Most Helpful First | Newest First
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real gem!,
This review is from: The Artist of Disappearance (Hardcover)This is the kind of book which will delight even people (like me) who don't usually buy short stories. It's probably because the three pieces here are so beautifully written, so complete and rounded and with such powerful and lasting images that they might as well be three full novels in their own right.
They are all set in India of different times, but India is merely the back-stage of the stories: the sounds and smells and the light as it were. The rest is human life, intriguing, fascinating and enchanting. A wonderful little book - I highly recommend it!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three novellas set in modern India,
This review is from: The Artist of Disappearance (Paperback)Anita Desai's "The Artist of Disappearance" is a collection of three novellas with several satisfying unifying features. All are set in modern day India, all involve some looking back in time and all three involve some consideration of the creative art - who it is for, what happens to it once it leaves the artist's control and who 'owns' it. Most of all, each one is beautifully written, with strong characters and evocative descriptions of personal loss. In terms of length each is relatively short - around 50 pages long - but after each one you feel that you've been engrossed in the story just as much as if you had read a novel of more conventional length.
The collection opens with "The Museum of Final Journeys" in which a young civil servant recalls his training when he was sent into the provinces where he encounters the elderly servant of a once rich family whose son has collected a museum of curios which the crumbling household can no longer support. Seeking government intervention to prevent the collection from being broken up or lost, he attempts to gain the civil servant's assistance. The final piece of the collection, which includes a trunk, is a particularly large surprise.
The second story, and for me the pick of the bunch, is entitled "Translator Translated". A middle aged woman meets a former school friend at a reunion starting her on a new career as a translator of local dialect fiction. Desai explores issues of who owns the fiction - the original writer or the translator - as the woman increasingly finds herself putting her own spin on the stories she translates. In this story, Dasai is at her most playful in using different writing styles. Often this can grate on the reader, but here it seems entirely natural and perfect for the story she is telling. Of the three, this is the one that I've found myself thinking about most after reading.
The final story gives the collection its title. It's a touching story of a man whose family house is burned down in an accident and where he remains, adopting an increasingly hermitic existence. His days are filled creating a small work of art in the surrounding hills when his anonymity is threatened by a visiting film crew. For me, this is the only story that seems constrained by the short format as the artist and the film crew battle for centre stage in the story, but that's a minor quibble.
Desai's writing is what shines throughout the collection. It's delicate and beautifully crafted. Each novella is satisfying on its own and even more so as part of the whole. Even taken together, it's a brief, but totally enjoyable read. Short story collections always work best for me when there is something that ties them together. It's a shame that there are only three stories in this collection. It is well worth checking out, particularly now in the more affordable paperback version.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "There's no one there. He's gone.",
This review is from: The Artist of Disappearance (Hardcover)Always an astute observer and subtle writer about human nature, Anita Desai is at her best here, creating three novellas revealing the interplay between a main character dealing with universal issues and a second character who sees the world and its values quite differently. The result is book that is morally serious and filled with thematically weighty stories which also reveal subtle, unspoken lessons - neither moralistic, obvious, nor absolute. As each main character approaches the end of a problem, s/he might well conclude that what s/he wants, "[is] dead, a dead loss, a waste of time." But "the loss" is not the point. The reader gains a new appreciation of the small joys and great sorrows which fill the lives of plain people in rural India trying to find beauty and, perhaps, the fulfillment of dreams within an overwhelming reality. All the characters want to preserve something beautiful and important, but all must persevere against insensitive powers. Ultimately, each main character becomes an "artist of disappearance," either physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
In "The Museum of Final Journeys," an old man from the countryside visits a new county official, begging for help. The old man has been working all his life for the same family, now dead or missing. The only son has traveled the world, collecting objects which he sends to his mother. After her death, the objects continue to arrive, and the old servant and his assistant must sell off the furniture to create a museum for these stuffed animals and birds, miniature paintings from Persia and the Mughal Empire, and antique weapons of war among other things. The final gift is the one which the old man loves most, but it requires a great deal of maintenance. He begs the official to accept the other valuable objects in exchange for allowing him to preserve this one final gift. The servant and the official live in different worlds and have difficulties communicating.
"Translator Translated" is quite different. Prema Joshi, returning to her high school for Founder's Day, meets Tara, the brightest and most popular student at the school. Prema, a teacher, has been studying Oriya, her mother's language, particularly the work of Suvarna Devi, unknown beyond her hillside village. Tara, now a publisher of the work of previously unknown female writers, asks Prema to translate Suvarna Devi's first work, and every aspect of Prema's life changes. The second work by Devi, a novel, however, is trite and clichés -ridden. "I saw that what was needed was for me to be inventive...and create a style for the book...I decided to take liberties with the text." The results are predictable, and the effects on Prema Joshi's modest life are significant
"The Artist of Disappearance" tells of Ravi, an adult living in the burned remains of the family home. As Ravi's story evolves, his sensitivity to the world around him becomes clear, and his understanding of aesthetics regarding the natural world is particularly sophisticated. Ravi has created a hidden garden which represents the essence of beauty. At the same time, a group of young videographers is traveling the mountainside looking for examples of environmental despoliation. Ravi, too, finds his life permanently changed.
The importance of beauty and the problem of which beautiful aspects of the past deserve to be saved for future generations permeate this collection. Who should make the decisions about what, if anything, to save? How much beauty should be local? How should artifacts be preserved? As Desai explores these ideas in prose of almost crystalline purity and concision, her sensitivity to the idea of "less is more" prevails. Mary Whipple
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the art of disappearance,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Artist of Disappearance (Hardcover)As I ordered this book as a present, I cannot say anything about it except that my friend was happy to receive it.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
The Artist of Disappearance by Anita Desai (Hardcover - 4 Aug 2011)