One of the things that makes a book appealing is the factor that sets it apart from the rest. Something that makes it different from the other books in the bookshelf. What set this book apart in my eyes was that it was an Indian author’s book, written in French and translated to English. I’ve read translations of Indian language novels, but never a French one written by an Indian author. “Indian Tango” was a different read because of this.
In a few words, I could say that this book is an experience of understandable life. That is, to say, you can relate with the central character Subhadra in some ways. I could understand that feeling of suffocation that I felt while reading through her world, the feeling of emptiness that is there because of changing personality to fit a particular way of life; a world where change is felt, but not accepted or welcomed. In turn, I could understand the unnamed narrator’s interest in Subhadra’s life, feeding on the structured life of the housewife to break a block of words in her life, a phase where she doesn’t feel happy with anything that she manages to write.
What Indian Tango offers is a memorable venture into a story from life, with characters and imagery that stay with you much beyond the last page of the novel. The complexity of imagery in turn becomes both a positive and a negative facet of this book because not every reader might be comfortable with such a level of language (possibly this is the translation’s effect). Being a poet, I quite enjoyed the same. The book looks at life in various aspects too, with most magnification focused on the aspect of societal expectations. This exploration makes it somewhat a heavy read as well. I wouldn’t go to the extent of saying I could step into the character’s shoes and understand her world, for I’m not even close to that yet. What I will say however that this book is one that needs to be read slowly, and that I feel there would be many who can understand the character Subhadra much better than me.
In A Gist:
Positives: Memorable characters and descriptive, imagery filled narration.
Negatives: Language would feel heavy, not a book for every reader.
About the author:
Ananda Devi was born in Mauritius in 1957. She is a native of Andhra Pradesh (from her mother’s side). The multicultural and multilingual aspects of her birthplace are echoed in many of her works, which explore with lyrical and probing language and imagery the depths of conflicted identities, with a particular focus on women and the consequences of nonconformity. One of the Indian Ocean’s leading and most prolific writers, she has published poetry, three volumes of short stories and ten novels.
Title: Indian Tango
Author: Ananda Devi
Translated by: Jean Anderson
Publisher: Random House India
Price: INR. 299
(1st March, 2014)