Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Girl with the Golden Parasol

Written by Uday Prakash in Hindi / translated by Jason Grunebaum

This book, with a cover image which reminds me of van Gogh, came to my hand after the bilingual reading presented by the author and the translator at the University of Chicago yesterday. The author defines this novel as a love story. He is quite modest.

Rahul, in the middle of storms of corruptions and the casteism, falls in love with a girl with a golden yellow parasol and changes his major to Hindi literature to get closer to her. The moment when he feels the love so intensely is described like this: the golden yellow parasol turns into a butterfly and a butterfly sitting on the tip of the parasol the parasol itself. Then, 'now the butterfly, casting a spell over the whole world, had brought Rahul's sense of his own existence under its wing.'--How beautiful graphically!

While reading this novel, my mind wandered around three countries: India, the U.S. and Korea. In the spell of globalization and the casteism, India seems at the brink of helpless torrential ruins. Hemant, who studies IT, only gets out of the torment and heads for the U.S. It explains why there are so many Indians in IT industry in this country. During my college years, we used to read Marx and Hegel, and go on to the street or visit labor unions on strike. The confrontation was usually violent. There was a period of time when a group of people committed a suicide consecutively against the corrupted government in favor of labor liberation and social justice. Around the time when we started reading philosophical texts written by French, our mood also changed. We became sophists. But this novel definitely made me think of those confrontational days in the context of India, where I so loved wandering about but didn't have good chances to see the society perspicaciously.

This novel presents current India very vividly; however, I have to do some mental process to read the casteism as a contemporary issue. It must be a deeply ingrained social illness. Is this reason why I feel the end of the novel is rather abrupt? I, as a reader, was not much exposed to the mind of Anjali, the girl with the golden parasol. What's going on in her mind? Why does the author end the story with a grotesque image of hers, holding Rahul's head and laughing? Just a moment ago, she was covered with a blanket and abducted. Does the author insinuate all was planned by Anjali, who has hedonism within her nature out of her caste, Bramin. I wish to read a bit more sophisticated plot around her before the story reaches the end.

Thanks to Jason, who translated the novel as smoothly as in the texture of silk, I grasped the story very easily. It is quite surprising and inspiring to get to know his talent unknown to me. I wish him, who is slowly becoming a friend of mine--if I deserve saying so, for the best fulfillment in his intellectual creativity.

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