Politics and artwork come collectively in a literary delight that’s an elegiac montage of reminiscences
By Ashwani Kumar
Have you ever ever written a novel by drawings? Or have you ever ever learn a ‘painted diary’ as an elegiac montage of reminiscences? The Blue E book by Amitava Kumar, one of the vital acclaimed novelists of latest instances, is a landmark work of ‘self-writing’, or what Michael Foucault would have known as ‘hypomnemata’—a reminiscence ebook with hybrid literary and inventive parentage. Although the artwork of writing a diary is taken into account a literary anomaly, Kumar’s The Blue E book is a uncommon species of magical realism the place phrases change into work, and work flip right into a beguiling literary anthropology of ‘actuality and surreality’ that leaves us surprised. Identified for his visceral post-colonial novels of exile and homelessness with shape-shifting itinerant reminiscences of cities, locations and other people, Kumar makes use of the alchemical energy of the drawings in his genre-defying diary to evoke a world that’s collectively redemptive and regressive in essentially the most horrifying instances of a worldwide pandemic. So, no prizes for guessing why Kumar writes about residencies, ‘rotten presidency’, Gulmohar bushes, Alok Dhanwa’s prepare poem, migrant labourers strolling again house, Gauri Lankesh’s killing and in addition concerning the current Delhi riots.
Unmistakably, all of us have suffered catastrophic private and political results of coronavirus-induced lockdowns in some ways. Wittingly or unwittingly, we now have not solely been quarantined into new-age gulag camps of solitude and social distancing however have additionally entered into ‘an age of diaries’— coronavirus diaries, quarantine diaries and Wuhan diaries—which have change into new mythologies of truths and lies within the more and more nihilistic liquid modernity. On this acquainted sense, The Blue E book is, certainly, a pandemic diary. However let me inform you frankly, The Blue E book is not only about pandemic pangs; it’s truly about unforgettable tales of hidden types of languages and landscapes talking to us in a meditative and subversive voice of drawings and phrases.
In different phrases, The Blue E book is neither a decaffeinated self-documentation of private loss nor a narcissistic journal of selfie-monologues. In reality, Kumar paints phrases with such deftness of a lyrical language of feelings and colors that reminiscence of on a regular basis ordinariness or oddities of family and friends turns into “a residing factor that adjustments form, expands, shrinks, and expands once more, an amoeba-like creature with powers to make us snort, and cry, and clench our fists”, within the phrases of psychologist Elizabeth Loftus.
It’s this ‘malleability of reminiscence’ that defines Kumar’s The Blue E book and his journey as a author. Each portray within the journal, suffused with sensual allusions and allegories, presents fascinating glimpses into the inside workings of a author’s thoughts. And each portray, whether or not it’s his son Rohan’s Timberland’s Boots, Faces from the Coronavirus Pandemic, Authorities Timber in a Patna Park or Delhi Riots, leaves traces of erasure of reminiscences, just like the drip of paint down a canvas.
Written as ‘isolation notes’ in a three-dimensional cubicle prose whereas writing his new novel A Time Exterior This Time in the course of the MacDowell residency in Marfa, Kumar’s The Blue E book is full of presences and absences of seasons, sounds, sketches, quotes, throwback postcards—something that captures a number of registers of his reminiscence of ‘residencies’, journeys’, ‘writing a novel’, ‘postcards from the pandemic’ and ‘workplace hours’ within the ebook; very like a superbly produced five-act luxurious legato in an opera.
Following his favorite creator John Berger and his ‘briefs as images’, Kumar additionally fuses images, work, poetry and memoirs into prophecies of mortality and materiality. No surprise, Kumar’s The Blue E book is a chic muse of a painter-writer throughout essentially the most troubled instances of our life.
In different phrases, Kumar has additionally surpassed himself in his authorial selections and literary imaginations in The Blue E book. Whether or not we admit it or not, novelists are sometimes unfamiliar beings residing the paranormal double lives of engagement and estrangement. That’s why flowers in Kumar’s work signify loss of life and Pyre—a memorable piece about his mom’s loss of life—in a Bakhtinian sense reveals not solely the concern of loss of life, but in addition the lack of his mom tongue and lack of his native house in Patna.
