segunda-feira, 30 de abril de 2007

Sobre Kiran Desai e o Booker Prize

À nossa escolha não terá sido alheio o facto deste romance ter arrecadado o prestigiante Booker Prize de 2006.

Aqui fica a notícia do DN, da autoria de Isabel Lucas, publicada a 12 de Outubro de 2006, sobre a atribuição do referido prémio:

Os apostadores davam-lhe uma possibilidade em cinco, mas o júri contrariou a maioria dos prognósticos e atribuiu à escritora Kiran Desai o Man Booker Prize 2006, deixando para trás os favoritos Sarah Waters e Edward St Aubyn. Aos 35 anos, a filha da três vezes nomeada e nunca vencedora Anita Desai, conquistou à primeira o mais disputado dos prémios em língua inglesa (de autor britânico, irlandês ou da Commonwealth) com o romance The Inheritance of Loss e tornou-se a mais nova mulher de sempre a vencer o Booker. Hermione Lee, que presidiu ao júri do Man Booker deste ano, classificou o livro de Desai como "um romance magnífico, de amplitude humana e sabedoria, comicidade e acuidade política" e declarou-o vencedor após o que disse ser uma acalorada discussão entre os elementos do júri. Hermione terminou a dizer: "A mãe terá orgulho nela." A edição de ontem do Guardian falava de confusão e espanto para comentar a reacção causada pelo anúncio. The Inheritance of Loss venceu num ano em que os nomes sonantes se viram arredados da shortlist, mas nem isso tornou esta vitória "mais natural". Além de Kiran Desai, foram seleccionados para receber os 74 mil euros do prémio Kate Grenville, com The Secret River; M. J. Hyland, com Carry me Down; Hisham Matar e In the Country of Men; Edward St Aubyn e Mother's Milk e Sarah Waters com The Night Watch. Cada um dos finalistas irá receber 3 700 euros. Quanto a Kiran Desai - que sucede a John Banville, vencedor em 2005 com The Sea (O Mar, ed. Asa) - declarou que irá dividir o prémio com a mãe, Anita Desai. "A dívida que tenho para com a minha mãe é tão profunda que sinto este livro tanto dela quanto meu. Foi escrito perto dela com a sua sabedoria e gentileza."

sábado, 28 de abril de 2007

Wounded by the West, de Pankaj Mishra

O New York Times publicou aqui uma excelente recensão do nosso livro do momento, que transcrevo de seguida:

'The Inheritance of Loss,' by Kiran Desai
Wounded by the West

Published: February 12, 2006

ALTHOUGH it focuses on the fate of a few powerless individuals, Kiran Desai's extraordinary new novel manages to explore, with intimacy and insight, just about every contemporary international issue: globalization, multiculturalism, economic inequality, fundamentalism and terrorist violence. Despite being set in the mid-1980's, it seems the best kind of post-9/11 novel.

