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Of Noir Fiction and the Lonely Woman


Abdullah Khan

MUMBAI NOIR
Edited by Altaf Tyrewala
Harper Collins, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 274, Rs. 350.00

THE HABIT OF LOVE
By Namita Gokhale
Penguin Books, Delhi, 2012, pp. 190, Rs. 250.00

VOLUME XXXVI NUMBER 12 DECEMBER 2012

About the Noir fiction, the well-known American publisher and editor, Otto Penzler says, 'Look, noir is about losers. The characters in these existential, nihilistic tales are doomed. They may not die, but they probably should, as the life that awaits them is certain to be so ugly, so lost and lonely, that they'd be better off just curling up and getting it over with.' In other words, noir fiction can be defined as a subgenre of crime fiction which is characterized by its cynical characters, the unsentimental depiction of violence and sex and the bleak denouements. In the recent years, Brooklyn based Akashic Books has popularized this genre by bringing out the series of noir short stories. Each anthology in this series is based in a particular city and explores the dark underside of that city. Earlier we had Brooklyn Noir, London Noir, LA Noir, Chicago Noir, Paris Noir, etc. And the accent of India on the horizon of the global economy inspired the publishers to add the Indian cities to their list and Delhi Noir was published in 2009. And, now, it is the turn of Mumbai. Edited by author Altaf Tyrewala, the opening story of this anthology, 'Justice', is about a man called Ashagar Khan, who has been convicted by the court for his involvement in a bomb blast. He has committed that crime to seek some sort of revenge for losing almost everything in a communal riot. The author has weaved the narrative quite credibly telling us how a single act of violence can start the chain reactions of violence and counter violence. But, he is not able to carry the story till the end and the denouement appears to be hurriedly made up. It also breaks the basic principle of noir fiction by having a sentimental ending. Then, there is a story of twin brothers, both auto drivers, titled 'By Two'. The brothers suffer for being Muslims (at that poor Muslims) in this post 9/11 and post 26/7 world. The twins are tortured by the police each time a terrorist act happens in the city. The author, Devashish Makhija, has been able to invoke the sense of horror in readers: What if I were in their places? The descriptions of police brutality and helplessness of the main characters are heart -rending. True to the noir genre, the prota-gonists of this story have no chance. This is a thought-provoking ...


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