3 novellas--linked I suppose by the recurrence of small but substantive moments of moral decision, a common question of how (and why, and whether) art matters in one's life, and Desai's precisely-detailed prose and characterization. One of these knocked me down: as Prema, a middle-aged mouse of an English teacher, grabs hold of an opportunity to share her passion for the stories of a relatively-unknown writer, published only in the regional Oriya language, in the timeworn tradition this translator becomes more self-possessed, more assertive--more herself? But the story doesn't travel the same rutted path we know so well--she neither triumphs nor, stricken by hubris, crashes. Instead, she tussles with authority, power, language, desire, envy.... no Big Moments, just a weave of reflections, asides, and casual insights that en masse ... I wouldn't say reveal (no epiphanies), nor is the conclusion allusive or ambiguous. Desai captures, embodies
, Prema and these struggles. The story (or this depiction of self) is fully realized yet incomplete. Desai is a pointillist, and she sees life not emergent from the sea of moments--not some pattern realized out of the whole of the story--but most fully grasped in the wash and ebb of the water.
And such prose!He also brought him a kerosene lamp which seemed something of a travesty in the burnt house, and lit it, turning Ravi into a shadow that leapt and clawed at the walls.