Central to Kumar’s author’s journal in watercolours and in addition in phrases is his inventive “response to our current world— a world that bestows upon us love and loss, journey by various landscapes, deaths from a pandemic, and faux information” in his personal phrases.
Let me additionally warning right here. If you’re solely on the lookout for factual particulars of pandemic instances, and gossips about literary festivals, or embarrassing private particulars of buddies and households, you can be disillusioned. However if you’re a connoisseur of spotlighting inside recesses of creativity, then The Blue E book is a deceptively pure literary delight with politics and artwork interwoven. Contemplate Kumar’s dialog with author Amit Choudhury throughout an opportunity encounter in Paris. After common bonhomie, culinary relish, and wanderings on the road, they dipped into decoding the explanations for the beautiful rise of Hindu nationalism within the parliamentary elections. Whereas Choudhury wished a direct reply to gradual ineffectiveness of dissent in India, Kumar admittedly most popular to “deal with such questions obliquely and even instantly solely in fiction”. It’s this creative, fictional grammar of politics that inhabits his work, just like the ‘buzzing noises’ of deaf and dumb ladies he had met on a bridge close to the Norte Dame Cathedral in Paris.
Imagine it or not, the chapter Writing a Novel in The Blue E book may change into fairly addictive for budding writers of fiction or non-fiction. For Kumar, “writing begins with ready”, and “when there’s nothing to jot down, one should observe the world and file its methods in a diary”, he avers approvingly. For him, a novel is made up of diary entries as a result of “there are solely two plots in all of literature; you go on a journey or a stranger involves city” within the phrases of late John Gardner. I’m positive not many individuals know that Kumar retains pictures or drawings of his youngsters in his pocket book, for he believes that “it’s a superstitious act born out of the assumption that love will save me”. So, writing is a deeply idiosyncratic follow for him. In brief, writing, for Kumar, is like an on a regular basis ritual of storing reminiscences by a primitive type of record-keeping slightly than making instantaneous clicks on a smartphone. Should you don’t consider that ‘writers exist in two worlds’, then learn what Kumar says: “I’m a author; so day by day I write. The times I’m given are just for writing. Could also be you’re a author, too; could also be you aren’t. The purpose nonetheless stands. The mark you make in your journal is extra vital than no matter comes of the day by day process whose completion you’re recording. The primary represents precise residing; the second merely a life.” Wow, what a mesmerising ending passage from the grasp story-teller. Hope, millennials and senior writers, collectively, are listening to him.
By the point you end Kumar’s The Blue E book, you’re sure to be beneath the magical spell of the purity of self-awakening of a author, his reminiscences and his drawings smelling just like the ittar (fragrance) gifted to him by a Rajasthani folks musician at Colorado literary competition.
Thus, after studying The Blue E book, I absentmindedly travelled to my ‘typewriter’s cottage’ within the hills to inhale the imaginary scent of completely intoxicating poppy flowers from Motihari in my native Bihar. Does it sound whimsical sufficient? I’m not positive.
In the long run, being a poet, permit me to take pleasure in delectable idiosyncrasies of poetry and portray. Perhaps Kumar can inform me why when, like painter Salvador Dali, I ask for a grilled lobster in a restaurant in Patna, I’m all the time served ‘a cooked phone’, not the rats. Ah, studying another person’s private diary is like revealing our secret needs and fantasies to seek for a language, “language to call feelings, folks and locations”. And I received’t lie—studying The Blue E book feels prefer it’s your individual diary, letting you’re feeling unusually enlightened with none guilt or regret.
Ashwani Kumar is a poet, author & professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. He’s additionally the creator of broadly acclaimed poetry quantity Banaras and the Different, the primary of a trilogy on non secular cities in India
The Blue E book: A Author’s Journal
Pp 176, Rs 699