New Login   

A Feel-Good Novel

G.J.V. Prasad

By Abraham Eraly
Penguin India, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 337, Rs. 325.00


This is an interesting debut novel, as much for what it does as it what it does not do. Eraly is a historian, and perhaps as such felt the need to look not at the larger picture but the smaller one, at some of the myriad lives that finally write the history of cultures and civilizations. But a history of feeling, a history of individual families and the pulls and pressures within them is best written as fiction, especially if you are a trained historian who cannot betray your method in your academic writing. I have a sneaky feeling that this family saga found its origins not just in the personal urge to tell a story (and the belief that each one of us has at least one novel based on our own lives and experiences) but in a historian’s desire to map the changes that have swept the cultural (including ethical) and economic life of a community through the experiences of a family. However, as we all know this is a difficult feat to pull off completely, and that the detailing you need to depict the complexity of the weave of the fabric of cultural history is so fine that the canvas becomes much more vast than you envisage and however long your work, you will need as many more pages to give a completely convincing picture even if not an exhaustive one. The problem is that when your canvas is vast and yet you want to give importance to individual characters, it is very often the stories you don’t tell fully that your readers want to know, it is the peripheral characters who seem more interesting than the central character you have chosen. The problem is quite a huge obstacle for debutants because a number of characters will be based on people you know and you wouldn’t dare to tell more than so much, and definitely not to read their inner thoughts and motivations. Has this happened here? I don’t know and cannot since I don’t know the author but I can say that the effect of the novel is such.   The novel opens well and one does want to know more about an Indian named Zerubbabel – a “preposterous Old Testament name” (p.1). You are soon told of an oracle who said that Zeruba should not have been born at all or should ...

Table of Contents >>
Please or to Read Entire Article

Free Access Online 12 Back Issues
with 1 year's subscription
Archive (1976-2011)
under construction.