Thursday 9 October 2014

Neel Mukherjee, The Lives of Others

Something that might be worth reading: Neel Mukherjee, The Lives of Others. Reviewed by Paromita Chakrabarti in The Sunday Express Magazine (Indian Express Mumbai) 5 October 2014, p. 4. NM says he wanted to explore the rise of mercantilism and the bourgeoisie, and the way this connects with the rise of the novel.

The title of the book comes from James Salter's Light Years, in which Nedra, the protagonist who loves to read biographies says: "the power to change one's life comes from a paragraph, a lone remark." For Mukherjee it came with the remark: "How can we imagine what our lives should be without the illumination of the lives of others?" Fred Lawrence might talk about the simultaneous lighting up of text and self, where the text could be anything, including the lives of others. Or rather, the lighting up of the self is at once the lighting up of the tradition. Or perhaps, with Lonergan, mutual self-mediation as the way we all grow.

The Lives of Others is not a plain family saga, therefore. This is the story of a family against the background of the Naxalite movement. NM says he wanted to explore "how ... change takes effect through the prism of a particular historical moment and from the perspective of different members of a family."

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