"The Inheritance of Loss" opens with a teenage Indian girl, an orphan called Sai, living with her Cambridge-educated Anglophile grandfather, a retired judge, in the town of Kalimpong on the Indian side of the Himalayas. Sai is romantically involved with her math tutor, Gyan, the descendant of a Nepali Gurkha mercenary, but he eventually recoils from her obvious privilege and falls in with a group of ethnic Nepalese insurgents. In a parallel narrative, we are shown the life of Biju, the son of Sai's grandfather's cook, who belongs to the "shadow class" of illegal immigrants in New York and spends much of his time dodging the authorities, moving from one ill-paid job to another.
What binds these seemingly disparate characters is a shared historical legacy and a common experience of impotence and humiliation. "Certain moves made long ago had produced all of them," Desai writes, referring to centuries of subjection by the economic and cultural power of the West. But the beginnings of an apparently leveled field in a late-20th-century global economy serve merely to scratch those wounds rather than heal them.
Almost all of Desai's characters have been stunted by their encounters with the West. As a student, isolated in racist England, the future judge feels "barely human at all" and leaps "when touched on the arm as if from an unbearable intimacy." Yet on his return to India, he finds himself despising his apparently backward Indian wife.
The judge is one of those "ridiculous Indians," as the novel puts it, "who couldn't rid themselves of what they had broken their souls to learn" and whose Anglophilia can only turn into self-hatred. These Indians are also an unwanted anachronism in postcolonial India, where long-suppressed peoples have begun to awaken to their dereliction, to express their anger and despair. For some of Desai's characters, including one of the judge's neighbors in Kalimpong, this comes as a distinct shock: "Just when Lola had thought it would continue, a hundred years like the one past — Trollope, BBC, a burst of hilarity at Christmas — all of a sudden, all that they had claimed innocent, fun, funny, not really to matter, was proven wrong."
There is no mistaking the literary influences on Desai's exploration of postcolonial chaos and despair. Early in the novel, she sets two Anglophilic Indian women to discussing "A Bend in the River," V. S. Naipaul's powerfully bleak novel about traditional Africa's encounter with the modern world. Lola, whose clothesline sags "under a load of Marks and Spencer's panties," thinks Naipaul is "strange. Stuck in the past. . . . He has not progressed. Colonial neurosis, he's never freed himself from it." Lola goes on to accuse Naipaul of ignoring the fact that there is a "new England," a "completely cosmopolitan society" where "chicken tikka masala has replaced fish and chips as the No. 1 takeout dinner." As further evidence, she mentions her own daughter, a newsreader for BBC radio, who "doesn't have a chip on her shoulder."
Desai takes a skeptical view of the West's consumer-driven multiculturalism, noting the "sanitized elegance" of Lola's daughter's British-accented voice, which is "triumphant over any horrors the world might thrust upon others." At such moments, Desai seems far from writers like Zadie Smith and Hari Kunzru, whose fiction takes a generally optimistic view of what Salman Rushdie has called "hybridity, impurity, intermingling, the transformation that comes of new and unexpected combinations of human beings, cultures, ideas, politics, movies, songs."
In fact, Desai's novel seems to argue that such multiculturalism, confined to the Western metropolis and academe, doesn't begin to address the causes of extremism and violence in the modern world. Nor, it suggests, can economic globalization become a route to prosperity for the downtrodden. "Profit," Desai observes at one point, "could only be harvested in the gap between nations, working one against the other."
This leaves most people in the postcolonial world with only the promise of a shabby modernity — modernity, as Desai puts it, "in its meanest form, brand-new one day, in ruin the next." Not surprisingly, half-educated, uprooted men like Gyan gravitate to the first available political cause in their search for a better way. He joins what sounds like an ethnic nationalist movement largely as an opportunity to vent his rage and frustration. "Old hatreds are endlessly retrievable," Desai reminds us, and they are "purer . . . because the grief of the past was gone. Just the fury remained, distilled, liberating."
Unlike Gyan, others try to escape. In scene after scene depicting this process — a boarding house in England, derelict bungalows in Kalimpong, immigrant-packed basements in New York — Desai's novel seems lit by a moral intelligence at once fierce and tender. But no scene is more harrowing than the one in which Biju joins a crowd of Indians scrambling to reach the visa counter at the United States Embassy: "Biggest pusher, first place; how self-contented and smiling he was; he dusted himself off, presenting himself with the exquisite manners of a cat. I'm civilized, sir, ready for the U.S., I'm civilized, mam. Biju noticed that his eyes, so alive to the foreigners, looked back at his own countrymen and women, immediately glazed over, and went dead."
Skip to next paragraphDesai's prose has uncanny flexibility and poise. She can describe the onset of the monsoon in the Himalayas and a rat in the slums of Manhattan with equal skill. She is also adept at using physical descriptions to evoke complex states of mind, as when Biju gazes at a park while celebrating the great luck of being granted his American visa: "Raw sewage was being used to water a patch of grass that was lush and stinking, grinning brilliantly in the dusk."
Poor and lonely in New York, Biju eavesdrops on businessmen eating steak and exulting over the wealth to be gained in the new markets of Asia. Not surprisingly, he eventually becomes "a man full to the brim with a wish to live within a narrow purity." For him, the city's endless possibilities for self-invention become a source of pain. Though "another part of him had expanded: his self-consciousness, his self-pity," this awareness only makes him long to fade into insignificance, to return "to where he might relinquish this overrated control over his own destiny."
Arriving back in India in the climactic scenes of the novel, Biju is immediately engulfed by the local eruptions of rage and frustration from which he had been physically remote in New York. For him and the others, Desai suggests, withdrawal or escape are no longer possible. "Never again," Sai concludes, "could she think there was but one narrative and that this narrative belonged only to herself, that she might create her own mean little happiness and live safely within it."
Apart from this abstraction, Desai offers her characters no possibility of growth or redemption. Though relieved by much humor, "The Inheritance of Loss" may strike many readers as offering an unrelentingly bitter view. But then, as Orhan Pamuk wrote soon after 9/11, people in the West are "scarcely aware of this overwhelming feeling of humiliation that is experienced by most of the world's population," which "neither magical realistic novels that endow poverty and foolishness with charm nor the exoticism of popular travel literature manages to fathom." This is the invisible emotional reality Desai uncovers as she describes the lives of people fated to experience modern life as a continuous affront to their notions of order, dignity and justice. We do not need to agree with this vision in order to marvel at Desai's artistic power in expressing it.

Pankaj Mishra is the author of "An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World. " His latest book, "Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond," will be published this spring.

Nova leitura!

Depois de um desapontante "Quase todas as mulheres", de J.J. Armas Marcelo, temos nova leitura: "A Herança do Vazio" / "The Inheritance of Loss", romance vencedor do Booker Price de 2006, da autora indiana Kiran Desai.


Aqui fica a sinopse fornecida pela editora portuguesa (Porto Editora):

No nordeste dos Himalaias, numa casa isolada no sopé do monte Kanchenjunga, vive Jemubhai, um velho juiz amargurado, que tudo o que quer é reformar-se em paz, na companhia da única criatura a quem é capaz de dar algum afecto, a cadela Mutt. No entanto, a chegada inesperada da neta órfã, Sai, vai abalar o seu sossego, obrigando-o a remexer as suas memórias e a repensar a sensação de estranheza na própria pátria. Tudo isto se acentuará com o romance entre Sai e Gyan, o seu explicador de matemática, um nepalês que se envolve numa revolta que alterará inquestionavelmente a vida de Jemubhai.A serenidade da vida do juiz contrasta com a existência do filho do seu cozinheiro, Biju, que saltita sucessivamente de restaurante em restaurante, em Nova Iorque, à procura de emprego, numa fuga constante aos Serviços de Imigração. Julgando que o filho leva uma vida boa e que acabará por vir resgatá-lo, o cozinheiro vai arrastando os seus dias.Neste magnífico romance, vencedor do Booker Prize 2006, Desai como que cria uma tapeçaria em que todas as personagens partilham uma herança comum de impotência e humilhação. E, com uma mestria sublime, consegue, ao longo de toda esta poderosa saga familiar, deixar sempre em aberto um desfecho de esperança ou de traição.Numa escrita inesgotavelmente rica e complexa, com rasgos de exotismo, a autora retrata temas tão actuais como a globalização, o colonialismo, o racismo, o abismo entre pobres e ricos e a imigração.

quarta-feira, 25 de abril de 2007