The story is told by a boy growing up in the period after the partition of Bengal between Pakistan and India. In a mixture of fact and fictions he shows through the events in one family how The Shadow Lines, borders drawn arbitrarily on maps and thus on peoples’ lives. The boy thrives on the stories about England and faraway places. By the same author I have admired ‘The Hungry Tide’ and he did captivate me again with his thoughts about places and memory. A few teasers:
I could not persuade her that a place does not merely exist, that it has to be invented in one’s imagination…
He said to me once that one could never know anything except through desire, real desire, which was not the same thing as geed or lust; a pure, painful and primitive desire, a longing for everything that was not in oneself, a torment of the flesh, that carried one beyond the limits of one’s mind to other times and other places, and even, if one was lucky to a place where there was no borer between oneself and one’s image in the mirror.
But he knew that the clarity of that image in his mind was merely the seductive clarity of ignorance; an illusion of knowledge created by a deceptive weight of remembered detail.
Every language assumes a centrality, a fixed and settled point to go away from and to come back to, and what my grandmother was looking for was a word for a journey which was not coming or going at all; a journey that was a search for precisely that fixed point which permits the proper use of the verbs of movement.
Everyone lives in a story, he says, my grandmother, my father, his father, Lenin, Einstein, and lots of other names I hadn’t heard of; they all lived in stories, because stories are all there are to live in, it w s just a question of which one you choose.
I tried to think of the future as it must have appeared to him: of helpless dependence couples with despairing little acts of rebellion.
- it is the special quality of loneliness that grows out of the fear of the war between oneself and one’s image in the mirror.
Amitav Ghosh is a great writer, run to the library!!!
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