Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Immortals

I tried to read Amit Chaudhuri's The Immortals and my head hurt from the sheer volume of confusion in the story. Maybe I don't know to read fiction anymore or maybe this is Chaudhuri trying to pull off a Rushdie on his readers. At any rate, the harder I tried to keep up with the ballooning cast of characters and the incoherent storyline the more resoundingly I failed. The last book I read by Chaudhuri was The Strange and Sublime Address. I don't recall being wowed but it was certainly not a difficult book to read. I was able to stay with the plot and the story flowed smoothly.
Whatever it is that the author has attempted to do with The Immortals, it makes for impossible reading. Yet, the central theme of the story is a one that would draw a reader in - who wins the war between materialism and art. The characters are sketched deftly - it is easy to visualize Apurba Sengupta as the successful executive, Mallika, his wife as the woman who chooses to give up her art in order to be a the kind of wife someone like Apurba needs. Shyamji the guru who straddles the worlds of Shastriya Sangeet (classical music) and the lighter Bollywood fare is a character the reader can understand. Then there is the character of Nirmalya the son of Apurba and Mallika who is a drifter is far as his choice to opt-out of the privileged lifestyle that is his lot. It seems like there are way too many peripheral characters - it is challenging for the reader to keep up with them or understand how they contribute to the story. Sometimes, the din they create is enough to drown the key players in the story.