Book Review: Reinterpreting Malgudi as a wasteland of urban society

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By Tanuj Solanki

A Place of No Importance

By Veena Muthuraman

Publisher: Juggernaut

Pages: 234

Price: Rs  225

The building blocks of R.K. Narayan’s Malgudi Days were simple: a village in South India, the simple problems and solutions of its people, all told in a manner that hid the space-time specifics such that readers believed that they had access to something outside time. Today, the process that turns Malgudi into a nostalgic entity also problematises its usage as a template for new writers. We are talking about globalisation. Or you could say modernity. Whatever its name, our harsh contemporaneity warrants that Malgudi be shown as a harsher place, its systems be shown under duress, its characters be struggling in their interface with a faster, meaner world.

Narayan’s literary descendants can be said to be facing two broad choices. The first is to take realism as the modality, to compromise Malgudi’s timelessness. The other would be to rebel, to create for the reader a contemporary Malgudi that nevertheless retains its old charm, which refers to its current flux as part of a larger cosmic activity, such that we are still allowed to return to Malgudi’s timelessness as our refuge.

Veena Muthuraman’s debut collection, A Place of No Importance, is set in a fictional village named Ayyanarpatti in Tamil Nadu. And she has, for most parts, chosen the first path. Ayyanarpatti is firmly set in a post-liberalisation India, and is confronting 21st century’s hopes and corruptions. The characters here do not face the simple ethical dilemmas or cute coincidences of those in Malgudi; they have more complex desires and denouements. Read more

Source: Sunday Guardian Live

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