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Delicate, Intricate and Taut


Purabi Banerjee

ISLANDS IN THE STREAM
By
Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, 1980, pp. 335, Rs. 75.00

VOLUME V NUMBER 2 September/October 1980

Reading Islands in the Stream in translation almost thirty years after it was originally published in Hindi, it is difficult to visualize how it could have stirred up such controversy or earned so much disapproval. But that it did is a fact and there are some even now who feel that Ajneya could have done better than to limit himself to the portrayal of man-woman relationships and that as a novel Shekhar: Ek Jivani is much better. I have not read Shekhar: Ek Jivani so there can be no comparison. What struck one foremost about this novel was the spontaneous flow of narrative that one normally does not find in transla­tions. A reading of the inside flap of the dust jacket made things clear—the author has translated it himself, hence the effective blending of thought and language to a new medium. One of the charges often levelled at the novel is that it limits its own scope by depicting only the emotional or love life of its characters. The novelist does not refute this charge for he does not consi­der it a limitation of his novel to focus on only a certain aspect of a person's life, if it does so authentically. So if the novel takes up characters who belong to a minority in society because of their views, this should not be taken up against it. One feels that lack of objectivity and an overdose of self righteousness (the same sort which prompted a number of critics to denounce D.H. Lawrence's works as pornographic), was responsible for the tilt in judgement against Ajneya earlier. What fascinates one most about the novel is the weave of relationships, deli­cate, intricate, often taut and on the point of snapping. The Lawrentian con­cept of fulfilment through love is brought through Rekha, Bhuvan and Gaura. At times they seem almost unreal as far as they are free from average human fail­ings like pettiness, jealousy and inhibi­tions. Is it possible that they belong to the same social set up that has produced a man like Chandra whose insatiable love for sensationalism and rumour mon­gering cannot cover his frustration? Of course the latter is much more down to earth and closer to the reader who can­not relate to Bhuvan, Rekha or even Gaura at times. Of those three the two women are more convincing; they ...


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