packet of memories” that she can broadcast to her readers. As the narrator writes in an essay, Humanization is “a thoughtful term, which accepts the argument that some people are not people and therefore require certain art forms to render them human.” Nevertheless, she continues to work with the editor, and the novel interviews her articles about the refugee crisis through her personal, first-person narrative.



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